Monday, April 09, 2007

Sadr Returns

I was wondering how long it would take this rat to come back.
Calling the United States the "great evil," powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr on Sunday ordered his militiamen to redouble their effort to oppose American troops and argued that Iraq's army and police force should join him in defeating "your archenemy."

The cleric's verbal assault came as the U.S. military announced that 10 American soldiers were killed over the weekend, including six Sunday in attacks north and south of Baghdad. At least 69 Iraqis also were killed or found dead across Iraq.
Perfect timing. I wonder how much of the counter-surge will be related to Sadr. No doubt the initial increase in US and Iraqi troops has set the stage for a push back. Question really is, how strong will it be and how well will the governmental forces deal with it?
Sheik Abdul Razaq al-Nadawi, a Sadr spokesman in Najaf, said clashes erupted in Simawa province, south of Baghdad, between Mahdi Army militiamen and police, who apparently were trying to stop them from heading to Najaf. He said five militiamen were killed after protesters attacked the police with bricks and stones. The report could not be verified.

The tensions followed two days of fierce battles pitting U.S. and Iraqi forces against al-Mahdi Army militiamen in Diwaniyah. As U.S. combat aircraft launched air strikes, house-to-house clashes erupted. A curfew was still being enforced Sunday in the city and U.S. forces patrolled the streets, said Hamid Jiati, a Diwaniyah health department official.

Sadr is engaged in an uneasy cooperation with U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad, particularly in his stronghold of Sadr City. He has ordered his fighters to stand down as U.S. troops patrol and conduct security sweeps and to avoid being provoked into battle.
Strange that Sadr believes that his cooperation in Baghdad would give him openings elsewhere. Spreading the conflict to other areas while trying to save your home base would normally be viewed poorly by followers. I wonder what he thinks he'll gain from this. If anything stability would be helpful to him, and keeping the coalition forces occupied in his areas of influence means that they aren't out crushing his enemies in the Sunni insurgency.
It is unclear whether Sadr ordered the Diwaniyah clashes, rogue elements of the Mahdi Army rose up or individual militiamen were defending their homes.

"Up until now, we have not made any decision to clash against the American or the Iraqi forces," Sheik Salah al-Ubaidi, a close aide to Sadr, said from Najaf.

Sadr's aides say the cleric is in Iraq, and al-Ubaidi added, "There is a 65 percent possibility that Moqtada Sadr will come to the demonstration." U.S. military officials have said Sadr is in Iran.
You'd think that the best thing to do is keep quiet and support your population behind the scenes. The US is going to leave sooner or later, and when that time comes Sadr will be a major political power. Conflict will only serve to wear away support that he's successfully managed for a long time.

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