Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Have U.S. & Iraqi Troops Begun Taking Out Al-Sadr's Militia?

The Strategy Page (which blogger Dean Barnett deems to be "reliable") reports the following:

December 30, 2006: Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging . . .

December 28, 2006: Without much fanfare, much less a press release, the government and Coalition troops have gone to war with Moqtada al Sadrs Mahhi Army militia. Leaders are being arrested or killed. The raids are being carried out with overwhelming speed and force, so that pro-Sadr gunmen have little chance to put up effective resistance . . .

Some American commanders are urging that several additional brigades of U.S. combat troops be brought in for a few months, to back the Iraqi security forces, as the Shia militias are taken down. The most dangerous part of this plan is now, with the well armed and motivated militias still intact. But once the organizations are broken, and arms, records and leaders seized, the problem will be largely a police, not military one.
I don't know what to make of this story, partly because the Strategy Page offers a total of zero links to support it.

If the story is not true then it doesn't matter.

If the story is true, then it matters a great deal.

The de-fanging of al-Sadr is, at this point in Iraq's history, the most important step in attaining any lasting, genuine peace or stability for the new government.

Sadr's Shi'ites represent the best-armed and largest destablizing presence in the current unrest. They also represent some of the more prominant links to Iran's meddling.

With the Shi'ite independent power significantly diminished I would like to think that Sunni insurgents would be encouraged to lay down their arms for two good reasons: 1. They would no longer have to defend themselves or retaliate against the Shi'ite provacateurs, and; 2. They would have hard evidence that the national government is both even-handed in dealing with Shi'ites and Sunnis alike and would feel more inclined than in the past to trust the government with providing the Sunni's with some measure of security.

Since the recent attempt to form a Kurd/Sunni/moderate Shia coalition to counter the current government headed by the Shi'ites and Maliki was nixed by al-Sittani (because he did not want to divide the Shi'ites against one another) I cannot imagine that this assault on al-Sadr's militia could be taking place without Sistani's blessing or clearly-stated neutrality on the matter.

This, too, would show the possibility of rapid change in the current crisis from bad to better (instead of the recent trend from bad to worse).

As always, I am an optimist in this new development. But I will hold off on any genuine enthusiasm until I read some indepemdent confirmation of this still-unprovinanced report.