Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has staked his credibility and that of his government on the Iraqi military’s ability to crack down on militants in Iraq’s second-largest city. He and top security ministers traveled south as the operation got underway to supervise it in person. But the pretense that the operation was simply a crackdown on ragtag criminal elements has fallen by the wayside as militias in Basra have offered stiff resistance.
On Saturday the office of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr made its harshest statement against Maliki’s government in nine months. It was an ominous sign that the militia’s unilateral cease-fire, which was declared in late August and has contributed to a dramatic decline in violence, could be close to collapse. "Moqtada al-Sadr stopped the Mahdi Army’s activities for six months, and then extended that for six more months," Haider al-Jaberi, a member of Sadr’s political committee in the holy city of Najaf, told reporters. "But the Iraqi government didn’t respect that decision."
"The events in Basra today are the straw that has broken the camel’s back," he continued. "To Maliki we say, the Mahdi Army has the ability to stop those who attack it, and we are prepared for that"…
I hate to be so single issue focused, but everything I read about these hostilities in Southern Iraq says the same thing to me. In the Project for the New American Century
‘s 1998 letter to President Clinton, there was a tone of finality, "The only acceptable strategy
is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein
and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy
." They never waivered from that position though the evidence against their reasons was overwhelming. When Joseph Wilson published a critical letter in the New York Times, they essentially moved to take him out of play by outing his wife. Again and again, the Bush Administration sees the solution to a problem as being terminal – take out the enemy. The main organized challenge to Prime Minister al-Malaki is Moqtada al-Sadr. This operation is aimed at "taking him out." The solution sounds Cheney-esque to me. The provocation for attacking him sounds manufactured – "crackdown on ragtag criminal elements." It’s so Cheney’s M.O., it’s hard to imagine who else might have conceived it. It’s an Iraqi Army operation, at least it’s supposed to look that way. Yet we are way in the thick of it. It’s looking increasingly like a fight to the death. I can almost hear Cheney saying something like they said in that letter ten years ago – "the only acceptable policy" is "removing … from power."
How in the hell did we end up in the Middle East killing off leaders as our foreign policy? How did we come to be torturing prisoners of war and spying on Americans as our intelligence gathering operation? It sounds like a story out of a thriller anthology, or a Shakespeare Tragedy, or tale of court intrigue from ancient history…