Muqtada’s House Besieged by Marines
US Marines and Iraqi National Guard troops headed for the house of Muqtada al-Sadr on Monday, possibly in an another attempt to arrest him, provoking a firefight with his militiamen, who were guarding the house. Several persons were wounded, and one woman was killed, according to Sadrist sources. The troops then withdrew. This incident is the second of its kind in the past week or so, and a Muqtada aide was recently arrested in Karbala.
Muqtada had issued a statement Monday strongly condemning the firebombing of churches on Sunday.
The gestures given by the Allawi government, indicating that it would not prosecute Muqtada, allowing his newspaper to reopen, and inviting him to join the political process, increasingly look as though they may have been traps intended to lull him into complacency so as to permit his capture.
I personally wonder whether the Allawi government could survive its capture of Muqtada. A caretaker government in alliance with a foreign occupier doesn’t have much credibility to begin with, and I suspect such a move would fatally weaken it.
The only chance democracy has left in Iraq is for the forthcoming elections to be as open, inclusive, and above-board as possible. The Sadrists haven’t been drawn in yet, and with this sort of incident they may never be. Major political forces excluded from the process tend to become spoilers.
Al-Hayat: Marines have arrested Dr. Muthanna Harith al-Dhari, son of the leader of the Board of Muslim Clergy, a fundamentalist Sunni organization. Muthanna was interviewed on the Lebanese Broadcasting Co. harshly critiquing the way the delegates were chosen for the national congress to be held in mid-August. He later discovered 5 humvees heading toward his living quarters at the Umm al-Qura Mosque in Baghdad. He was taken into custody.
If Muthanna committed a crime, for which he was being arrested, it should have been announced to the press. Otherwise, the Allawi government looks as though it is sending the rather thug-like signal that political figures who refuse to cooperate in the national congress and who are critical of him will be arrested. If that is what is going on, it is sad to see the US Marines deployed for the purpose of these political arrests. It is also a shame that the US ban on the military arresting civilians hasn’t been extended to Iraq.