Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Sadr City
So far, the U.S. military has focused on Sunni insurgents. Moqtada al Sadr, likely taking his cue from al Maliki, has been laying low while the American's do the Shiites dirty work in the civil war. But now the U.S. is apparently thinking about moving into Sadr City:
BAGHDAD — U.S. and Iraqi forces have moved aggressively in the last week to combat Sunni Arab insurgents in neighborhoods across the capital and to establish a stronger presence in religiously mixed districts long plagued by sectarian violence.

But as the new security crackdown enters a second week, they face their most sensitive challenge: whether, when and how to move into the Shiite-dominated slum of Sadr City, stronghold of the Al Mahdi militia.

Political pressure has mounted to crack down on the Baghdad neighborhood that harbors the militia loyal to radical anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr. Sunni Arabs, who make up the backbone of the insurgency, have long accused Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Maliki of allowing Sadr City to remain a haven for the militia to keep the support of Sadr's followers.
Since the announced crackdown in Baghdad, Sadr City has been relatively quiet. The strategy of playing nice while the American's fight their war for them has been working well for the Shiites. But the strategy is playing out exactly the way the Sunni's predicted and they are really putting the heat on the U.S. to be even-handed.

A serious move against any Shiite Mahdi militia areas will likely result in massive urban fighting and perhaps a collapse of the Iraq government. Not enforcing the law evenhandedly delegtimizes the Iraq government and the escalation in Baghdad. Juan Cole notes:
The Mahdi Army (sic) are the street gangs of the Sadr Movement, to which millions of Iraqis have given their allegiance. You can't uproot a social movement with a few patrols and firefights. Sadrism will be there long after the US is forced to withdraw from Iraq.
So will Sunnism. So will SCIRI.

Like everything Iraq, there are no "wins" available.