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Analysis: Firebrand cleric more cautious - Muqtada al-Sadr
AP on Yahoo ^ | 8/7/06 | Robert H. Reid - ap

Posted on 08/07/2006 10:18:27 PM PDT by NormsRevenge

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. and Iraqi forces strike the Baghdad base of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — but his gunmen hold their fire. U.S. soldiers kill 15 of al-Sadr's followers, drawing little more than a few perfunctory complaints.

That's a dramatic departure in style for the youthful firebrand, who launched two major uprisings against the American-led coalition two years ago when U.S. authorities closed his newspaper and pushed an Iraqi judge into issuing an arrest warrant against him.

If anything, al-Sadr is more powerful today than he was then. But that power is also a restraint: al-Sadr has more to lose by an intemperate move now than in 2004.

And that has held him back — so far — from sending thousands of armed followers into the streets to exact revenge.

Both al-Sadr and the U.S. military are locked in a high-risk struggle as the Americans seek to restore order to Baghdad and shore up the shaky government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, himself a Shiite.

The Americans know they must rein in al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia if they are to disband armed groups believed responsible for the sharp rise in sectarian violence that has brought the country to the brink of civil war.

But the Americans cannot afford an all-out move against al-Sadr. That would trigger a backlash among the Shiite majority — a nightmare scenario for the troubled U.S. mission in Iraq.

A major push against al-Sadr would also undercut al-Maliki, who relies heavily on al-Sadr for political support.

Al-Sadr's movement holds 30 of the 275 seats in parliament and five Cabinet posts. Al-Sadr's backing helped al-Maliki win the top job during painstaking negotiations within the Shiite alliance that led to the ouster of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

As a result, the Americans have been careful to avoid mentioning the Mahdi Army as the target of their attacks, including the raid early Monday in Sadr City or the July 22 attack on al-Sadr's office in Musayyib where 15 militiamen died.

Instead the Americans prefer to describe the targets as "thugs" or "criminals."

"We must be careful not to demonize the entire Sadrist movement," said one U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue is so sensitive. "No doubt about it. He's a player."

But al-Sadr faces his own conundrum.

He owes much of his prestige within the Shiite community to his defiant stand against the Americans in 2004. His Mahdi militia is feared by Sunni Arabs but viewed by many Shiites as their most reliable protection against Sunni extremists.

An armed showdown with the Americans could cost al-Sadr his close ties to al-Maliki's government, destroy the last vestige of Shiite political unity and — in the end — result in the deaths of thousands of loyal followers.

At the very least, it could prompt the government and the Americans into a serious effort to disband the Shiite militias, which would mean locking up key leaders and combing Sadr City and other Sadrist strongholds in search of weapons.

To al-Sadr, the real battle is with the Sunni Arabs. The Shiite nightmare is that the Americans might somehow use political turmoil to impose an Iraqi government of their own, heavy with secular politicians instead of the religious parties that now control it.

That would spell the end of the political power the Shiites have long felt was their birthright as Iraq's largest community — an estimated 60 percent of the country's 27 million people.

Key al-Sadr lieutenants say privately that they have their "red lines" and that at some point, American pressure will become too great for restraint.

But they have not spelled out those "red lines" — if in fact they have determined them.

For the time being, al-Sadr prefers to look for ways to remind the Americans and the Iraqi government that he is a powerful figure who cannot be easily dismissed. That — more than admiration for Hezbollah — was behind Friday's mass rally in Sadr City in support of the Lebanese Shiite guerrillas fighting the Israelis.

Al-Sadr's aides had proposed a series of rallies across the Shiite heartland. Instead, the cleric decided to bring his followers to Baghdad to remind the authorities that he can muster tens of thousands into the streets.


TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: alsadr; analysis; bluto; cautious; cleric; firebrand; iraq; mahdiarmy; muhammadsminions; muqtada; sadr

1 posted on 08/07/2006 10:18:28 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
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To: NormsRevenge

Will someone please freakin kill this jackass, please? He should have been pushing up cacti back in 03 for God's sake.


2 posted on 08/07/2006 10:22:34 PM PDT by perfect_rovian_storm (All your Diebolds are belong to us)
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The Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia led by Iraqi radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has re-emerged as a key force in Iraqi politics. Sunnis believe his militia is responsible for the kidnapping and killing of thousands of Sunnis over the past few months. Now a plan to shift more U.S. troops to Baghdad to deal with the worsening violence there is seen as putting the American military on a crash course with al-Sadr, shown here in an Aug. 9, 2004, file photo. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)


3 posted on 08/07/2006 10:23:43 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ......Help the "Pendleton 8' and families -- http://www.freerepublic.com/~normsrevenge/)
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To: NormsRevenge
The Shiite nightmare is that the Americans might somehow use political turmoil to impose an Iraqi government of their own, heavy with secular politicians instead of the religious parties that now control it.

I'm liking that idea more each day.

4 posted on 08/07/2006 10:24:48 PM PDT by DuxFan4ever (The next rational liberal I meet will be the first.)
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To: perfect_rovian_storm

Two years ago, he had a murder warrant out on him. Now, he's a revered figure. Wonder why the good 'ol USA rule of law doesn't work over there? Maybe because its applied totally indescrimately?


5 posted on 08/07/2006 10:25:41 PM PDT by spyone
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To: NormsRevenge

Mookie's going bigtime now, but he's caught between several rocks and hard places - the Americans despise him, Sistani doesn't trust him, the Iranians want to own him, the Sunnis want to kill him, and all that's keeping him alive at the moment is the good graces of, believe it or not, Bush. Mookie may not believe that, but he suspects it, and to find out the truth may cost him more than he can afford. Welcome to the big leagues, kid.


6 posted on 08/07/2006 10:25:44 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Allegra

Hey, they say he is more cautious.


7 posted on 08/07/2006 10:26:36 PM PDT by bnelson44 (Proud parent of a tanker! (Charlie Mike, son))
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To: NormsRevenge
style for the youthful firebrand

You'd think the AP was talking about a young Hollywood celebrity with a penchant for bar brawls.

8 posted on 08/07/2006 10:26:40 PM PDT by coconutt2000 (NO MORE PEACE FOR OIL!!! DOWN WITH TYRANTS, TERRORISTS, AND TIMIDCRATS!!!! (3-T's For World Peace))
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To: spyone

All things in time.


9 posted on 08/07/2006 10:28:24 PM PDT by happinesswithoutpeace (You are receiving this broadcast as a dream)
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To: perfect_rovian_storm
"Will someone please freakin kill this jackass, please? He should have been pushing up cacti back in 03 for God's sake."

God forgive me. But I think"'kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" is the only way to solve the problem.

10 posted on 08/07/2006 10:30:35 PM PDT by blackbart.223 (I live in Northern Nevada. Reid doesn't represent me.)
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To: NormsRevenge; JasonC
Bttt

Jason, how about this 'cleric'? Would it be anti cleric to call him to task? He'll scare the hell and more out of you if one of his followes were tasked to get you.

11 posted on 08/07/2006 10:32:06 PM PDT by duckln (Gang of SEVEN, Pres McCain,VP Graham, and 5 RINOS high-jacked our constitution)
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To: Billthedrill

nice and concise...


12 posted on 08/07/2006 10:35:23 PM PDT by Riverine
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To: bnelson44

He is playing the same game he has always been playing.

But, Mookie is smart enough to know how far is too far to push the US, which is why he is still alive.

Mookie is betting that he can keep things unstable enough that the US will bail on Iraq and he will be there with Iranian help to take over.

If the Iraqi government doesn't get its ass in gear by this winter I will support a US backed coup to replace the religious idiots in power with secular politicians.

Better that then letting Iran take over.


13 posted on 08/07/2006 10:35:25 PM PDT by jmc1969
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To: NormsRevenge

Isn't he a peach. A bullit between his peepers would improve that photograph.


14 posted on 08/07/2006 10:36:05 PM PDT by blackbart.223 (I live in Northern Nevada. Reid doesn't represent me.)
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To: NormsRevenge

The dental aspect of this man's life is more interesting!


15 posted on 08/07/2006 10:36:23 PM PDT by ChristianDefender (There is no such thing as Moderate Islam...)
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To: jmc1969
"If the Iraqi government doesn't get its ass in gear by this winter I will support a US backed coup to replace the religious idiots in power with secular politicians."

See post ten.

16 posted on 08/07/2006 10:38:26 PM PDT by blackbart.223 (I live in Northern Nevada. Reid doesn't represent me.)
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To: blackbart.223

The Hezzi's are pissed, Iran is spoiling for war, Syria shakes in fear, Mookie is locked in a death grip......President Bush, you are a very bold one. I hope this chess game you play works out.


17 posted on 08/07/2006 10:47:56 PM PDT by Firefox1
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To: perfect_rovian_storm

That would have been an option in 03, but now? He'd just be a revered martyr and more powerful in death than he was in life.

We should take a page from the old Soviet book and "disappear" him.


18 posted on 08/07/2006 10:48:08 PM PDT by Spktyr (Overwhelmingly superior firepower and the willingness to use it is the only proven peace solution.)
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To: Firefox1
"President Bush, you are a very bold one. I hope this chess game you play works out."

It only works if you take the king. And you don't do that by playing nice.

19 posted on 08/07/2006 10:50:54 PM PDT by blackbart.223 (I live in Northern Nevada. Reid doesn't represent me.)
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To: NormsRevenge

Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr delivers the sermon during traditional Friday prayers attended by about 5,000 worshippers at the Kufa mosque near the holy city of Najaf in Iraq in this Friday, June 30, 2006 file photo where al-Sadr rejected the recently announced national reconciliation plan of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Today, in 2006 al-Sadr and the U.S. military are locked in a high-risk struggle as the Americans seek to restore order to Baghdad and shore up the shaky government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, himself a Shiite. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)


20 posted on 08/07/2006 10:52:05 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ......Help the "Pendleton 8' and families -- http://www.freerepublic.com/~normsrevenge/)
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To: Spktyr
"He'd just be a revered martyr and more powerful in death than he was in life."

I'm sick of hearing this one. Killed in public takes their power away because the misguided idiots that follow these bastards see them as immortal. Kill their "God" and it will dispirit them. Don't you get it?

21 posted on 08/07/2006 10:56:07 PM PDT by blackbart.223 (I live in Northern Nevada. Reid doesn't represent me.)
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To: blackbart.223

You didn't read the rest of my post.

Openly killing him will just make it worse. Note that the Iranians still worship Khomeini, even though he's dead! Same thing with all these Islamic shrines in the region.

Making him disappear, though, will cause his followers to drift away, unsure if their leader was martyred or sold them a bill of goods and took off with their money.

I never said anything about NOT killing him after he's disappeared. That was the standard Soviet tactic for dealing with such problems - the offensive person disappeared, never to be seen again. What really happened was that that person was kidnapped, was given a bullet behind the ear and a shallow grave in an undisclosed location.


22 posted on 08/07/2006 11:01:16 PM PDT by Spktyr (Overwhelmingly superior firepower and the willingness to use it is the only proven peace solution.)
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To: Spktyr
We should take a page from the old Soviet book and "disappear" him.
And pin his disappearance on Iran.
23 posted on 08/07/2006 11:06:03 PM PDT by peyton randolph (No man knows the day nor the hour of The Coming of The Great White Handkerchief.)
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To: Spktyr
"Making him disappear, though, will cause his followers to drift away, unsure if their leader was martyred or sold them a bill of goods and took off with their money."

You give them far too much credit. Arafat took off with their money and after he croaked from old age, as opposed to a well placed shot, they didn't see how badly Arafat screwed them. If Arafat(too late to do this now) was knocked off early in his career it would have done much more to promote peace.

24 posted on 08/07/2006 11:09:09 PM PDT by blackbart.223 (I live in Northern Nevada. Reid doesn't represent me.)
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To: blackbart.223

The thing is, he took their money and died (publicly) before he could disappear himself. That's different from someone disappearing.

Remember, the worst brigands become saints after death for these people.


25 posted on 08/07/2006 11:11:52 PM PDT by Spktyr (Overwhelmingly superior firepower and the willingness to use it is the only proven peace solution.)
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To: peyton randolph

Iran would work. If not possible, then Saudi Arabia.


26 posted on 08/07/2006 11:13:44 PM PDT by Spktyr (Overwhelmingly superior firepower and the willingness to use it is the only proven peace solution.)
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To: Spktyr
"The thing is, he took their money and died (publicly) before he could disappear himself. That's different from someone disappearing."

A small flaw in your logic. Bin Ladin has disappeared but they still worship him. And why? They see him as an invincible god against the infidel. Killing these turds in public takes that perception away.

27 posted on 08/07/2006 11:18:06 PM PDT by blackbart.223 (I live in Northern Nevada. Reid doesn't represent me.)
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To: perfect_rovian_storm

Yup, reminds me of the Germans letting Lenin out of prison or Batista freeing Castro. It's going to come back and bite us on the butt.


28 posted on 08/08/2006 12:01:25 AM PDT by Roy Tucker
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To: NormsRevenge
Sadr's father's brother, is the founder of Hezbelloh, sitting in Iran....

This guy is toast once a final showdown with Iran takes place.

29 posted on 08/08/2006 3:41:24 AM PDT by Jumper
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To: NormsRevenge
For the time being, al-Sadr prefers to look for ways to remind the Americans and the Iraqi government that he is a powerful figure who cannot be easily dismissed.

The Americans and the Iraqi government should remind al-Sadr how powerful they are by sending the pudgy little cleric to meet his 72 virgin goats. Pronto.

30 posted on 08/08/2006 3:50:05 AM PDT by Allegra (FReeping LIVE! from "the other war zone.")
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To: duckln
He's just a goon. No problem, should have been arrested a long time ago. He hasn't the slightest religion, he's pure cynical politician all the way down. A drawback he shares with certain other people.
31 posted on 08/08/2006 4:41:36 AM PDT by JasonC
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To: Billthedrill

Excellent post, Bill...excellent!


32 posted on 08/08/2006 6:14:15 AM PDT by MplsSteve
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To: JasonC
He's just a goon. No problem, should have been arrested a long time ago. He hasn't the slightest religion..

Some goon, exactly what I'm trying to tell you.
The guy is a 'cleric', preaches and holes up in a Mosque, and has a '10,000' strong armed militia.

33 posted on 08/08/2006 8:08:17 AM PDT by duckln (Gang of SEVEN, Pres McCain,VP Graham, and 5 RINOS high-jacked our constitution)
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To: duckln
Actually his father was a cleric, he is just a bag man for Iran, handing out their money to his followers. Pure politician, wouldn't know piety if it bit him.
34 posted on 08/08/2006 5:50:33 PM PDT by JasonC
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To: JasonC
He should have been killed twice now... as in we had every right to do it and it would have all been taken care of and forgotten by now.

At this point it is MUCH harder to do... we basically have to wait for him to act up again to even take a shot. A shot we BLEW twice before.

Oh well... I guess if we took out mookie, the Iranians would just find a less publicly visible stooge to exploit.
35 posted on 08/11/2006 6:02:57 AM PDT by FreedomNeocon (Success is not final; Failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts -- Churchill)
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