Basra Cease Fire On Brink Of Collapse?

Basra Cease Fire On Brink Of Collapse?


Looks the the Iraqi Army has taken the city back from the militia, and that’s got Muqtada al-Sadr really angry. The only problem for Sadr? Iran seems to be backing Iraq’s moves, and Sadr has always been under the thumb of Iran.

From NY Times:

Mr. Sadr’s stock has recently fallen in Iranian eyes, the Iranian ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, on Saturday expressed his government’s strong support for the Iraqi assault on Basra. He even called the militias in Basra “outlaws,” the same term that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has used to describe them.

“The idea of the government in Basra was to fight outlaws,” Mr. Qumi said. “This was the right of the government and the responsibility of the government. And in my opinion the government was able to achieve a positive result in Basra.”

Does this signal that a strong relationship between Iraq and Iran is inevitable? Or is it simply a rebuke of Sadr to make sure he doesn’t get too big for his britches?

Whatever the case may be, Sadr’s threatening to end the cease fire…

Despite the apparent concession of Basra, Mr. Sadr issued defiant words on Saturday night. In a long statement read from the loudspeakers of his Sadr City Mosque, he threatened to declare “war until liberation” against the government if fighting against his militia forces continued.

But it was difficult to tell whether his words posed a real threat or were a desperate effort to prove that his group was still a feared force, especially given that his militia’s actions in Basra followed a pattern seen again and again: the Mahdi militia battles Iraqi government troops to a standstill and then retreats.

Here’s the thing…I don’t think an isolated Sadr is necessarily a good thing. After all, he probably has political aspirations and if the current Iraqi government doesn’t deliver real change in the country, he could fill a void…”democratically.” Why is this not necessarily a good thing? Well, this guy is studying to be an Ayatollah in Iran…so it’s unlikely he’d be interested in a secular Iraqi government.

And to that point…

The events in Basra, in contrast with the Mahdi Army’s continued fighting in Sadr City, renewed questions about where the Sadrist movement stands in Iraq’s unstable political landscape. While his faction has often played the spoiler in Baghdad’s Shiite political structure, his followers also represent the poor and disenfranchised, who were battered under Saddam Hussein, making it difficult for the government to write them off.

So Sadr is seen by many as a “man of the people,” and if history has taught us anything, never discount the power of the underdog in a democracy…especially a fledgling democracy.

More as it develops…

  • Jon Kay

    …and Sadr has always been under the thumb of Iran.

    …actually, that’s likely to’ve been recent. Iraqi bloggers paying attention to whom Iran was supporting reported until recently that they were only seeing evidence of a different extreme militia being supported.

    So Sadr is seen by many as a “man of the people,”

    By a few hundred thousand out of a population of 27M, a whomping few percent of the country. About as many as supported Nader in 2000, say.

    The rest don’t like his ethnic cleansing practices, violent extremism, and gangster-like treatment of those unfortunate to be on his turf. Some of those who do support him are doing so at gunpoint.

    His influence USED to be growing, because he was more and more the only man who could deliver under the worsening security that he did so much to foster. Since the Administration FINALLY was forced to realize that internal security is an expected responsibility of conquerors, al’Sadr has been losing power by the increasing enforcement of justice for his mens’ crimes.

    Peace with Coalition troops has always been his strategy – that’s how he grew big – our men didn’t care how he killed, hurt, ethnically cleansed, whatever, so long as it was Iraqis and not Coalition soldiers.