Allawi’s Moment, Sadr’s Fall

Ed Morrissey notes the fierce fighting and decisive victories throughout Iraq as Iraqi police and military fight off the thugs of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. Reports indicate that Iraqi forces have engaged and beaten the Mahdi Army in several conflicts from Baghdad to al-Kut to Najaf.

This is important as it shows that the new government under Prime Minister Allawi has the strength to fight for itself. Like George Washington defeating Shay’s Rebellion during the early days of the United States, Allawi’s forces have shown that they mean business and a group of thugs won’t decide the course of Iraq for them. This is an important message to send as it will undoubtedly dissuade more of these groups. Allawi seems to be following the advice of Samuel Huntington in forging an Iraq democracy:

Be prepared for the standpatters to take some extreme action to stop change (for example, a coup attempt) – possibly even stimulate them to do so – and then crack down on them ruthlessly, isolating and discrediting the more extreme opponents of change.

This is exactly what Allawi did. While many have said that al-Sadr should have been killed in April, I’m not so sure I agree. By having the Iraqi government rather than the CPA take over the removal of al-Sadr, it shows the strength of the Iraqi government in the face of such thugs. One wonders if keeping al-Sadr around was part of a strategy like the one Huntington suggests – if al-Sadr plays nice, he’s less of a concern. However, it was clear that Sadr wouldn’t stay in his cage for long and would eventually try to incite more violence. However, this time the Iraqi government can take him down rather than the Americans.

In any event, al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army has been more than decimated. If estimates can be believed, several hundred Mahdi fighters have been captured or killed. A full third of his band of thugs are surrounded by coalition and Iraqi forces, and I’m not sure that the Iraqis are all that interested in taking many prisoners. al-Sadr himself has been wounded and is begging for a cease-fire.

In the end, so long as al-Sadr is free he remains a threat. Either Sadr should be captured and placed under arrest or killed. The latter is probably the safest option. In any event, the Iraqi forces are proving their mettle against al-Sadr’s brand of thugs, which will help cement the Iraqi government’s position in being the only legitimate authority and dissuade others from following in al-Sadr’s footsteps.

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