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July 7, 2006
Sadr City In The Crosshairs

It looks like the Iraqis and Americans have decided to focus on one of the toughest tasks in cleaning up Baghdad: Sadr City. The Shi'ite enclave has spawned militias loosely organized around the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, long a provocation for the majority Sunni population of greater Baghdad and a threat to the authority of the new federal government. Today Iraqi forces, backed by American support, captured two major leaders of militia efforts, including one who ran weapons from Syria:

Iraqi forces backed by U.S. aircraft battled militants in a Shiite stronghold of eastern Baghdad early Friday, killing or wounding more than 30 fighters and capturing an extremist leader who was the target of the raid, Iraqi and U.S. officials said.

In another operation, Iraqi troops backed by U.S. soldiers arrested a top regional commander of a Shiite militia near Hillah, a U.S. statement said. The moves appeared part of a crackdown on sectarian militias blamed for the escalation in Shiite-Sunni violence that has led to fears of civil war in recent months. ...

U.S. officials did not identify the insurgent leader but residents of the Shiite neighborhood said he was Abu Diraa, a commander in the Mahdi militia of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The U.S. statement said the militant leader was involved "in the transfer of weapons from Syria into Iraq" in an effort to break away "from his current insurgent organization." The statement did not mention any U.S. role in the raid, but residents said they could hear American aircraft providing cover.

In a statement Thursday, the U.S. said Iraqi and U.S. forces also arrested Adnan al-Unaybi, commander of a Mahdi militia force south of Baghdad. The statement said he was arrested north of Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad.

Iraq has to continue its efforts to disarm and disband Shi'ite militias such as the Mahdi Army and its spinoffs. They present an acute problem as today has proven; bombs hit three Sunni mosques and one Sunni cleric has been abducted, and Shi'ite militias are the logical suspects. As long as these kinds of activities continue to occur, it will present a rationalization for the Sunnis to reject political engagement in a federal system and to rely on the native insurgencies for tit-for-tat protection that could produce a civil war.

Chronically, these militias will undermine the authority of the federal government. No government that hopes to survive can allow armed gangs to impose their own will on citizens without the citizens losing faith in the government and the system that put it in place. While Nouri al-Maliki presses for an end to the Sunni-based insurgencies, he has to also work towards an end to the Shi'ite militias, else the Sunnis will see this as a biased approach to governance and reject it. Maliki has to establish a monopoly on organized force in Iraq in order to bring security and stability to the nation.

The Iraqis made a good start of it today. If they can continue this effort, they will go a long way towards establishing credibility as a government dedicated to protecting all of their citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 7, 2006 8:58 AM

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» Iraqi Forces Finally Focus On Sadr City from Hyscience
The violence perpetrated by the Shia militias against Sunni civilians, like the atrocities carried out by Sunni insurgents, have long been one of the main impetuses behind the sectarian violence in Iraq. [Read More]

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» Progress in Iraq from QandO
Last month, I pointed out that a "Sunni buy-in to the political process" seemed to be underway with the Sunnis apparently seeking political detente by working against the insurgency. The big question going forward would be whether the Shiites would rec... [Read More]

Tracked on July 7, 2006 10:44 AM

» Success against terrorists in Baghdad from USS Neverdock
Just about everyday this month Iraqi forces have been killing or capturing terrorists by the dozens in Baghdad, including several high level figures. One of those arrested is from the original 55 most wanted by the US. [Read More]

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» Iraqi and American Troops Sweep Sadr City from Gulf Coast Pundit
Sadr City In The Crosshairs It looks like the Iraqis and Americans have decided to focus on one of the toughest tasks in cleaning up Baghdad: Sadr City. The Shi’ite enclave has spawned militias loosely organized around the Mahdi Army of Moqtada ... [Read More]

Tracked on July 7, 2006 10:59 AM

» Go After Syria from It Shines For All
"Iraqi forces backed by U.S. aircraft battled militants in a Shiite stronghold of eastern Baghdad early Friday, killing or wounding more than 30 fighters and capturing an extremist leader who was the target of the raid, Iraqi and U.S. officials... [Read More]

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» Iraqi Government Cracks Down on Shi’ite Militias from The Real Ugly American.com
This sounds like very good news. Captain Ed explains why here: Iraq has to continue its efforts to disarm and disband Shi’ite militias such as the Mahdi Army and its spinoffs. They present an acute problem as today has proven; bombs hit three Sun... [Read More]

Tracked on July 7, 2006 6:52 PM

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