Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: Moqtada al-Sadr's "cease fire" in Iraq has come undone

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Moqtada al-Sadr's "cease fire" in Iraq has come undone

Per The Christian Science Monitor and Americablog:
Baghdad - The Mahdi Army's seven-month-long cease-fire appears to have come undone.

Rockets fired from the capital's Shiite district of Sadr City slammed into the Green Zone Tuesday, the second time in three days, and firefights erupted around Baghdad pitting government and US forces against the militia allied to the influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

At the same time, the oil-export city of Basra became a battleground Tuesday as Iraqi forces, backed by US air power, launched a major crackdown on the Mahdi Army elements. British and US forces were guarding the border with Iran to intercept incoming weapons or fighters, according to a senior security official in Basra.

The US blames the latest attacks on rogue Mahdi Army elements tied to Iran, but analysts say the spike in fighting with Shiite militants potentially opens a second front in the war when the American military is still doing battle with the Sunni extremists of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

"The cease-fire is over; we have been told to fight the Americans," said one Mahdi Army militiaman, who was reached by telephone in Sadr City. This same man, when interviewed in January, had stated that he was abiding by the cease-fire and that he was keeping busy running his cellular phone store.

When the Bush Administration has tried to give credit for the slow-down in hostilities to "the Surge" tactic, many experts have tried in vain to point out that al-Sadr's cease-fire played a large factor. Here is an MSNBC interview with Paul Reikoff, Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

Reikoff: "I don't think we can alone credit the surge with the reduction in violence. Moqtada al-Sadr is on a big pause right now. If he decides to take his finger off that pause button and reignite the violence, we're going to see a dramatic increase in what's happening inside of Iraq."

I guess now we'll get to see just how much difference "the Surge" has really made, especially in light of what al-Sadr "taking his finger off of the pause button" could mean.
On Monday evening, pickup trucks filled with chanting Mahdi militiamen, within sight of Iraqi forces, were forcing shopkeepers in many parts of Baghdad's west side to close in protest of US and Iraq Army raids.

On Tuesday, all shops in the Mahdi Army stronghold neighborhoods – Bayiaa, Iskan, Shuala, and Washash – were shuttered. Leaflets saying "No, no to America" were plastered on each storefront. Anti-American banners hung right next to Iraqi government checkpoints.

Several people interviewed in the Amel neighborhood said they were forced by militiamen to return home when they tried to go to work this morning. "This is anarchy," says Ali al-Yasseri.


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