Maliki ordered a five-day-old military blockade of Sadr City section discontinued, and the US Army was instructed to comply.
The blokade was put in place to try and help rescue a kidnapped US soldier and take down Abu Deraa and other members of a Shiite death squad.
Of course, this means that the hostage can be spirited away by the Mahdi Army anywhere in the country, and that Abu Deraa and his pals can continue their murderous activities...not to mention a propaganda boost for al Sadr and the Mahdi Army.
Maliki ordered the blockade lifted after al Sadr turned the heat up by calling for a `civil disobedience' campaign in Sadr City to protest the blockade.
Armed fighters of Sadr's Mahdi Army enforced the boycotts, entering schools to force out children and forcing workers and customers to leaven shops and offices, including the government electrical facilities.
Precisely at 5 p.m. local time (9 a.m. EST), the deadline set by Maliki, U.S. froces retreated and dismantled the roadblocks. After the left, al Sadr sent men in pickup trucks driving through the streets waving banners of the Mahdi Army in celebration.
Maliki has come under a lot of pressure from the US - and justifiably so - for not acting aggressively enough to combat and disarm the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias like the Badr force. Trained, armed and controlled by Iran, the Shiite militias are the main source of the sectarian violence sweeping Iraq.
The militias also control Maliki. His Dawa party is dependent on the muscle and goodwill of Moqtada al Sadr and the Mahdi Army, just as al Sadr is dependent on our enemy Iran for support.
This is what happens when you rush people with no democratic traditions into an election they're not prepared for and don't carefully restrict who runs, at least until the govenment gets on its feet and is securely functioning.
Maliki, like his predecessor Jaafari, spent the Saddam years cuddled up with the mullahs in Iran.
I mean, what else would you expect?
Aside from simply washing our hands of the whole mess, which would be catastropic,we really only have three options in Iraq:
- We can dispose of the present dysfunctional government and put the place under US military rule, something we should have done in the first place.
- We can forcefully confront Iran, which would cut off the flow of money and arms to the Shiite militias and then allow the US military to dispose of the Badr Force, al Sadr and the Mahdi Army.
- Or we can redeploy and team up with the Kurds, our only real allies in Iraq , help them establish a strong, independent Kurdistan that includes Kirkuk and put our strategic bases there as they've repeatedly invited us to do. Plus we get the highly disciplined and trained Kurdish army, the Pesh Murga as a bonus, doubling our combat strength.
My vote? Since President Bush seems unwilling to confront Iran right this minute, number 3, team up with the Kurds. And I've said that for a long time, ever since we took out Saddam.