The al-Maliki government and the Sadrists pulled back from the brink in Sadr City on Saturday. PM Nuri al-Maliki had demanded that the Mahdi Army militia that serves as the Sadrist paramilitary give up its arms and dissolve itself. The compromise simply states that the Iraqi security forces would be allowed in to Sadr City to search for suspected medium and heavy weapons. The implication is that the Mahdi Army may continue to exist and may keep its light weapons (e.g. AK-47s), though it has to pledge not to walk with them in public.
The siege of Sadr City is to be lifted and the major roads in and out of it are to be unblocked, according to the agreement.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the agreement stipulates that the government should have a court order to come into Sadr City. Arrests of rogue commanders had to to be based on warrants and not just ‘indiscriminate.’ There is nothing in the agreement about the Mahdi Army disarming altogether, as Nuri Al-Maliki initially demanded.
Reading news about Iraq is like watching Bill Murray’s ‘Groundhog Day’ in which you have to live through the same day over and over again. So the US and Iraqi governments have announced a new campaign against Sunni radicals in Ninevah province, especially Mosul. Take a look at this article, published late last January: “Thousands of Iraqi army soldiers reached the northern city of Mosul on Sunday in preparation for what the government said would be a major offensive there against Al-Qaeda in Iraq, along with other Sunni militants.”
You have a sinking feeling that al-Maliki is recycling old announcements in a futile attempt to distract the public from his climb-down in Sadr City. Al-Maliki left for Mosul Saturday along with a few cabinet members and close advisers. Curfews have been announced in some Mosul neighborhoods.
Ninevah governor Duraid Kashmula admitted to Al-Hayat that Mosul “has come to dominated by the leaders of al-Qaeda as a result of the delay in the military operation in the city.”
What??! Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city at 1.7 million, and it is under the control of “al-Qaeda”? How long has this been the case? All this time? While the US press was reveling in the “calm” in the country?
Joel Brinkley points out that in the first four months of 2008, the Iraq trend lines are going the wrong way again. Worse, the Iraqi occupation is generating a wave of terrorism in the Middle East as trained insurgents return home from Iraq:
‘ In Morocco last year, “a series of suicide bombs shattered the relative lull in terrorist violence” over the previous five years, the report said. “Extremist veterans returning from Iraq” were training inexperienced insurgent fighters, who then carried out bloody attacks in Casablanca and other cities. King Mohamed VI observed that security in his corner of the Middle East is now “linked to the security of the region.”
In neighboring Algeria, insurgents “used propaganda based on the call to fight in Iraq as a hook to recruit young people, many of whom never made it to Iraq but were redirected” to local insurgent cells instead. They carried out “high-profile terrorist attacks throughout the country.” . .
Gen. Mansour al-Turki, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry spokesman, once told me that Saudi militants “wanted to spread their war against the United States and found that doing this was easier in their own country.” He drew this conclusion, he said, from interviews with insurgents he had arrested. “The invasion of Iraq enabled them to convince others in the country to share their goals. For that reason, the invasion was very important to them.” The terror report described similar patterns in Jordan, Syria, Kuwait, Yemen and elsewhere. ‘
As Brinkley points out, the clear evidence of the falsehood of the Pentagon talking points about a “calm Iraq” (based on what was going on in Novemenber and December!) doesn’t prevent them from being conveyed unexamined right to the front page.
The Turkish military claimed to have killed 17 Kurdish guerrillas of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in air strikes on eastern Turkey near Iraq on Saturday.
Lebanon has things so backwards. Its political parties are fighting military battles and its army is negotiating a political settlement.
New NYT blog in Arabic, this one on Saudi youth.