Raids on Sadr City: Maliki Strikes Back

Posted by Cutler on October 25, 2006

It looks to me like Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has decided that his bread is buttered in Baghdad, not Washington.

More specifically, he has affirmed his allegiance to Moqtada al-Sadr, rather than US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

Now that his bread is buttered, we’ll find out if his days are numbered.

Here is the latest news from the Guardian on Maliki’s strident news conference:

The Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, today denounced a US raid against a Shia militia position and denied that his government had agreed to a timetable to crack down on violence.

Mr al-Maliki said he had not been consulted about the operation to snatch a militia commander from inside Sadr City and insisted, “It will not be repeated”. He also hit out at an announcement yesterday by the most senior US general in Iraq, General George Casey, and the US ambassador Zalmay Khalizad, stating that the Iraqi government had agreed to a timetable to curb violence in the country.

I affirm that this government represents the will of the people and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it,” he told a news conference…

The timeline plan outlined yesterday by Mr Khalilzad was believed to have grown out of recent Washington meetings at which the Bush administration sought to reshape its Iraq policy amid mounting US deaths and declining domestic support for the 44-month-old war.

The fact of the Raids on Sadr City surely reflects pressure from the US military brass for a crackdown on Sadrist forces, if not Moqtada al-Sadr himself.

Maliki has denounced such raids before and recently demanded that US forces release a leading Sadrist.

In this instance, it appears that the US was looking for the “Keyser Söze” of Sadr City, Abu Dera (aka, Abu Dereh). According to the New York Times:

Iraqi forces and American advisers entered the far northern tip of the [Sadr City] district, the domain of an infamous Shiite guerilla leader known by his Iraqi nickname, Abu Dera, and immediately came under fire…

Residents said that Abu Dera, whose real name is Ismail al-Zerjawi, was not among those captured, though his son was wounded and his cousin killed. Once loyal to Mr. Sadr, Abu Dera broke away in 2004 and now runs his own influential crime ring. He is famous among Shiites, who put his image on their cellphones and refer to him as the Zarqawi of the Shiites, a reference to the former Al Qaeda leader who exhorted Sunni Arabs to kill Shiites.

[By the way: this is a far more detailed profile of Abu Dera than I’ve seen elsewhere. Type “Zerjawi” into Google News and so far the search engine returns only a question: “Did you mean Zarqawi?”]

US pressure on Maliki to crack down on the Sadrists is essentially a demand that he abandon and betray a significant element of his own political base in exchange for continuing US “support.”

Maliki has refused that exchange. He now risks losing US support.

For the record, AEI’s Reuel Marc Gerecht–a leading Right Zionist–probably isn’t going to shed any tears for Maliki. In his latest missive, he wrote:

We should expect a few Iraqi governments to collapse before we start seeing real progress. Yet our presence in Iraq is the key to ensuring that Shiite-led governments don’t collapse into a radical hard core.

Gerecht is still standing by the Right Zionist idea of an alliance between the US and moderate Iraqi Shiites.

He is simply having trouble finding the moderate Iraqi Shiites.

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