Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ventriloquism: Sadr Speaks...Sort Of

Steve Schippert
Threats Watch

No sooner do I write that there are “no attributions of direct quotes, commands or comment from Muqtada since the Shi’a militia uprising began in earnest” than we ‘hear’ from Muqtada that he threatens a civil revolt in Iraq….sort of. It is a logistical challenge to personally address one’s followers in Najaf, Iraq when one is busy shuttling between Qom and Tehran in Iran.

But Sadrist lawmakers and officials denounced the (US/Iraqi coalition) offensive and said they felt the government is targeting the Sadr organization, which is a powerful political force in southern Iraq.

The cleric’s [al-Sadr’s] aide Hazem Al-Aaraji read a statement on behalf of Sadr, demanding and end to the operation.
He said Sadr’s group was calling for a nationwide strike, and then if the Iraqi government does not comply, he said, “the second step will be civil disobedience in Baghdad and other provinces.” He said after that would come a “third step,” but did not say what it would be. Two things: First, Sadr does not want to raise his head from the gopher hole, which is a wise precautionary measure. It’s pretty clear that Petraeus does not play games for political consumption (such as the decision to allow Sadr to survive a deathmatch he declared in 2004). It’s also clear that the (largely Shi’a) Iraqi Army and police forces are shooting to kill.

Second, Sadr’s gopher hole is, after all, in Iran. Having a statement read is what leaders do when they either want to remain in the shadows or are not present to make such. In this case, it’s a bit of both most likely. Keep in mind that anyone could have written (or directed the writing of) the statement read.

Yesterday at The Tank on National Review Online, I closed a thought by attempting to reiterate that it is not up to us entirely whether we are to have conflict with Iran. Iran is, naturally, half of the equation: a non-scientific math problem that has been up on the board for all to see since 1979.

The other half has been decided, like it or not. But for goodness sakes, don’t take General David Petraeus’s word for it. Oh, no. Instead, cry out, “O Admiral Fallon, where art thou?” That should help.

Admiral Fallon, presented to the American public as the one sane mind between a dangerous Bush Administration and conflict with Iran, you should recall. (Again, not that Iran has any say in killing our men or anything like that.) Well, Richard Fernandez over at The Belmont Club draws an interesting parallel between the current Mahdi Army violence and Fallon’s exit from CENTCOM.

One of the rumored frictions between Petraeus and former CENTCOM CINC “Fox” Fallon centered around how strongly to respond to threats from Iranian sponsored groups. And Sadr’s men would fall under that category. Maj Gen Paul Vallely was quoted as saying CENTCOM may not have been done all that it could to prevent Iran from endangering American troops.

“The fact is that [Central Command] had the external responsibility to protect our troops in Iraq from the outside and under Fallon they failed to do it,” said retired Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, a military analyst. “We have done nothing to protect our soldiers from external threats in Iraq.”

That, as framed by Major General Vallely, is not insignificant and is something that we have criticized in this space and elsewhere.

So desperate are some, it seems, to avoid conflict with Iran that we ignore and tolerate Iran’s conflict with us. In a street fight, that’s a losing proposition and easy pickings for the aggressor. And this is a street fight.

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