Alex's Outlook

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

High noon in Iraq 


Moqtada al-Sadr had been a thorn in Paul Bremer's side for months. I think that, with a remarkably secularized Iraqi constitution complete, al-Sadr recognized that his days as a key player in Iraqi politics were numbered, and I think that he was bent on civil war since then. Considering his very likely link to the assassination of Abdel-Majid al-Khoei, the leading moderate Shiite cleric, several months ago (the Coalition Provisional Authority even put out an arrest warrant for him), it is inexplicable that the CPA has not detained him. Al-Sadr is also backed by Iranian hardliners, making the CPA's dereliction of duty even more outrageous. Al-Sadr was obviously a danger. Why was he not dealt with beforehand? Paul Bremer's caution was simply stupid. There's no other word for it.

While Bremer sat on his hands, al-Sadr started a civil war, with the hope of delaying or defeating the constitution two months before its scheduled June referendum. His "Mahdi Army" has taken over Najaf, and the Shiite suburbs of Baghdad are ablaze as well. Nobody should mistake his plundering militia for a real army, and now that they have come out into the open it should be easy for American forces to decimate them.

The Shiites are divided between the young radical, al-Sadr, and disparate moderates, including Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Al-Sistani swung behind the Coalition months ago, and has called on al-Sadr to stop the violence. Some Shiite cities (e.g. Basra) appear to be heeding him.

This is the Shiite radicals' last stand, and it must be completely destroyed. Al-Sadr needs to be killed or publicly humiliated, along with the Shiite government officials who joined the revolt. Once the leadership of the rebellion is gone, moderate Shiites will have less reason to fear cooperation with the CPA, as well as a strong disincentive to "not cooperate" (a la al-Sadr) in the future.

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