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Iraq, and the Truth We Dare Not Speak

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Iraq, and the Truth We Dare Not Speak

We must win American hearts and minds.

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

 

Not long ago I talked to a right-wing hardnosed fellow in a conservative central California town about the need to stay and finish the task of stabilizing the democracy in Iraq and rectifying the disastrous aftermath of 1991. He wasn't buying. Instead he kept ranting about the war in the 'more rubble, less trouble' vein. And his anger wasn't only over our costs in lives and treasure. So I finally asked him exactly why the venom over Iraq. He shouted, "I don't like them sons of bitches over there — any of 'em." His was a sort of echo of Bismarck's oft-quoted "The whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier."

 

There are dozens of tragic ironies in Iraq. The fostering of democracy by a Republican president only alienated his dour realist base. Yet his idealism did not even win as recompense faint sympathy from supposedly Wilsonian Democratic opponents. Indeed, they now sound like Bob Taft isolationists. The fiercest critics of the brave struggling Iraqi elected government remain liberal Senate Democrats, not Republicans.

 

The Iraqi oil fields were liberated from Russian, French, and Baathist extortion. Then subsequent sky-rocketing oil prices further enriched the Middle East — only to earn the slur "No Blood for Oil."

 

Liberation of the downtrodden Shiite from a largely oppressive Sunni minority only won the U.S. disdain from Shiite Iran and assorted Shiites from Lebanon to the Gulf — and resentment from nearby Sunni monarchies.

 

President Bush stayed on after victory to offer consensual government, unlike his father in 1991. As a reward, he won criticism from the critics of Bush I for now attempting what they once so loudly advocated.

 

Perhaps strangest of all is the tragicomic spectacle of Middle East "reformers" and democracy advocates. They vehemently criticized American efforts in Iraq from their autocratic masters' state-run censored megaphones in Cairo, Riyadh, and Amman.

 

All that and the dreary narrative from the battlefield help to explain plummeting public support for the war at a time when empathy for brave Iraqis is critical to the continuance of the effort. But there is another, more worrisome dynamic at work here. I would call it the "them sons of bitches" sentiment that is usually better left unspoken.

 

By any honest assessment, the great majority of Iraqis are brave citizens who voted en masse for change, at great risk to their safety. Kurdistan is a stunning success. It belies stereotypes that Muslims can't govern themselves peacefully, practice consensual government, or create vibrant economies. Tribal sheiks and clerics in Iraq hate al Qaeda as much as we do. They suffer far more losses in trying to rid their country of such killers. American soldiers testify to the friendliness and support of the Iraqi people.

 

But that American alliance with freedom-loving Arabs is not what is reported. Instead the public hears and sees two quite different things. The two are antithetical to each other.

 

First, we are now well accustomed to the administration talking of "freedom" and "democracy," and of providing an "opportunity" for the Arab world "to embrace" liberty. Indeed, the 3,000 plus Americans killed in action in Iraq and the hundreds of billions spent so far are often explained as being for the sake of offering a chance for something better than the non-choice between a Saddam or an Assad and the theocratic alternative of the Taliban or the Iranian ayatollahs.

 

But such a legitimate and necessary rationale depends also upon general empathy for the Middle East. We are embarking on this new course in the hopes that the American lives sacrificed and our treasure spent are for a friendly people that appreciates our efforts. I think they do, and that the record of brave Iraqi reformers is worth the effort — both for the sake of our future security and so as to adopt a new moral posture that respects Arab self-determination.

 

But, again, most Americans now don't think it is worth it — and not just because of the cost we pay, but because of what we get in return. Turn on the television and the reporting is all hate: a Middle Eastern Muslim is blowing up someone in Israel, shooting a rocket from Gaza, chanting death to America in Beirut, stoning an adulterer in Tehran, losing a hand for thievery in Saudi Arabia, threatening to take back Spain, gassing someone in Iraq, or promising to wipe out Israel. An unhinged, secular Khadafi rants; a decrepit Saudi royal lectures; a wild-eyed Lebanese cleric threatens — whatever the country, whatever the political ideology, the American television viewer draws the same conclusion: we are always blamed for their own self-inflicted misery.

 

Fostering democracy in Iraq is called imperialism. But then so is the opposite of backing a strongman in Pakistan or Egypt. Billions sent to Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine goes unmentioned or is considered too paltry. Millions of Muslims saved in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Indonesia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Somalia means nothing. One Koran wrongly said to be flushed is everything.

 

A sense of imbalance is everywhere. Imams call Jews "pigs and apes." The Pope is threatened for his dry recitation of history. Cartoonists, novelists, filmmakers, and opera producers are all promised death or beheading, while the worst sort of racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Christian hatred is broadcast and published in state-run Arab media.

 

Worse follows. Just when one surmises from all this that the Arab Muslim world despises the United States, the American public is exasperated that, in fact, it really doesn't — at least, in the sense that Muslims from the Middle East clamor to enter the United States. Everything Western, from iPods to the Internet to cellphones, spreads like wildfire in the Arab world. Family members of those in the Assad government, in the Shiite militias in Lebanon, in the Pakistani dictatorship, and in the Iranian theocracy live in safety and security in the land of the Great Satan, from Washington to Michigan.

 

Yet the Muslim community in the Untied States, at least if defined by its self-appointed collective leadership, is mostly heard and seen decrying "Islamophobia" inside America, suing on allegations of discrimination, and damning the effort in Iraq. Rarely are voiced furor and anger at the illiberal regimes that drove Arabs out. Even rarer is expressed some sort of gratitude for the liberal regime that welcomed them in. Or, at least, that is the impression imparted to Americans by their media that provides them with sounds bites and live video streams in lieu of travel to and study of the Middle East.

 

The net result is the American voter is tired and saturated with negative imagery. Public opinion polls are notoriously fickle. But most show a sharp increase in negative views of Muslims in general. A 2006 Washington Post poll suggested that nearly half of all Americans had a negative view of Muslims — far higher even than was even found shortly after September 11. The Council on American-Islamic Relations claims that one American in four surveyed said Islam was a religion of hatred and violence and held extreme anti-Muslim views. Yet other less partisan surveys agree that one in three Americans believe that Islam encourages violence. And various other polls reveal that only about 20% of Americans are in sympathy with the Palestinians. Egypt alone of the major Arab countries rates a favorable impression; most others — Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia — evoke high levels of American negativity.

 

This popular sentiment, to the extent it is ever voiced openly, is, of course, attributed to "intolerance" and "prejudice." But the real catalysts are the endemic violence and hypocrisy that appear nightly on millions of television screens. When the liberal Left says of the war, "It isn't worth it," that message resonates, as the American public rightly suspects that it really means "They aren't worth it." Voters may not like particularly a Harry Reid, but in frustration at the violence, they sense now that, just like them, he also doesn't like a vague somebody over there.

 

So here we are in our eleventh hour. A controversial and costly war continues, in part so as to give Arab Muslims the sort of freedom the West takes for granted; but at precisely the time that the public increasingly is tired of Middle Eastern madness. In short, America believes that the entire region is not worth the bones of a single Marine.

 

To counteract this, we need more clarity both here and abroad. First, the administration must articulate how our idealism is stark realism as well. Americans daily have to be reminded that consensual government in Iraq — not just plebiscites — is in our long-term strategic interest. Second, we should hear far more of Iraqi cooperation and joint operations, both military and civilian, that in fact do characterize this war and reveal an Arab desire to be free of the past. And third, far more long-suffering members of the Iraqi government need to express some appreciation for the American sacrifice — and express such gratitude to the American people directly.

 

We worry rightly about anti-Americanism and winning over the people of Iraq. But the greater problem, at least as we now witness it in the Senate and House, is winning back those here at home.

 

Seeing more of the purple finger, and less of the shaking fist, is the key to regaining the hearts and minds of Americans — who in the end alone can win or lose this war.

 

©2007 Victor Davis Hanson

 

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Iraq, and the Truth We Dare Not Speak

We must win American hearts and minds.

<H3 class=post-title>Everybody in Iraq has something to gain from Al-Sadr's defeat!!!

 

Why aren't the Shiite provinces in Iraq enjoying a similar prosperity as the Kurds in the north? The answer is simple, there is no insurgency in Iraqi Kurdistan. The stability of these provinces has led to a huge economic boom for the Kurds.

 

In an interview with 60 Minutes U.S. Major General Benjamin Mixon, the Commanding Officer for Northern Iraq and Kurdistan said, "If the Iraqis simply would look north and see what the possibilities are and they do not align themselves with the extremists they could see the great potential that this country has to be a prosperous nation."

 

The Shiites suffered under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship almost as much as the Kurds did. They are the largest religious denomination in Iraq and have the largest oil reserves as well. So the Shiites had the most to gain from the fall of the Sunni regime.

 

Under these circumstances the Shiites have strongly pushed for the same autonomy that Kurdistan enjoys, but have not been able to reap the same rewards. Instead the southern provinces on the Iranian border have been plagued with instability. The source of which comes from Iran.

 

Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran also has a proxy army in Iraq. Due to the strong anti-Western stance of Iraqi cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, his Mahdi Army has received significant Iranian backing. In April of 2004 an Iranian intelligence agent who defected to England, Haj Sa'idi, revealed that the Mahdi Army received extensive training from Iran.

 

The Middle East Media Research Institute cited an article in which Sa'idi "estimated that about 800 - 1,200 young supporters of Al-Sadr have received military training including guerilla warfare, the production of bombs and explosives, the use of small arms, reconnoitering and espionage. The three camps were located in Qasr Shireen, 'Ilam, and Hamid, bordering southern Iraq which is inhabited largely by Shi'a Muslims."

 

Sa'idi also estimated that the financial support to Al-Sadr in the months leading up to the press release exceeded $80 million, in addition to the cost of training, equipment and clothing for the Mahdi Army.

 

His lust for power and the corruption of Iranian influence led Muqtada al-Sadr to betray his country. It is clear from America's benevolent stance towards Kurdistan and the Shiite provinces where Al-Sadr has little influence, that all of the Iraqi Shiite provinces could have benefited from the U.S. financed reconstruction effort (and still can).

 

Al-Sadr took the Shiite majority provinces down a dark path that they didn't need to follow. He started his aggression almost immediately after the fall of the Baathist regime. In April of 2003 pro-American Shiite cleric Majeed Al-Khoei was murdered by a mob and an arrest warrant was issued connecting Al-Sadr to the murder (the warrant was later dropped in exchange for Al-Sadr's withdrawal from the city of Najaf).

 

After the Al-Khoei murder the Sadrists launched a campaign to seize strategic mosques from their fellow Shia through the use of force. The house of the highest ranking Shiite cleric in Iraq, the Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani, was surrounded by Al-Sadr's henchmen. They demanded that he leave the country within 48 hours or they would resort to violence. This was a particularly brazen act because Al-Sadr is only a midlevel cleric with little formal religious standing to interpret the Koran. He has to rely on a cleric living in Iran for religious authority (Ayatollah Kazem Al-Haeri). Luckily Al-Sistani was rescued by loyal tribesmen, but that was not the end of Al-Sadr's attacks on his fellow Shiites.

 

The crisis deepened when he attempted to seize holy sites controlled by Al-Sistani in Karbala. Al-Sadr was decisively repulsed by the combination of U.S. firepower and the peaceful protests of the Grand Ayatollah's supporters. Despite this defeat less than a year later Al-Sadr attempted a more ambitious military assault to seize the seat of Shia religious authority in Najaf and other strategic cities. This was done while the Grand Ayatollah was out of the country for medical treatment. The attempt failed miserably and the Mahdi Army was forced to retreat back to Sadr City.

 

Since Iran shares a border with Iraq they haven't been content to sit back and let their proxy army do all of their dirty work. If you can connect the dots then the current events in Iraq can give you a hot flash of deja vu. Last year Hezbollah violated the borders of Israel to seize two hostages. Iran followed suit a couple of weeks ago with a similar operation. Iraqi waters were violated and 15 British sailors were seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The similarities between the tactics of these two kidnapping assaults are too close to dismiss.

 

There are many other similarities between Iranian adventurism in Lebanon and Iraq.

 

– In Lebanon Hezbollah has held protests to promote the goals of its masters and in Iraq similar protests by Al-Sadr's supporters were attempted last week, but failed to rally a sizable amount of protesters like the Beirut demonstrations.

 

– In Lebanon a bombing campaign is being conducted to destabilize the country and Iran's closest ally, Syria, has been implicated in the UN's investigation of these attacks. Iran and Syria have worked together in the past to train and equip its Lebanese proxies to conduct bombing campaigns. The most notable was the 1983 suicide bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. In Iraq there is another bombing campaign that is also supplied and trained by Iran.

 

As I mentioned earlier Iran is providing Shiite militias with funding, weapons, ammunition and training. Even more disturbing is the fact that Iran is giving aid to Sunni insurgents who are killing Shiite civilians. The betrayal of their fellow Shia is a horrible example of how far the Iranian Mullahs would go to achieve their selfish goals.

 

The capture of two very high ranking Iranian Revolutionary Guards from the al-Quds Brigade has also highlighted the seriousness of the situation. The Brigade is responsible for arming, training and funding militant movements across the Middle East. In a separate raid five other Iranian intelligence agents were captured in the effort to break up these Iranian networks that are supporting the insurgency. Iran is committing considerable resources into destabilizing its neighbor.

 

With the current U.S. troop surge gaining strength circumstances have changed. Al-Sadr has gone underground and the U.S. believes that he is hiding in Iran. In response his supporters have shown that they are paying attention to current events in Washington D.C.

 

Taking their cue from the Democratic Party, Sadr's supporters demanded that the Iraqi government issue a deadline for a U.S. withdrawal. Sadr is always seeking to land a decisive blow by coordinating his actions to coincide with attacks by others. In 2004 he launched his assault on Najaf at the same time that U.S. troops were engaging insurgents in Fallujah, giving the appearance of a coordinated campaign (and to a certain limited extent it was). That gamble failed and it looks like he has overextended himself once again.

 

Sadr loyalists warned that if a deadline for a U.S. withdrawal was not set they would quit the government. Prime Minister Al-Maliki did not budge so they followed through with their threat.

 

It now turns out that the Sadrist Movement is not as critical to the Prime Minister's government as analysts have been predicting for some time. Al-Maliki responded by thanking Al-Sadr for instructing his ministers to resign so that competent independents could be appointed in their place. In one blow Sadr has lost six ministries. Agriculture, Education, Health, Transport and Tourism/Antiquities.

 

Analysts are warning that this could mean that Al-Sadr is planning to resume full hostilities. With the U.S. troop surge ramping up, the Iraqi security forces at their highest strength ever and no major campaigns like Fallujah as a distraction – such a move by Al-Sadr would not be wise.

 

There has also been a mood change in the Iraqi Prime Minister. Early in his term he held back both the U.S. and Al-Sadr from escalating tension with each other. Both sides were equally frustrated by this behavior, but there is a noticeable difference between the two. Al-Sadr continued his transgressions, while the U.S. reluctantly held back as Al-Maliki asked. Our government has proven to be a more reliable partner and the recent revelations of Iranian subterfuge has no doubt disturbed the Iraqi government.

 

Al-Maliki has been silently defying the Iranian government. In the months before Iran set off a huge crisis by seizing 15 British hostages the Iranians had been demanding that Al-Maliki end the UN maritime-inspection mission that was being conducted by those sailors. He refused and Iran took those hostages. It was a serious escalation that Maliki and the Coalition patiently weathered, but did not give in to Iran's crude shakedown attempt.

 

To secure their borders the Iraqi government has re-imposed visas for Iranians in direct response to the infiltration of Iranian agents who have hidden among the thousands of pilgrims that travel to Iraq every day. This was sure to ruffle some feathers in Tehran.

 

Most importantly Al-Maliki approved the seizure of Iranian agents by U.S. forces and allowed the U.S. to clamp down on the Shiite militias.

 

So the Prime Minister and his government have shown their independence from Iran and the Shiite militias. If Al-Sadr wants to escalate the crisis he may find himself up against an Iraqi government that is finally tired of his brinksmanship once and for all.

 

Back in 2004 when the U.S. first wanted to retake the city of Fallujah the Iraqi Governing Council demanded that the U.S. halt the operation. Months later as nationwide elections approached the Council changed its mind because they realized the urgent need to secure the city for the elections. It appears that the new Iraqi government is turning a similar corner in regards to the Sadrists.

 

The elimination of Al-Sadr could be the answer that everyone is looking for. It will get rid of a constant irritant that has shown aggression towards every major player that he has come into contact with. That includes the U.S., fellow Shiites, the Iraqi government and the Sunni. Al-Sadr's demise would be warmly welcomed by the Sunnis who feel that the Iraqi government is too biased in favor of the Shiites, but Al-Sadr's fellow Shia wont miss him either.

 

</H3>

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With all due respect, I think the article above is belonging to history!

 

After all , we need to admit that if there is a reason that makes any one believes that Qeada and it's affiliates had failed in Iraq, then it is Alsader and his Alsadree poor people.

 

Linking Alsadre to Iran is just like linking Chinese Mawitsi Tong to Russia, not for any reason but for both being communists. Yes Alsader is radical, he hate the American policy, he thinks that all of Iraq problems are caused by Americans. But this is also what the Islamic party of Muslim brotherhood of Iraq. So why dealing with Sader differently.

 

Any one who is primitive in Iraqi dynamics would know that Iranian regime can't go a long with Alsadrees. I don't want to go further in details, but my advice to the writer and to all those who are looking into Iraq from way high elevation : Don't punish Iraq and Iraqis because of Iran conflict issues..

 

The writer point of comparing the fifteen years old Kurdish autonomous region with the four years "under occupation" south region, is a dam stupid and un realistic one.. If we follow his analogy, then we might end up believing in Sadree's claim that the Kurd are enjoying their safety because they have their Beshmerka militia in charge and there is no Americans there

 

I think both analogies are wrong, and the two cases are completely different to compare ..

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The libral media might be in confusion on how to fit this into the secterian profile !

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/07/world/mi...ast/07iraq.html

 

2 Car Bombings in Iraq Kill 25

 

By ALISSA J. RUBIN

Published: May 7, 2007

BAGHDAD, May 7 — Two car bombs exploded near a police checkpoint just north of Ramadi today, killing 25, including six police officers, and wounding 51 others, according to Col. Iaria Yusuf, the Iraqi security supervisor in the Anbar province.

 

.........

...........

In the volatile city of Samarra, a suicide car bomber attacked a police battalion headquarters, killing the police chief and 11 others, the military said in a statement.

 

The attack appeared to have been carefully coordinated; about the same time as the bomb went off, residents reported seeing about 20 cars filled with armed masked men drive into Samarra, where they appeared to be patrolling the streets in a show of force. Residents said they believed that the masked gunmen were from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which is active in the area and includes some non-Iraqi insurgents.

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President Open to Benchmarks in Iraq Measure

 

By CARL HULSE and JIM RUTENBERG

Published: May 11, 2007

WASHINGTON, May 10 — Hours before the House approved a plan on Thursday to finance the Iraq war only through midsummer, President Bush offered his first public concession to try to resolve the impasse on war spending, acknowledging rising pressure from his own party and the public.

 

After a briefing at the Pentagon, Mr. Bush said he had instructed Joshua B. Bolten, the White House chief of staff, to reach “common ground” with lawmakers of both parties over setting firm goals, or benchmarks, to measure progress in Iraq. Mr. Bush had previously insisted that he wanted about $95 billion for the military with no strings attached

.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/11/washington/11cong.html

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For many reasons , I think benchmarking is started to be necessary. While it was important not to set hard line marks , so terrorists can't use them for their benefits waiting for American withdraw, the current balance of power is making such situation no longer valid.On contrary, it might work other way..

 

However, there are some dynamics need to be watched out .

Today some Iraqi politicians, specially those who are opposing the current political process, are under impression that a call for setting such benchmark is motivated by the rising level of violence.. Naturally they think that maintaining the level of that violence is a good way to keep the pressure. They also think that keep playing a destructive role in the government's security plan is making such goal more possible.

 

This understanding and mechanism need to be changed. Such dynamics is not helping the conciliation nor the fight on terror and violence. We need to make the call for conciliation working and not to be another factor of instability.

 

One way that might worth trying is to send a strong message , that such benchmark should also include stability.. I mean , the call need to go both ways, one to the government and the supporting political parties, the other to the opposition parties. We have a unique situation, where violent opposition is the most hurt by American disengagement. A real American threatening to withdrew would send a strong message to those group to join the Alanbar up rise and go after Sadamists and Qaeda operatives.. Also it would send another message to the politicians that are trying to play the American call card to their narrow mind political goals rather than seeking for the national and their local communities interests..

 

Such a benchmark would impose pressure on the Government too. The political powers who took over the government "Sunni/Shia, Arab/Kurds" are also threatened by aye serious plan of American disengagement. They know that they will loose all the privileges if Good forbid, Iraq went into real disintegration and chaos which easily be the case in case of American withdraw..

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from Basra;

 

Michele Yon (excerpt)

 

my comments on the bottom of this to Salims earlier post :

A young British soldier named Simon expected to be driving logistics trucks into Iraq, and so adopted the dusty old hit "Convoy" as his fight-song and personal anthem. A man doesn't have to wait long to hear Simon play it again, yet instead of barreling up Iraqi highways, Simon finds himself at Basra Air Station, shuttling occasional journalists, and performing base duties, including escorting Iraqis hired for manual labor. Asked for his take on that task, Simon opined with tones of befuddlement and wonder, as when a person sees what appears to be intensely conflicting signals.

To Simon, the Iraqis are a box of unrelated puzzles thrown together, with pieces missing. He couldn't seem to reconcile scenes of Iraqis murdering Iraqis by the busload, using bombs, knives, power drills, corrosive acid, even dragging each other behind cars, with scenes of the endearing behavior he's witnessed between grown Iraqi men, taking time out from their work on base to play.

They would stop working, Simon said, to play hide and seek, laughing like children. And when the Iraqi workers argued among themselves, they yelled emotionally while picking up small pebbles to hurl at each other. For Simon, these puzzle pieces did not fit with the rockets and mortars that rain down on this base, and the thousands of dead Coalition troops and workers. That part I followed, because during the writing of this dispatch, the base was attacked more than a dozen times, then a dozen times again. Parts have been written while wearing a helmet and body armor, lying prone on the ground.

Any perception that British forces have it easy down here in Basra is wrong. In the nearly three weeks I've been here, I've seen more mortar and rocket attacks than during my cumulative time in Iraq. The rate of British soldiers getting killed in combat during April 2007 seemed to far exceed that for our troops up north in the same period; and was the most for the British since the first month of the war back in 2003. Last night, while answering email, we twice all hit the ground and at least two Brits and a pizza delivery man on base were wounded. I was told later that the Pizza Hut delivery man was sent back to India missing a leg. By all yardsticks, the situation in Basra seems to be deteriorating rapidly.

According to British Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Stratford-Wright, British forces were attacked about twenty times per week in January 2006. Nine months later, in September 2006, attacks began to skyrocket, reaching about one hundred per week by February of 2007. Nobody has an explanation for the storm, but once British forces ramped up offensive operations, attacks decreased to the current level of about fifty per week.

Unlike some other parts of Iraq, little if any compelling evidence of civil war is present in Basra. In Baghdad, by contrast, suicide bombers commonly strike several times per day, often into the very heart of guarded areas and scores of innocent victims are killed daily by bombs, guns and knives. Meanwhile in Basra, seemingly random, wholesale attacks are by comparison uncommon.

 

There have been few suicide attacks. While the overwhelming majority of attacks in Baghdad, or in provinces such as Nineveh and Diyala, are against Iraqis, down here in Basra, 90% of the attacks are against British soldiers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[/font]

 

Salim,

 

Do you think it's Mooky's murder gangs or al Quaeda or Sunni's down Basra way ? It is simply amazing to me how you find ANY value in this murderous IDIOTs contribution to IRAQ !

 

You say;

 

"Linking Alsadre to Iran is just like linking Chinese Mawitsi Tong to Russia, not for any reason but for both being communists. Yes Alsader is radical, he hate the American policy, he thinks that all of Iraq problems are caused by Americans. But this is also what the Islamic party of Muslim brotherhood of Iraq. So why dealing with Sader differently".

 

Salim,

 

I don't for a second think the MFN checks Iraqi Identity cards before they are engaged committing their terrorist acts!!!! Mooky is NO MORE SINGLED OUT than al-Queada or a Saddamist or ANY OTHER IDIOTS doing IRAQ harm !!!!

 

You say;

"Any one who is primitive in Iraqi dynamics would know that Iranian regime can't go a long with Alsadrees. I don't want to go further in details, but my advice to the writer and to all those who are looking into Iraq from way high elevation : Don't punish Iraq and Iraqis because of Iran conflict issues.".

 

Salim,

 

Those EFP's come from ONE SOURCE …………. IRAN !!! It IS Mooky's murder gang using them !!! It is Mooky's murder gang supplied with them by IRAN including money to operate with Iraqi's who support him !!

 

You say;

After all , we need to admit that if there is a reason that makes any one believes that Qeada and it's affiliates had failed in Iraq, then it is Alsader and his Alsadree poor people

 

HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN ABOUT ANBAR PROVINCE LATELY?

Salim,

 

"Alsadree poor people" would have been better served and still would WITH OUT HIS INFLUENCE and resistance to MFN forces and especially his interference in IRAQ'S Government and his pursuit of VENGENCE against ANY and ALL Sunni. (Indiscriminate)

 

 

 

With all due respect, I think the article above is belonging to history!

 

After all , we need to admit that if there is a reason that makes any one believes that Qeada and it's affiliates had failed in Iraq, then it is Alsader and his Alsadree poor people.

 

Linking Alsadre to Iran is just like linking Chinese Mawitsi Tong to Russia, not for any reason but for both being communists. Yes Alsader is radical, he hate the American policy, he thinks that all of Iraq problems are caused by Americans. But this is also what the Islamic party of Muslim brotherhood of Iraq. So why dealing with Sader differently.

 

Any one who is primitive in Iraqi dynamics would know that Iranian regime can't go a long with Alsadrees. I don't want to go further in details, but my advice to the writer and to all those who are looking into Iraq from way high elevation : Don't punish Iraq and Iraqis because of Iran conflict issues..

 

The writer point of comparing the fifteen years old Kurdish autonomous region with the four years "under occupation" south region, is a dam stupid and un realistic one.. If we follow his analogy, then we might end up believing in Sadree's claim that the Kurd are enjoying their safety because they have their Beshmerka militia in charge and there is no Americans there

 

I think both analogies are wrong, and the two cases are completely different to compare ..

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Tex,

Alsader party might be responsible for all those allegations, though I doubt it, but that doesn't answer my core question.. Alsadrees aren't different than any other radical political group that are participating in the current political process such as the Islam Iraqi party of vice president Alhashimee. Both have almost same radical attitude , both got militias that were accused of factionist killings. Nevertheless all doors, including Bush's, are open to the Muslim Brotherhood party with teachings that are considered as the nurturing theology to Neo Salphists of Qaeda. One might think the Sunni party itself tried to reach the Americans as part of the political race to gain support while the Alsadrees, being so nationalist and confident, are not easy to go that way. The reply, why it is the case .

 

Any how there is a question that need to be answered first.

 

Why it is important to win the hearts of Sadrees , or at least their minds.

Simply because it is the strongest single party in after math Iraq, and the Americans have no more appetite to scarify more personals and money fighting much worse war than the one of removing Sadamist's thugs over the last four years . There are two groups who are working on making such war possibility, first the Iranian and second the coalition of Sadamists /Qaeda. Each one for a different reason though.

 

The Iranians, knowing the real balance of power in current Iraq, would gain a lot with any violent conflict between the Americans on Alsadrees that forces the later to lean more toward the Iranians asking for help. The Iranians already lost their strong ties with SRCI. Today, Alkhakim's group announced changing their name removing the "revolution" reference and declaring Alsystani as their spiritual religious authority.. An announcement that might be received within the Iranian religious authorities circles as very alarming. This is just like some old Russian's allies declare Trotsky rather than Stalin as their Communist teacher..

 

The Sadamists and Qaeda are also looking for Alsadree's conflict with Americans to go more violent. They know that the current Iraq balance of power doesn't allow them to retune to take over after the expected American withdraw. They want the Americans do the dirty job before leaving in what they call "fixing mission" that they are no longer able to do. They are also looking for opening another front so as to break the current ring that the Government and Iraqi people are applying on them playing mixing cards game.

 

 

The successes of bringing the two Sunni and Shia groups of islamic party and SRCI were not possible without the deep understanding by the American administration to the micro dynamics of Iraqi affairs and the great all sacrifieces. Unfortunately I don't see same level of efforts toward Sadrees. I agree though that with Alsadrees the mission is harder.

 

I completely not in agreement with blaming Alsadrees for the current violence . They are playing a critical rule in security applying plans, their presence in many regions of Baghdad had reflected a good level of stability and evaporation of Qaeda and Sadamists terrorists. In Albayaa discrete of west Baghdad, the Kurds Beshmerka were ruling the discrete . Sadrees withdrew their presence. Couple of days ago, the Kurds went back to Suliamania before other trrops get in, leaving the mixed residential region un protected . Immediately terrorist stroke slaughtering Shia residents in public in what many resident claimed as orchetrated scenarion.The Sadrees were obliged to protect themselves and reappear to clean out the discrete from ISLAMIC state of Qaeda criminals before the American and Government forces appeared back.

 

Making the Sadrees in one category as the terrorist is all what the Iranians and terrorists dream of, that what all brave Iraqi politicians working not to have happen..

 

We need to remember that four years ago, the SRCI was part of Iranian circle of power. The Sadrees , being their rivals, were considered as defected group with their rejection to considering Khamenie as their religous authority. Today, there are a lot of calls by Americans to make this happening .. Is n't that ironic?

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With all due respect, I think the article above is belonging to history!

 

After all , we need to admit that if there is a reason that makes any one believes that Qeada and it's affiliates had failed in Iraq, then it is Alsader and his Alsadree poor people.

 

Linking Alsadre to Iran is just like linking Chinese Mawitsi Tong to Russia, not for any reason but for both being communists. Yes Alsader is radical, he hate the American policy, he thinks that all of Iraq problems are caused by Americans. But this is also what the Islamic party of Muslim brotherhood of Iraq. So why dealing with Sader differently.

 

Any one who is primitive in Iraqi dynamics would know that Iranian regime can't go a long with Alsadrees. I don't want to go further in details, but my advice to the writer and to all those who are looking into Iraq from way high elevation : Don't punish Iraq and Iraqis because of Iran conflict issues..

 

The writer point of comparing the fifteen years old Kurdish autonomous region with the four years "under occupation" south region, is a dam stupid and un realistic one.. If we follow his analogy, then we might end up believing in Sadree's claim that the Kurd are enjoying their safety because they have their Beshmerka militia in charge and there is no Americans there.

 

I think both analogies are wrong, and the two cases are completely different to compare ..

 

Salim' Thank you for your thoughtful reply. As usual you provide insight which I have great respect for. But I think I should have made something clear upfront in our debate over al-Sadr and his followers: I do not put the blame for Iraq's terrorist "insurgency" problems on al-Sadr (mookey the murderer) alone, nor do I disagree that there are OTHERS equally as obnoxious and murderous who threaten Iraqi's security and welfare. I do question why you continue to defend Mooky as a necessary evil. I have major problems with other of Iraq's so called "resistance" TERROR SUPPORTING parties including those you point out, however (Mooky Murder Boy) does NOT get a free ride (from me) because of the problems with others.They were not the subject of my post.

 

You say;

 

Alsader party might be responsible for all those allegations, though I doubt it, but that doesn't answer my core question.. Alsadrees are n't different than any other radical political group that are participating in the current political process such as the Islam Iraqi party of vice president Alhashimee. Both have almost same radical attitude , both got militias that were accused of factionist killings. But why are all doors, including Bush's, open to the Muslim Brotherhood party with teachings that are considered as the nurturing theology to Neo Salphists of Qaeda.

Salim,

al-Sadr doesn't participate in your Government.... he obstructs it given any opportunity to disrupt it when he is safe enough to do so. The ministries he controled were A TOTAL JOKE until Malaki finally fired them. He has killed hundreds if not thousands of Non al-qaeda sunni's and MNF whose only sin was to be Sunni living in mixed neighborhoods mostly near his or in his opposition to the "occupiers". That has been proven time and time again.

 

Again for the record, I DID NOT previously defend any radical (extremist / terrorist) or other groups in Iraq with my criticism of Mooky Boy. And personally to me, it seems ALL the political party's in Iraq are somewhat radical. However they DO NOT ALL commit or support the extremist terrorism by aiding or assisting al-Qaeda style terror against other ethnic, religious, sectarian, Iraqis or political Party's and the MNF. I did and I do point out that it is Mooky's murder goon's causing havoc on MNF down BASRA way TODAY, all of which is damn near 100% Shia. (it also infects Karbala, Najif and OTHER predominately Shia areas.) You may not believe it's Mooky's murder goons as I do , but one thing is clear, it IS NOT Sunni murder goons or al-Qaeda..... that leaves:

  • 1. Mooky's "resistance" "insurgency" murderer goons (where the evidence leads) or
  • 2. the SCRI militias or
  • 3. the Locals.

     

    I don't believe it is 2. or 3. ...do you ?

you say: One might think the Sunni party itself tried to reach the Americans while the Alsadrees are not easy to go that way. The reply is why this is the case . Any how there is a question that need to be answered first.

Why it is important to win the hearts of Sadrees , or at least their minds. Salim, As long as you have mooky stirring up the Sadrees it is IMPOSSIBLE to win their hearts and minds.

Simply because it is the strongest single party and the Americans have no more appetite to scarify more personals and money fighting much worse war that the last four years one.

Salim,

 

You are certainly correct here and this has MUCH to do with why it does, concerning Hashimi and the Iraqi Islamic Party who NOW see the future they prefer:

 

In December 2006, the Iraq Study Group Report described him in this way:

 

 

 

"Hashimi is one of two vice presidents of Iraq and the head of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni Muslim bloc in parliament. Hashimi opposes the formation of autonomous regions and has advocated the distribution of oil revenues based on population, a reversal of de-:Baathification, and the removal of Shiite militia fighters from the Iraqi security forces. Shiite death squads had recently killed three of his siblings." (was that SCRI? was it MOOKY? or was it al Qaeda?)

 

If the Iraqi Islamic Party has a militia still, it should be disbanded and militia members allowed to join a Iraq Government sponsored security service (Army or Police) if qualified, vetted and determined NOT to be stone cold murderers, ALL political party militias MUST be disbanded with the same opportunity to join the Government Security forces. I recall nothing of this particular one having death squads and am NOT SURE about any known ties to AQI.

 

You say: There are two groups who are working on making such war possibility, first the Iranian and second the Sadamists and their Qaeda affiliates. Each one for a different reason though.

 

The Iranians, knowing the real balance of power in current Iraq, would gain a lot with any conflict between the Americans on Alsadrees that force the later to lean more toward the Iranians asking for help. The Iranians already lost their strong ties with SRCI. Today's announcement by Alkhakim's group of changing their name removing the "revolution" reference and by declaring Alsystani as their spiritual religious authority.. An announcement that might be received within the Iranian religious authorities circles as very alarming. This is just like some old Russian's allies declare Trotsky rather than Stalin as their Communist teacher..

Salim,

 

From an earlier post you say don't blame Iraq for the ongoing US problems with Iran, "Don't punish Iraq and Iraqis because of Iran conflict issues." and "Any one who is primitive in Iraqi dynamics would know that Iranian regime can't go a long with Alsadrees." yet the C-4 plastic explosives used to make lethal bombs that the military calls explosively formed projectiles are Identified to have come ONLY from IRAN manufactured there as late as 2006. You can see a video of the weapons cache here with the descriptions and Iranian Manufacturing markings. I think the old Arabic saying "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" when it comes to IRAN'S support of ANYONE against the MNF. I appreciate that SRCI is now choosing to stand up to Iran by backing Sistani. You say; The Sadamists and Qaeda are also looking for Alsadree's conflict with Americans to go more violent. They know that the current balance of power doesn't allow them to retune to power after the expected American withdraw. They want the Americans do the dirty job that they are no longer able to do. Also they are looking for opening another front so as to break the current ring that the Government and Iraqi people are applying on them by mixing papers.

 

The successes of making the two Sunni and Shia groups of islamic party and SRCI were not possible without the deep understanding by the American administration to the micro dynamics of Iraqi affairs and the great all sacrifieces.

 

Unfortunately I don't see same level of efforts toward Sadrees.

Salim,

 

When mooky's gang of murderers decide to talk to the MFN and co-operate instead of trying to kill them it might become worthwhile for his mislead followers.

 

you say:

I completely not in agreement with blaming Alsadrees for the current violence . They are playing a critical rule in security applying plans, their presence in many regions of Baghdad had reflected a good level of stability and evaporation of Qaeda and Sadamists terrorists. In Albayaa discrete of west Baghdad, the Kurds Beshmerka were ruling the discrete . Sadrees withdrew their presence. Couple of days ago, the Kurds went back to Suliamania before other trrops get in, leaving the mixed residential region un protected . Immediately terrorist stroke slaughtering Shia residents in public in what many resident claimed as orchetrated scenario.The Sadrees were obliged to protect themselves and reappear to clean out the discrete before the American and Government forces appeared back.

Salim.

 

Mooky the murderer cant have it both ways "kill the MNF kafirs" predominately now down south Basra way. If he wants legitimacy his gang members who are NOT murderers can join the Iraqi Government Security Forces if the can pass the murderer smell test.

 

You say;

Making the Sadrees in one category as the terrorist is all what the Iranians and Qaeda dream of, that what all brave Iraqi politicians working not to have happen.

 

We need to remember that four years ago, the SRCI was part of Iranian circle of power. The Sadrees , being their rivals, were considered as defected group with their rejection to considering Khamenie as their religous authority. Today, there are a lot of calls by Americans to make this happening .. Is n't that ironic?

Salim,

 

IT IS Ironic that one SRCI can change and mooky remains loyal to IRAN because of THEIR IRANIAN SUPPORT to kill MNF "occupiers" vs. what is in the best for a free IRAQ. I DO appreciate your insight and the contribution of your views on Iraq's political party's and their support/non support of the "insurgency" "resistance" or other TERRORIST ACTS against humanity (mostly Iraqi's) and the MNF. The party militias feed gas to the fires of badWord !! I agree that we disagree on mooky's value as a human being ! May god burn his soul. He certainly DOES NOT deserve this praise you give him:

 

You said in earlier post:

"After all , we need to admit that if there is a reason that makes any one believes that Qeada and it's affiliates had failed in Iraq, then it is Alsader and his Alsadree poor people."

If that is true, then the Democrats here might be right, my country has wasted over 3,000 of our most treasured men and women, four years and several billions $.

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Tex,

Thanks for the detailed reply.. I will post my concerns later.. For now have great times with Iraqi great politician Barham Salih ,the Deputy PM talking about those dynamics that might be missed by many when looking to the Iraqi complex setup of today..

 

 

rtsp://video.c-span.org/project/iraq/iraq051407_salih.rm

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Tex,

I am fully aware of those allegations and questions. Let me tell you my understanding , at least that what this open forum is for.. Cross boundaries interaction.

 

Alsader can't get a long with the Iranians. He might find them possible allies , specially when he find him self being cornered, but theologically and socially speaking, he can't go futher.

 

Alsader movement was stem from his father's marjia with main slogan, that brought his followers ,being the call for breaking the non-arab siege of the Marjia. His call got a lot of support among the poor peasants of Arab Shia with strong Arab national feelings. The historical Arab/Persian nationalism conflict is one of their backgrounds. That is why within Najaf, Alsader marjie is called the Arab one.. You don't find any one who is non Arab.

 

You are free to assist his rule , but I don't think Iraqis , other than Sadamists and some short sight factionist politicians , would go along with it. You might put Alsadrees rule in defending their communities against the ruthless Sadamist/Qaeda attacks as criminal acts , but many in Iraq would think of it in no difference to what great Sunni Shiekhs of Alnabar up rise following up the criminals and in defending their communities.Having in mind the big fail by the coalition forces to stand up to their mission and duty to protect the occupied communities as per UN terms of Coalition presence in Iraq, a fail that many in Iraq start to think to be part of a big plan to make Iraq a killing zone of Qeada operatives. Alsadrees don't believe this war to be in liberating them, but rather to make Iraqis a protection shield to other parts of CIVILIZED world including the Suadi Aramco oil fields through draging those Suadi/Qaeda monsters away from their defualt targets after their defeat in Afghanistan. So Alsadrees think that it is their duty to at least protect their families. When the government, that they trust more than Americans and Brits, proposed the Baghdad security plan, they step down leaving Iraqi forces do their job so smoothly. That is why east Baghad today is almost secure now , excluding some incidents of car explosions..

 

There are for sure criminals joining any popular movement, but this should not be mixed up. The young Alsader was lacking experience , but he is catching up. He went so shrewd by withdrawing his six ministers from the government on condition of Maliki appointing non partism technocrats. When Maliki proposed some names last week that are considered close to the shia parties, Alsadrees legislatures refused and PM Maliki had to re appoint others with non political or sectarian history.. This by itself was setting a great lesson to those kurds and Arab experienced parties who are participating in the government for nothing but to use it as a tool to enforce their power while the nation is paying so much high price.

 

I am here not to defend Alsadrees ,simply because I am in complete disagreement with their radical attitude. However, i strongly believe that politics is the art of exploring common goals with your opponents , at least to isolate them from your enemies. Not mentioning the fact of making your position stronger.

Iraqis paid a very high price by the wrong pushing of Bathists into the Qaeda/Sadamist trap, we need to be very careful not to repeat same story with Alsadrees. I don't see any interest by Iraqis to make Alsadrees as enemy.

 

In doing so, we need to make two steps closer with each step by Alsadrees. Americans are occupying their country, it is so much good that such extreemly nationlistic radicles still giving the political opposition a chance..Alsystani and Chalbi might get a lot of credits for that hard job though

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Salim,

 

 

Thanks for the CSPAN link for Iraqi Deputy P.M. Barham Salih and your follow-up comments next.

 

 

I am listening to D.P.M. Salih again now and he seems pretty impressive. I agree with most I've heard from him but I was distracted during most of it and inattentive listening to him this first time. It Is Long, but important what he says, so I will listen more carefully in a quiter time. Your follow-up comments are hard to respond to after having read them a couple times now, I am not sure if I understand all you mean there. I will try coming to grips with what I think you meant before responding completely here. But, for now my first response is that Mooky first got his "bones" "bonafieds" credentials for MURDERERING his religious opponents didn't he? I appreciate your optimism that MAYBE al sadist can be turned into a learned politician to Iraq and Alsadrees benefit through diplomacy, but I don't think he is ANYTHING more than an uneducated murdering thug whose visions of his own grandeur will eventually send him to hellsfire. The sooner the better for Iraq and everyone.

 

 

I was reading this earlier, ( it is not complementary to mooky's goon squads) even coming from an uber-liberal publication;

 

 

City of vengeance[/size]

 

 

A Mahdi Army official admits his group runs secret courts and executes prisoners

 

 

An Iraqi policeman says the police are powerless to stop Sadr's death squads

 

 

 

Tex,

I am fully aware of those allegations and questions. Let me tell you my understanding , at least that what this open forum is for.. Cross boundaries interaction.

 

Alsader can't get a long with the Iranians. He might find them possible allies , specially when he find him self being cornered, but theologically and socially speaking, he can't go futher.

 

Alsader movement was stem from his father's marjia with main slogan, that brought his followers ,being the call for breaking the non-arab siege of the Marjia. His call got a lot of support among the poor peasants of Arab Shia with strong Arab national feelings. The historical Arab/Persian nationalism conflict is one of their backgrounds. That is why within Najaf, Alsader marjie is called the Arab one.. You don't find any one who is non Arab.

 

You are free to assist his rule , but I don't think Iraqis , other than Sadamists and some short sight factionist politicians , would go along with it. You might put Alsadrees rule in defending their communities against the ruthless Sadamist/Qaeda attacks as criminal acts , but many in Iraq would think of it in no difference to what great Sunni Shiekhs of Alnabar up rise following up the criminals and in defending their communities.Having in mind the big fail by the coalition forces to stand up to their mission and duty to protect the occupied communities as per UN terms of Coalition presence in Iraq, a fail that many in Iraq start to think to be part of a big plan to make Iraq a killing zone of Qeada operatives. Alsadrees don't believe this war to be in liberating them, but rather to make Iraqis a protection shield to other parts of CIVILIZED world including the Suadi Aramco oil fields through draging those Suadi/Qaeda monsters away from their defualt targets after their defeat in Afghanistan. So Alsadrees think that it is their duty to at least protect their families. When the government, that they trust more than Americans and Brits, proposed the Baghdad security plan, they step down leaving Iraqi forces do their job so smoothly. That is why east Baghad today is almost secure now , excluding some incidents of car explosions..

 

There are for sure criminals joining any popular movement, but this should not be mixed up. The young Alsader was lacking experience , but he is catching up. He went so shrewd by withdrawing his six ministers from the government on condition of Maliki appointing non partism technocrats. When Maliki proposed some names last week that are considered close to the shia parties, Alsadrees legislatures refused and PM Maliki had to re appoint others with non political or sectarian history.. This by itself was setting a great lesson to those kurds and Arab experienced parties who are participating in the government for nothing but to use it as a tool to enforce their power while the nation is paying so much high price.

 

I am here not to defend Alsadrees ,simply because I am in complete disagreement with their radical attitude. However, i strongly believe that politics is the art of exploring common goals with your opponents , at least to isolate them from your enemies. Not mentioning the fact of making your position stronger.

Iraqis paid a very high price by the wrong pushing of Bathists into the Qaeda/Sadamist trap, we need to be very careful not to repeat same story with Alsadrees. I don't see any interest by Iraqis to make Alsadrees as enemy.

 

In doing so, we need to make two steps closer with each step by Alsadrees. Americans are occupying their country, it is so much good that such extreemly nationlistic radicles still giving the political opposition a chance..Alsystani and Chalbi might get a lot of credits for that hard job though

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Whatever happened to Ahmed Chalabi? (the man whose lies about WMDs took us to war)

He is the great survivor of Iraqi politics, still flexing his muscles in the wreckage of Baghdad despite the infamous part he played in the ill-fated US invasion. Patrick Cockburn caught up with him

Published: 16 May 2007

Ahmed Chalabi stands on the bank of the Tigris river within easy sniper range of the opposite side and surveys the twisted steel girders of the al-Sarafiyah bridge in Baghdad, its central spans torn apart by a massive truck bomb last month. The force of the blast impresses him. "I am surprised that the explosion managed to bring down three spans," he says as he looks at the wreckage.

 

It is a placid enough scene but nothing in Baghdad is truly safe. I supposed that Mr Chalabi's numerous and heavily armed police and army guards knew their business but I was hoping that we would not dawdle too long. The al-Sarafiyah bridge, once one of the sights of Baghdad, connected the Shia district where we were standing with Wazzariyah, where there had been clashes with Sunni insurgents. I selected a reassuringly vast concrete plinth of the bridge to dodge behind if there was any shooting.

 

Conspicuous in a dark business suit, Mr Chalabi seemed uncaring about our possible vulnerability to hostile fire and was talking with some of the men in charge of rebuilding the bridge. There were no signs of reconstruction. He stepped into a small, dark, river police patrol boat which circled below the bridge for a few moments. Returning to the bank he remarked that one of the policemen on the boat had told him that "five out of 16 river policemen in his unit had been killed". "Snipers at Taji," one of his aides commented. As for the bridge, Mr Chalabi said reconstruction was "very slow - they should be working now".

 

......

 

His judgement is different from that of many Iraqi and American officials in the Green Zone. He does not think that the Sadrists, the movement of Muqtada al-Sadr, is disintegrating: "A lot of it is wishful thinking. Their local leaders will all comply with what Muqtada al-Sadr says." A key element in ending the war is bringing in the Iranians: "An understanding through the Iraqi government between the US and Iran."

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte...7051901307.html

 

 

Iraq's Sadr Overhauls His Tactics

Shiite Woos Sunnis, Purges Extremists

 

By Sudarsan Raghavan

Washington Post Foreign Service

Sunday, May 20, 2007; Page A01

 

 

 

NAJAF, Iraq -- The movement of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has embarked on one of its most dramatic tactical shifts since the beginning of the war.

 

The 33-year-old populist is reaching out to a broad array of Sunni leaders, from politicians to insurgents, and purging extremist members of his Mahdi Army militia who target Sunnis. Sadr's political followers are distancing themselves from the fragile Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which is widely criticized as corrupt, inefficient and biased in favor of Iraq's majority Shiites. And moderates are taking up key roles in Sadr's movement, professing to be less anti-American and more nationalist as they seek to improve Sadr's image and position him in the middle of Iraq's ideological spectrum.

 

 

"We want to aim the guns against the occupation and al-Qaeda, not between Iraqis," Ahmed Shaibani, 37, a cleric who leads Sadr's newly formed reconciliation committee, said as he sat inside Sadr's heavily guarded compound here.

 

Sadr controls the second-biggest armed force in Iraq, after the U.S. military, and 30 parliamentary seats -- enough power to influence political decision-making and dash U.S. hopes for stability. The cleric withdrew his six ministers from Iraq's cabinet last month, leaving the movement more free to challenge the government.

 

"Our retreating from the government is one way to show we are trying to work for the welfare of Iraq and not only for the welfare of Shiites," said Salah al-Obaidi, a senior aide to Sadr. He said the time was "not mature yet" to form a bloc that could challenge Maliki, who came to power largely because of Sadr's support.

 

In recasting himself, the cleric is responding to popular frustration, a widening Sunni-Shiite rift and political inertia, conditions he helped create. The shift is as much a reaction to U.S. efforts to rein him in as it is an admission of unfulfilled visions. His strategy exposes the strengths and weaknesses of his movement as it pushes for U.S. troops to leave and competes with its Shiite rivals in the contest to shape a new Iraq.

 

Since Sadr emerged with force after the U.S.-led invasion, he has sought to create a Shiite-led state guided by Islamic law with a strong central government. In 2004, his militia battled U.S. forces in Najaf, bolstering his authority and appeal across sects. But his credibility as a would-be unifier of Iraq suffered after his militiamen engaged in widespread revenge killings of Sunnis following the February 2006 bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra. His movement remains in flux, at times in turmoil, over the approach toward Sunnis, the proper timing of a U.S. withdrawal and Sadr's political involvement.

 

"The Sadrists believe they have political problems, and they are trying new tactics to serve their own interests," said Mithal al-Alusi, an independent Sunni legislator. "But anyway, we welcome any political group who wants to talk instead of kill."

Sadr has vanished from sight in recent months, raising concerns about his leadership, although his close aides insist he's in hiding for security and strategic reasons.

 

Sunnis continue to accuse the Mahdi Army of committing atrocities, and fissures are growing in the loosely knit militia as fighters break off on their own. A three-month-old U.S. and Iraqi security offensive in Baghdad, which Sadr has tacitly backed, has not reduced attacks on Shiites, prompting fears that his militiamen may again spark cycles of reprisal killings. And while Sadr has ordered his fighters to lie low, U.S. arrests of militiamen are mounting, creating discontent.

 

"The main questions are: How seriously can we take these new tactics? And do they have real control over the Jaish al-Mahdi?" Alusi said, using the Arabic term for the militia.

 

'We Are Not Anti-American'

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

As black-clad militiamen stood guard, Obaidi, his white turban glinting in the buttery sunlight, walked into the gold-domed mosque of Kufa. The senior aide to Sadr, tall and gaunt with a black beard, stepped up to a wooden lectern and stared out at the courtyard where the faithful waited. Hundreds of men, young and old, had come to hear Sadr, whom they had not seen in months. This was his mosque. Obaidi, on this day, was his voice.

 

He read aloud Sadr's two-page sermon, which condemned U.S. military forces building a wall in Baghdad's mostly Sunni Adhamiyah neighborhood; residents complained the wall would divide Sunnis and Shiites.

 

"Didn't we see and hear of our beloveds in Adhamiyah while they were chanting, 'No, no, to sectarianism'?" Obaidi thundered at the crowd. "We will stand, as one hand, to demonstrate with them and defend our sacred lands everywhere."

 

The day after the sermon, Obaidi sat inside Sadr's compound in Najaf, where a green Islamic flag fluttered between two Iraqi national flags.

 

Three months ago, Obaidi was released from Camp Cropper, a U.S. military detention center, where he had been held for five months. In near-perfect English, he said the American military officers set him free because they view him as a moderate who could help neutralize the radicals in Sadr's fold.

 

"I can give him good advice," Obaidi added with a smile.

 

Shaibani, the cleric, was released in March after U.S. military officials determined that he "could play a potentially important role in helping to moderate extremism and foster reconciliation in Iraq," the military said in a statement at the time.

 

U.S. generals are now differentiating between "irreconcilable" rogue members of the Mahdi Army and "reconcilable" ones they can engage.

 

Still, U.S. policy toward Sadr often appears contradictory. American soldiers are more cautious in conducting raids, understanding the movement's social dimensions and popular roots. U.S. military leaders no longer cite Shiite militias as the biggest threat to Iraq's stability, emphasizing the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq instead.

 

At the same time, the military is attempting to contain Sadr. U.S. military leaders say they are preparing to increase the number of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers patrolling the streets of Sadr City, the cleric's stronghold in Baghdad.

 

"Sadr clearly has some influence," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands U.S. forces south of Baghdad and in southern Iraq. "But it's simplistic to say this guy is in charge of all Jaish al-Mahdi, that when he says, 'Go left,' they all go left. We're not seeing that."

 

But Sadr's aides say the fact that the Mahdi Army has not risen up yet is proof that the cleric is in control.

 

U.S. officials have publicly claimed the cleric is in Iran, which undermines Sadr's homegrown credentials and his hopes to woo Sunnis, who are wary of Iran's growing influence. The officials have also alleged that groups in Iran are training and funneling weapons to Shiite militants

 

Iraq's Sadr Overhauls His Tactics

"The Americans are trying to picture the Mahdi Army as being a tool of Iran," said Karim Abu Ali, a Sadr spokesman in Baghdad. "It is baseless."

 

Altering such perceptions was part of Sadr's reason for cooperating with the current Baghdad security plan, Obaidi said. Violence now is largely being perpetrated by Sunni insurgents deploying car bombs and suicide attacks.

 

 

"We have been accused that we're not cooperating to bring security," Obaidi said. "Now, we've shown that we are not the source of the problems."

 

Sadr's cooperation with the plan, his aides said, is based partly on political battles over Iraq policy in Washington -- a sign, he believes, that the occupation is in its final stages. His aides say he is open to meeting U.S. politicians who are not part of the Bush administration, particularly those calling for a U.S. withdrawal.

 

"We are not anti-American. We think the Americans have an important role in rebuilding Iraq, but as companies, not as an army," Obaidi said. "We can open a new channel with the Democrats, even some of the Republicans."

 

Vow to Weaken Al-Qaeda

 

 

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Shaibani, Sadr's spokesman in Najaf during the confrontation with U.S. troops in 2004, spent more than two years inside U.S. detention centers. Sidelined from an increasingly sectarian war, he befriended Sunni insurgents instead of killing them, earning a credibility few in Sadr's movement can claim today.

 

Sadr is now dispatching Shaibani to speak with Sunni religious leaders in Syria, Egypt and across the Persian Gulf to seek their help in approaching Sunnis inside Iraq.

 

Sadr senses an opportunity in recent moves by Sunni insurgent groups to break away from militants influenced by al-Qaeda, and in the threats by the largest Sunni political bloc to leave the government, which opens the possibility for a new cross-sectarian political alliance, his aides said.

 

If the sectarian war can be stopped, if the Mahdi Army and Sunni insurgent groups can join hands and break al-Qaeda in Iraq, there will be less reason for U.S. forces to stay, said Shaibani, wearing a black dishdasha, a traditional loose-fitting tunic, and clutching a Nokia cellphone during an interview in late April. "The American argument is we can't have a timetable because of al-Qaeda," he said. "So we're going to weaken al-Qaeda for you."

 

Sadr's political followers have had informal talks with Sunni politicians and insurgent groups in the past month. "We think there is some possibility to have a closer relationship," said Hussein al-Falluji, a legislator in the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni political bloc.

 

Abu Aja Naemi, a commander in the 1920 Revolution Brigades, said Sadr's representatives have had informal discussions with his group.

 

The Sadrists, like most Sunnis, are against the idea of creating autonomous regions. They share concerns over the fate of the contested oil-rich city of Kirkuk, division of oil revenue and the need for Iraq's constitution to be amended.

 

 

Their differences, though, are numerous. Some Sunnis fear that a premature U.S. withdrawal could endanger their community. Sunnis and Sadrists disagree over allowing thousands of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to return to government jobs.

 

"If national reconciliation is at the expense of the return of the assassin Baathists, then we will reject such reconciliation," said Falah Hassan Shanshal, a Sadr legislator and chairman of the parliament's de-Baathification committee.

Sadr's Shiite rivals inside Maliki's coalition say it is unlikely the Sadrists will unite with the Sunnis. "Now, it is very difficult," said Ridha Jawad Taqi, a senior legislator with the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq, the party formerly known as SCIRI and the largest within Maliki's ruling coalition. "Between them, there's a gap made of blood. After Samarra, there is no possibility for reconciliation."

 

Sunnis Distrustful

 

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

This month, Mahdi Army militiamen in the Hurriyah area of Baghdad chased several Sunni families from their homes. Sadr, who wants to protect his militia's image as a guardian of Shiites, acted swiftly.

 

A committee based in Najaf created to deal with rogue elements dismissed 30 militiamen in the area, said Haider Salaam, a senior Mahdi Army commander in Hurriyah.

 

Across Baghdad, at least 600 fighters have been forced out of the militia over the past three months, Sadr officials said. Their misdeeds included murder and using Sadr's name to gain undue influence.

 

In the Kadhimiyah neighborhood, militiamen who engaged in a firefight with U.S. forces near a mosque were also dismissed.

 

"Yes, this was self-defense, but they exceeded the orders of the commander," Salaam said. "Any breach of the security operations will be blamed on the Mahdi Army."

 

But it is hard to get rid of the militiamen. "Some of those who are dismissed still go around and say they are members of Mahdi Army," said Abu Ali, the Sadr spokesman.

 

"We sent people to talk to them, to inform them of Moqtada Sadr's instructions and abide by them, but they refused," Salaam said. "We now consider them a splinter group. They don't belong in the Mahdi Army."

 

A few days later, the fighters attacked the Sadr office in Hurriyah with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, killing two bystanders, including a child.

 

Even as Sadr struggles to reform his militia, mistrust runs deep on the streets. Khulood Habib, 45, a Sunni seamstress and mother of four, lives in Baghdad's Risala neighborhood, where tensions are growing after recent bomb attacks on Shiite areas. In the last week of April, gunmen kidnapped two Sunni men near Habib's apartment. The next day, their bodies were found mutilated and tortured -- a signature practice of Shiite militias.

 

Two days later, Habib received an envelope containing a bullet and a letter signed by the Mahdi Army that ordered her to leave within 24 hours. The next afternoon, gunmen began to drive out the Sunnis in her building. Soon, they were in front of her apartment.

 

"They broke the door down. It fell on my little boy's leg and broke it," Habib recalled, round-faced with light brown hair peeking from underneath her black head scarf. "He was screaming. I was screaming."

 

Cursing Sunnis as apostates, the men ordered the family to leave the neighborhood. Within an hour, they fled to the home of Habib's parents in the Adil neighborhood. Today, she's too afraid to return.

 

"Moqtada is saying something, but on the ground they are doing something else," Habib said, tossing a glance at Ibrahim, 6, his left leg in a cast. Sadr's call to reconcile with Sunnis is "all nonsense," she continued. "They want to know who the Sunnis are, so they can start butchering people at their own pace."

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