Sunday, February 25, 2007

Al-Sadr Withdraws Support of Baghdad Security Crackdown

RADICAL Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr withdrew his support for a security crackdown in Baghdad today, hours after a female suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives killed 40 in a student college.

The move by Sadr, an anti-American cleric, is a blow for Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who yesterday expressed optimism about the US-backed offensive. Until now, Sadr has supported the plan, seen as a last ditch attempt to halt all-out civil war in Iraq. He said it would not work because US forces were involved.

"There is no benefit in this security plan because it is controlled by the occupiers," said an aide to Sadr, reading a statement from the cleric in front of thousands of chanting supporters in the firebrand's stronghold of Sadr City.

Thousands of chanting Al Sadr supporters listen to a statement telling them not to co-operate with the US. This news can not be spun as anything other than a serious setback. Al-Sadr is allegedly safely (for the time being) tucked away in Iran until we start bombing there.

With the Sadr loyalists, a key component of Maliki's power base out of the picture, Al-Maliki just got weaker. President Talabani has had a medical crisis this week-end that forced him to seek treatment in Jordan. Maliki also fired one of the key Sunni members in the government days after Ahmed Abdul-Ghafour al-Samaraie asked for an inquiry into allegations by a 20 year old Sunni woman that she was raped by three members of a patrol of Shia Iraqi National Police. No explanation was given for his termination. A female suicide bomber also killed 40 people at the Baghdad Economy and Administration College.

Is this really the time for Dick Cheney to set his beady eyes over maps of Iran? Obviously not. The short term successes, if that, of the surge in Baghdad look to be heading south quickly. It's time to get out, yesterday.