May 12, 2008
GONNA FIGHT THE ENEMY OR THE ALLY?:
Hasty truce with Moqtada al-Sadr tests his sway in Baghdad stronghold: A cease-fire deal between Mr. Sadr's representatives in the Iraqi government and members of the leading Shiite bloc aims to end weeks of fierce battles in Sadr City (Howard Lafranchi, 5/12/08, The Christian Science Monitor)
The truce was hastily reached as Mr. Maliki's government announced a new offensive in Mosul against forces affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq. Maliki has said since January that he would take the fight against Al Qaeda to the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, believed to be the group's last urban stronghold in Iraq. Some Iraqi government officials have suggested that Maliki wanted the battle with Shiite militias quieted before the Mosul offensive.
Posted by Orrin Judd at May 12, 2008 7:35 AM
The Sadr City agreement does not call for the disarming or disbanding of the Mahdi Army, which was Maliki's demand that touched off fighting between his forces and the militia in late March.
Let's dig in for some more juicy quotes from this article --
The agreement allows government security forces to enter any part of Sadr City to arrest anyone with heavy weapons such as mortars and rocket launchers. [...] All explosives planted in the streets of Sadr City are to be removed and the launching of rockets and mortars from the area [...] is to stop.
Doesn't this make the more appropriate headline "Gonna fight the defeated or the still resisting?"
I am still trying to figure out what Sadr won. Maliki got de facto and de jure control of the Mehdi Army's territory, confiscation of all of their heavy weapons, and public acknowledgment of the superiority of his government. Sadr got ... a few more months of being alive? If this is a victory for Sadr, why didn't he "win" this way by surrendering a year ago instead of fighting all this time?
Sadr can't defeat the US. Maliki can't defeat Sadr. Two of the three are staying, so Maliki retreated to go fight the Sunni.
oj, there's also this one in the NYT:
Drive in Basra by Iraqi Army Makes Gains
BASRA, Iraq — Three hundred miles south of Baghdad, the oil-saturated city of Basra has been transformed by its own surge, now seven weeks old.
In a rare success, forces loyal to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki have largely quieted the city, to the initial surprise and growing delight of many inhabitants who only a month ago shuddered under deadly clashes between Iraqi troops and Shiite militias.
Of course, presumably this is another victory that Sadr is letting Maliki have. (And honestly, if Sadr is agreeing to disarm as part of a plan to take control via elections later, I don't really care so much. So long as it's actual disarming, unlike Hezbollah, the "Party of Syria"'s disarming.)
Perhaps you could clarify your thinking if you approached it from the opposite angle, since it was Maliki's fight, not Sadr's. Sadr says that Maliki is a US puppet. Maliki says the Sadr organization is illegitimate and must disband. Maliki attacks, loses, and has to call in the Americans.
Sadr calls off the dogs, who can't beat America. Maliki needs to go fight someone he can actually defeat. Sadr needs to get aid to his constituents. Return to status quo with Sadr's argument strengthened.
It's too minor a scuffle to matter much, merely confirming a variety of things we already knew, but to Maliki's disfavor.
Your error is in the claim that it's a return to the status quo. I already pointed out a number of things that are significantly different, all of them to Sadr's disfavor. Maliki fought to establish the dominance of his government over the Mehdi Army territory. He got it.
How? They needed the US military to cover their withdrawal, agreed that the Mahdi Army won't be disarmed and are shipping in aid to fix what they broke. Demonstrating vassalhood to the Americans was enough for Maliki to lose, the rest is gravy for Sadr.