Sunday, March 26, 2006


The situation in Iraq keeps getting more untenable. The Washington Post reports that U.S. and Iraqi forces killed at least 16 members of a "terrorist cell" tied to Moqtada al Sadr. This cell, according to the Post, was "responsible for attacks on soldiers and civilians."

Of course, while some of Sadr's followers are engaging in terror attacks, others are holding positions in Parliament and in goverment ministries.

An outspoken opponent of the U.S. presence in Iraq, Sadr has become a potent political force, fielding more than 30 loyal members in Iraq's new parliament. The incident Sunday was his deadliest encounter with U.S. and Iraqi forces since his Mahdi Army militia waged two violent uprisings in 2004.

"I think we are going to have a firm stance against the American forces because of this crime," Salam al-Maliki, the country's transportation minister and a close Sadr ally, said on al-Iraqiya television.

So we're dammed if we do and dammed if we don't. Either we allow the operation of terror cells, or we kill people closely affiliated with a member in good standing of Iraq's governing coalition. Maybe there was a time, back just after the fall of Baghdad, when we could have prevented some of this by crushing Sadr's movement. Maybe when they were looting the city would have been a good time. Or maybe after they murdered Abdel Majid al-Khoei, the moderate cleric under (ineffective) U.S. military protection. Or maybe after the 2004 uprisings.

Now, however, they're part of the government. Such a key part of the government, in fact, that prime mininister praises them in a March 20 Washington Post opinion piece:

Sidelining Moqtada al-Sadr's group from the Governing Council was a mistake. Had it been integrated into the political process back then, long before the formation of the Mahdi Army, events would have turned out differently in the south. I corrected this policy and brought Sadr's group into the democratic process. This inclusive approach resulted in the huge nationwide turnout for the December elections and a parliament that truly reflects Iraq.

During my term as elected prime minister, Sadr's group has not attacked any coalition troops. Furthermore, Sadr and several Sunni leaders are now catalysts for maintaining the peace in Iraq, calling on their followers not to retaliate against terrorist provocations, which aim to ignite civil war.

I'm not saying that al-Jafari's policy is wrong-- he may be making the best of a terrible situation. But how long with the U.S. be able to maintain its position in Iraq while at war with not only an insurgency but with a key member of the governing coalition?

Sorry, I'll stop now. I should probably be blogging about a good news story, like the opening of an Iraqi school or something.