Thursday, April 10, 2008
The Sadr City crackdown. posted by Richard Seymour
Muqtada al-Sadr's scheduled protest for 9 April (yesterday) was, of course, called off in a hurry, as refugees were fleeing the city under bombardment. The air attacks continue to mount up, the latest reported attack killing ten Iraqis - in a "militia stronghold", of course. Loud explosions are being heard all over Sadr City as violence across Baghdad 'spirals'. It isn't hard to see why this is happening. Sadr City is, as I mentioned, a vast, populous area, larger than Basra or Najaf. It is the key area of Sadrist resistance, the base from which the movement's strengths emanate. But why now? Previously, when Sadr has humiliated the occupiers and their local chumps, there has been a period of backing off and a brief, negotiated peace. This time, having watched Maliki fail, the US is upping the ante.
Well, although Maliki was indeed humiliated, and had to run to Iran for a settlement before begging for fifty of his armoured cars back from the insurgents, he seems to have been told by the US to get back down to it. Gen. Petraeus expects the Basra crackdown to last for another few months. So, as America bombs from a great height, "Iraqi forces" are sent in to do the ground work. Presumably, the reasoning is that if the Sunni north holds, there is no reason to hold back in Baghdad and the south. Of course, there were still hundreds of attacks even in the relatively peaceful months since September 2007, mainly in Baghdad and the northern provinces of Ninewah, Diyala, and Salah-ah-Din. And in fact the number of attacks in Ninewah increased by 17% between November 2007 and March 2008. So, we shouldn't too carried away by the claims for the 'pacification' of Sunni Iraq. Nevertheless, the obvious and quite dramatic decline in the overall reported attacks since the co-optation of 'Awakening Councils' and the Sadrist ceasefire at the end of August 2007 has probably given the US army leadership a shot of confidence. So now they're giving Sadr City a taste of what Fallujah, Tal Afar, al-Qaim, Haditha, Samarra and Ramadi have each got in different measures over the past three or four years. In riposte, the resistance is raising the rate of its assault, as seventeen troops have been killed since Sunday.
With the oil laws still not signed into law, with social forces embroiled in a politico-military struggle for the future control of Iraq, and with intransigent unions resisting US designs, they have no plans of getting out of Iraq any time soon. Indeed, as Seumas Milne revealed, they plan an open-ended military presence in the country. It has to be open-ended, of course. Even McCain's Hundred Year Reich is too limiting. Even the current supine political leadership in Iraq isn't going to completely go along with that, for fear of being swallowed up by an angry revolt. Suppose the Sadrists were to 'arrive' in the next elections, with control of much of southern Iraq and Baghdad? Suppose, then, the 'Awakening Councils' were to start plugging their American overlords again? They clearly intend to take the initiative while they have a window: as the troops selected to speak to embedded NYT reporters insist, this "has got to be done". And the US has lost faith in the capacity of its political allies in Iraq to do the job.