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Iraqi PM Maliki Gives Shiite Militias Ultimatum

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Basically, they have 72 hours to put down their weapons or they’ll face the consequences. What those are is not yet clear, but it’s a safe bet it won’t be good for either side.

From NY Times:

BAGHDAD — A day after launching a huge operation that ignited heavy fighting in two of Iraq’s largest cities, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki gave the Shiite militias controlling the southern oil city of Basra an ultimatum on Wednesday: lay down their weapons within 72 hours or face more severe consequences. […]

The fighting threatens to destabilize a long-term truce that had helped reduce the level of violence in the five-year-old Iraq war. Mr. Maliki, who considered the operation so important that he traveled to the city to direct the fighting himself, issued his ultimatum on Iraqi state television.

“Those who were deceived into carrying weapons must deliver themselves and make a written pledge to promise they will not repeat such action within 72 hours,” he said. “Otherwise, they will face the most severe penalties.”

And here’s the thing that’s most interesting…

As the fighting in Basra and Baghdad intensified on Wednesday, the American military command, speaking for the first time about the crackdown, characterized it as an Iraqi-led operation in which American-led forces were playing only an advisory role. […]

An American military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, repeatedly sought on Wednesday to distance Western forces from the operation, saying that Mr. Maliki and his security ministers planned and carried it out on their own. He said American-led forces were on standby.

This is one of the points I’ve been making. If we weren’t there, the Iraqi forces would be more inclined to fight harder because there’s no safety net. But because we are there, they know that if they fail, well, no big deal…they can count on us.

Also, if we set a timetable, they’ll know they’ll have to get their act together or else face the reality of these militias controlling cities…militias which, by the way, are NOT run by al Qaeda…but a situation they don’t want nonetheless.

Time for some ultimatums of our own.