Why Sadr Must Go

Publius Pundit has a piece by Robert Mayer on why Moqtada al-Sadr is a danger to Iraqi democracy. As he notes, in the aftermath of the Askariya bombing:

Ironically, though the Sunnis have been the ones throughout the entire affair to denounce the attacks, it was al-Sadr who organized the mass extra-judicial killings of hundreds of Sunnis afterwards. It was his Medhi Army militia, along with men infiltrated into the Interior Ministry through the UIA, who ran people off the streets in fear to their homes, and attacked dozens of Sunni mosques. He was the first to call for revenge, yet he was the one praised for brokering compromise between the Shias and Sunnis afterward. Throwing dry leaves on the sectarian fires, just like the bombing in Samarra, has only helped al-Sadr. The Shias have taken advantage of it in order to stress the importance of a government with them in charge and the importance of having their own federal region, things they may have had to compromise on otherwise.

The man is dangerous for Iraqi democracy. He is both radical in his views and disloyal to his country. With that disloyalty comes the promise of more corruption and dysfunctionality in the government. It was his final vote that allowed current Prime Minister Jaafari to obtain the nomination again. With such a prospect for the next four years, sectarian lines are actually blurring as the Sunnis, Kurds, and Allawi’s multi-confessional secular party have all joined together to oppose Jaafari’s nomination.

Remember that in 2004 when the Mahdi Army took over a significant portion of Southen Iraq, they quickly wore out their welcome. Other Shi’ites started attacking Mahdi Army fighters, and finally al-Sadr himself had to beg Ayatollah Sistani and then-Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to broker a cease-fire. Since then al-Sadr has remained dangerous, but he’s shifted his attempts to control Iraq towards attempting to control the political process. Unfortanately, he’s had some considerable successes in doing that – his faction is the largest in the dominant United Iraqi Alliance coalition of Shi’ite parties, and he’s the one who has been pushing for the ineffectual Ibrahim al-Jafaari to return as Iraq’s Prime Minister.

One can only hope that al-Sadr has once again made a strategic miscalculation. If any evidence emerges that al-Sadr had a hand in the Askariya bombing, he should be arrested. Even if not, the Iraqi government should make it absolutely clear that his militia is to disarm at once. The existence of dozens of private militias, some operating within the Iraqi Security Forces itself is a direct threat to the future of Iraq. The Iraqi government is promising a crackdown on militia groups, but that battle will be a long and difficult one. The Iraqi government’s reaction will determine whether Moqtada al-Sadr becomes a Daniel Shays who is quickly defeated, or another Saddam Hussein. At any rate, al-Sadr has proven once again that he is willing to use violence and intimidation to plunge Iraq into becoming an Iranian puppet state, and the Iraqi government should do everything in its power to disarm and defang al-Sadr.

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