Monday, March 27, 2006

Jack Kelly at "Irish Pennants" says:

This is my take on yesterday's gunfight in Iraq in the first of my columns for the week:

A shoot out Sunday in Baghdad indicates U.S. authorities now consider Shia militias a greater danger than al Qaida....

A spokesman for the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of Shia religious parties who hold a plurality of seats in the Iraqi parliament, denounced what he called the "cold-blooded" killing of "unarmed" people. Jawad al Maliki demanded that control over all security matters be restored to the Iraqi government.

Mr. Maliki's demand may have been prompted as much by a raid by U.S. troops Sunday on an Interior Ministry building where 17 Sudanese were being held. Ten Interior Ministry troops were detained briefly.

The raids occurred a day after U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad urged the Iraqi government to crack down on militias. The Mahdi army, which is financed by Iran, is thought to be responsible for most of the revenge killings of Sunnis in the wake of the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra in February.

The news media reported accurately that the gun fight at the mosque was the worst clash with Sadr's militia in months, but didn't put it into context. It was nothing like August of 2004, when U.S. troops killed more than 2,000 members of the Mahdi army in battles in Baghdad and Najaf.

If the Shia militias have become the number one security problem in Iraq, it is less because the threat they pose has grown than because that posed by Sunni "insurgents" has receded.

If Sunday's moves marked a concerted campaign against radical militias, "this indicates the U.S. and Iraqi army are calculating there is enough space to open a second front," said military blogger Bill Roggio.


The Iraqi officials who criticized Sunday's raids are allies of al Jaafari. The incidents may break the deadlock over the formation of a new Iraqi government, by causing the single largest group in the UIA, the SCIRI, to break away and join Kurds, Sunnis, and secular Shia parties in making SCIRI leader Abdel Mahdi prime minister. Read the rest here.



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