01 April 2007

Talabani: Mahdi Army stops reprisals

The Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, has announced that the Mahdi Army, a Shi'ite militia loyal to the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has stopped attacking Sunnis. The group is suspected of carrying out punitive raids on Sunnis, including the summary execution of Sunni men, following suicide bombings in Shi'ite areas, allegedly carried out by Sunnis. According to Talabani, the new security plan championed by the US (involving an increased American presence in Baghdad and confrontations with both Sunni and Shi'ite militias) has forced "brother Moqtada Sadr" to ask his followers to stop attacking "brother Sunni Arabs" (BBC).

If this is true, the news certainly represents a major success for the new US policy. However, if previous experience is a guide, we are likely to see more of Sadr and his militants. In 2003 or 2004, I watched Danielle Pletka, the American Enterprise Institute's supposed expert on Iraq, say that Sadr should be treated "as the irrelevancy he is". For better or worse, though, the man has proven himself nothing if not relevant since then.

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