I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The "surge" and Sadr

"If there's more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody will do it that way."
~Murphy's Law

Yesterday Cernig reported that the Kuwaiti News Agency said that Iraqi and US forces had attacked Sadr's office. This report has not been confirmed but today we have this.
Joint force weighs move on 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.
Breaking something that's not broken?
U.S. and Iraqi military commanders setting out the next steps of the Baghdad security plan are concerned about stirring up a hornet's nest in a neighborhood of more than 2 million Shiites.

They worry that by moving too aggressively they could sabotage one of the few success stories in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The teeming streets of Sadr City are thriving while the rest of the violence-racked capital wilts. The district pulses with commerce and youth, even as huge stretches of Baghdad fade into ghost towns.

Sadr City may shelter troublemakers, but they're lying low for the most part now. Moreover, Sadr's deputies have endorsed the security crackdown.

Even amid the bloodshed across Baghdad, customers fill Sadr City's shops. Workers repair its streets and sewage lines. Children play soccer on its dusty fields and walk to school along newly prettified squares, verdant emblems of progress in a quarter long one of Iraq's most deprived.

"Sadr City has always been safe, with the exception of the suicide and roadside bomb attacks," said Talib Saad, a barber along the district's main thoroughfare.
Now Sadr's people were convinced, at least in part, by the al Malaki government to go underground during the surge and let the US forces help the largely Shiite Iraq military eliminate the Sunnis. So what will happen if they march into Sadr city? The original authors of the "surge policy" thought that including Sadr city would be a bad idea.
Any new move into Sadr City remains controversial among military experts. Army Gen. Jack Keane, a former vice chief of staff, and military analyst Frederick Kagan, who were among the most influential advocates of the current Bush administration plan to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq by 21,500, have warned that a push into Sadr City would unnecessarily unite the country's now-splintered Shiite leadership.

"Attempting to clear Sadr City would almost certainly force the [Al Mahdi militia] into [a direct] confrontation with American troops," they wrote in a January report for the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank.

"It would also do enormous damage to [Maliki's] political base and would probably lead to the collapse of the Iraqi government."
But apparently Kagan has had a change of heart and now supports such a move. Juan Cole says this is not encouraging.
He says he over-estimated the Mahdi Army and under-estimated Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki earlier. Kagan doesn't have the slightest idea what he is talking about when it comes to Iraq, and he is advising Bush what to do, who knows even less. Sadr City is quiet because the Mahdi Army made a policy decision to cooperate with the security plan, and al-Maliki is in on this deal. The Mahdi Army is 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.
Since the foundation of the Bush administration's Iraq policy seems to be Murphy's Law we can expect it to go badly.

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