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Al-Maliki’s failed gambit has dire consequences


The past week, forces of the Iraqi Army moved into Basra in force. Directed there personally by prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, himself a Shiite Muslim, the forces were sent to break the back of the Mahdi Army, a militia led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. In what was a clear attempt by the national Iraqi government to regain control over Basra and the all-important oil distribution infrastructure, well-equipped but evidently poorly trained and ill-motivated Iraqi forces battled it out with a rag-tag, but well-equipped and highly motivated militia.

Then, today, after US forces came to the aid of the Iraqi Amry, Al-Sadr withdrew his militia from the Basra streets, on the condition that his militia is left alone and that imprisoned members of the Mahdi Army are released. Pundits in especially the United States, such as newspaper commentators who themselves have never set one foot in the Middle East, were quick to call Al-Sadr’s announcement a victory.

It was anything but; the worst is yet to come.