Monday, August 07, 2006

Meanwhile in Iraq, al Maliki continues to walk a fine line

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki continues to keep his options open, with on hand in America's pocket and the other in Iran's.

The latest evidence of that was when he sharply criticized a U.S.-Iraqi army attack today on the stronghold of Iran's tool in Iraq, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia in Baghdad's Sadr City.

The US Army Command said that the raid was aimed at "individuals involved in punishment and torture cell activities."

Al-Maliki said he was "very angered and pained" by the operation, warning that it could undermine his efforts toward national reconciliation.

"Reconciliation cannot go hand in hand with operations that violate the rights of citizens this way," al-Maliki said in a statement on government television. "This operation used weapons that are unreasonable to detain someone, like using planes."

He apologized to the Iraqi people for the operation and said "this won't happen again."

Obviously, al-Maliki got a phonecall, either from his fellow Shias who back the Iran trained and armed militias or perhaps even a message relayed directly from one of the many Shiite politicians in the new government with close ties to the mullahs.

This was supposed to be a new military operation to secure Baghdad streets after a sharp rise in Sunni-Shiite violence, much of it blamed on al-Sadr's militia.

Al-Sadr and his militia are the main muscle for al-Maliki and his party.

Like Lebanon, this is designed to keep the pot boiling and the focus off of Iran's nukes.

Following the Sadr City attack, President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, met with the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey Jr., to discuss security operations in Baghdad. Talabani said he told Casey that "it is in no one's interest to have a confrontation" with al-Sadr's movement...which was probably a polite way of of warning him that if it comes down to achoice between al-Sadr and the US, al Maliki's government will probably back al-Sadr, since they will have to live with them after we've left.

The other `security arrangements' discussed were probably a coordination between US forces and the Kurdish Pesh Merga for contingencies that might emerge inthe event of a major meltdown in the Iraq situation.

Remember you heard it here first.

Casey was quoted as saying that he hoped that the new operation would "change the situation significantly prior to Ramadan," which begins in late September.

Without taking out the Iranian backed militias like the Mahdi Army and the Badr force, I respectfully have to say to General Casey that I think that will be wishful thinking.

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