Another Bush Blunder

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by Ramapo, Nov 13, 2006.

  1. Ramapo
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    This guy should have been long ago eliminated.


    Cleric al-Sadr may hold Iraq's future in his hands



    By Rick Jervis, USA TODAY

    BAGHDAD — Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric President Bush once dismissed as the head of a "band of thugs," has emerged as one of the most powerful forces in Iraq, commanding a large militia and a growing political organization.
    U.S. and Iraqi forces passed on a chance to arrest al-Sadr two years ago. Instead, Iraq's Shiite leaders encouraged him to enter the political process. The idea was to co-opt a threat to the Iraqi government. Critics say the plan backfired, placing Iraq's future in the hands of a firebrand whose Mahdi Army militia has intensified religious warfare and threatened the country's stability.

    "I believe that the Mahdi Army continues to pose a threat," Sen. John McCain said in Arizona last week. "I believe al-Sadr has to be taken out."

    That may not be realistic. "There are no good options in dealing with al-Sadr," says Wayne White, who formerly headed the State Department's Iraq intelligence team and is now at the Middle East Institute. "He has grown too powerful to be addressed in any reasonable way."

    As President Bush and the Democrats in charge of a new Congress plot a new direction in Iraq, al-Sadr remains a huge obstacle unless the Iraqi government does what it has been unwilling or unable to do so far: neutralize him through political negotiations or a military confrontation.

    His political group, for example, controls the Health Ministry and has used it to harbor death squads, infiltrate hospitals and punish al-Sadr's enemies, says Ayad al-Samarrai, the deputy chairman of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni group.

    The U.S. military estimates the Mahdi Army has between 6,000 and 10,000 militants in Baghdad. Al-Sadr's militia and al-Qaeda in Iraq are among the groups most responsible for religious warfare, according to the latest Defense Department report to Congress.

    The Bush administration has urged the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to confront Shiite militias, including al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Al-Maliki, who relies on al-Sadr for political support, has been slow to act, saying it may not be until next year before militias are disarmed. Al-Sadr's support was instrumental in putting al-Maliki in power.

    Because of al-Sadr, "Al-Maliki was able to become prime minister despite the fact that other political parties had gained more seats in parliament," says Vali Nasr, author of The Shia Revival. "He is al-Sadr's prime minister."

    Power of a family name

    Al-Sadr, 33, comes from one of Iraq's most prominent religious families. He's the fourth son of Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, one of the country's top religious leaders. The senior al-Sadr was gunned down along with two of his sons in 1999, allegedly by Saddam Hussein's henchmen.

    Al-Sadr lacks his father's scholarly credentials, but he is charismatic, and his fiery sermons have attracted a large following among the country's Shiites, according to a 2004 report in the Middle East Quarterly. Al-Sadr's power is concentrated in Sadr City, a Shiite slum of about 2 million people in eastern Baghdad that was named for his father. Al-Sadr's followers include legions of poor, disaffected youths, who also make up the backbone of his armed militia.

    "He's kind of a spokesman for the dispossessed," says Chris Toensing, editor of the Washington-based Middle East Report.

    As early as July 2003, while most Iraqis were still celebrating the fall of Saddam's regime, al-Sadr was using his pulpit at a mosque in Kufa, south of Baghdad, to urge young recruits to join his new army. While Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most prominent Shiite religious leader, counseled patience, al-Sadr was whipping up his followers with anti-American speeches.

    His forces clashed with U.S. forces in Najaf and Baghdad in 2004. Hundreds of his followers died in pitched battles with American troops. The militants were no match for superior U.S. training and firepower. But the revolt helped solidify al-Sadr's reputation.

    In April 2004, an Iraqi judge issued an arrest warrant charging al-Sadr with the murder of a rival cleric, Abdul Majid al-Khoei. The U.S.-backed al-Khoei was hacked to death in April 2003, allegedly by al-Sadr's followers, as he left a Shiite shrine in Najaf.

    Al-Sadr, however, was never arrested. Instead, he was invited to join the political process as part of the deal that ended his revolt.

    Members of political parties loyal to al-Sadr won 30 seats in the 275-member parliament in elections last December. As a cleric, al-Sadr does not take a direct role in politics. But his supporters were given control of six Cabinet positions, including the Health Ministry.

    On the streets, his militias have remained strong. "What makes him powerful is that he's the most effective military force in this sectarian conflict," Nasr says.

    Al-Sadr has denied that his militia has been involved in criminal activity. Common criminals often identify themselves as Mahdi Army militants to carry out kidnappings and killings, says Bahaa al-Araji, a lawmaker loyal to al-Sadr.

    Last month al-Sadr fired 41 members of the militia linked to illegal activities, al-Araji says, adding that there are rogue elements acting outside al-Sadr's control.

    'It's a jungle'

    Iraq's Health Ministry is a case study in how al-Sadr used his government role to consolidate his political and military support.

    Ministry-run hospitals have been used as a weapon against rival Sunnis, according to critics, such as Sunni lawmaker Mithal al-Alusi. "It's a jungle," al-Alusi says. "What (al-Sadr) has done with that ministry is criminal."

    Last month, a Sunni man was taken to Kindi Hospital in central Baghdad for a gunshot wound, says Omar al-Jubouri, human rights director at the Iraqi Islamic Party.

    He was shot and killed in his hospital bed, al-Jubouri says. His brother went to retrieve the body. He brought 17 male relatives along for protection, but they were quickly outgunned by an even larger group of armed men, believed to be the Mahdi Army, al-Jubouri says. The group was kidnapped and killed, he adds.

    Two days later, the family picked up the 19 bodies, escorted by an Iraqi army convoy, from the Baghdad morgue. Al-Jubouri says some of the bodies showed signs of torture, including drill holes to the skull and electrocution burns.

    So many Sunnis have been followed and killed after picking up relatives at the ministry-controlled Baghdad morgue that al-Jubouri's party regularly coordinates Iraqi army convoys to escort the families, he says. "We'll wait until we have 17 or 18 bodies waiting," he says. "Then we'll send for the convoy."

    Convoys are not always safe. On June 12, Ali al-Mahdawi, a physician and head of the Diyala Province health department, arrived at the Health Ministry headquarters with six bodyguards for an 8:30 a.m. meeting with Health Minister Ali al-Shemari, al-Samarrai says.

    Al-Mahdawi had been nominated by Sunni political leaders to be deputy minister. After arriving at the ministry, three of the bodyguards waited in the parking lot, while three escorted the doctor to the meeting, al-Samarrai says. When the meeting ran late, a bodyguard in the parking lot called al-Mahdawi on his mobile phone.

    "Don't worry, he's with friends," a voice on the other end said before switching off the phone. Al-Mahdawi and the three guards haven't been seen since, al-Samarrai says. "Most probably, he's dead now," he says. "It happens so often. Everybody knows about it. And they're not doing anything about it."

    Health Ministry spokesman Qasim Yahya would not comment on the allegations.

    Mahdi Army militants have used Health Ministry and associated offices to detain and torture abductees, most of them Sunnis, according to U.S. officers.

    Last month, U.S. and Iraqi troops raided a compound belonging to a social organization named for al-Sadr's father, says Lt. Col. Avanulas Smiley, commander of the Army's 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, which assisted in the raid. U.S. investigators believed the compound was run by al-Sadr loyalists, he says. One room contained a long wooden bench stained with blood and urine, indicating victims were tortured there, Smiley says.

    Doctors are leaving

    Militia infiltration is not the ministry's only problem. The ministry also has become less effective since al-Sadr took over, says Jaleel Hadi al-Shamary, a physician and general director of the Karkh Health Department in western Baghdad.

    Qualified bureaucrats have been replaced by party loyalists, leading to a steady exodus of qualified doctors and other officials, he says. About 600 of his department's 3,000 doctors have resigned or left the country, he says.

    "The Health Ministry is in a real state of collapse," al-Shamary says. "It's a scientific ministry and needs a scientific mind to run it. But ... high-ranking officials are chosen due to their affiliation to the party."

    U.S. troops say a two-story complex linked to the al-Sadr organization in a nearby neighborhood also is being used as an illegal detention center. "Torturing, killing, everything under the sun happens there," says 2nd Lt. David Michael Stroud, a platoon leader with the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry. "It's the heart of darkness."

    The complex is considered a "no-touch" zone, since it's aligned with al-Sadr, Stroud says. U.S. and Iraqi army units often need Iraqi government permission before raiding government offices. The Shiite-dominated government sometimes is reluctant to allow raids of al-Sadr associates. "It makes it difficult if someone is sponsoring or being complicit with criminal activity who's in a government position," Smiley says. "It disrupts the essentials to making progress."

    Al-Maliki's government has targeted some Mahdi Army officials, and Iraqi security forces have clashed with the militants several times this year. In August, U.S. and Iraqi troops, working on a tip about a kidnapping ring, raided the Health Ministry offices and arrested five of al-Shemari's bodyguards.

    Adil Muhsin Abdullah, the inspector general of the Health Ministry, says he has not received any reports of deaths squads or kidnapping cells linked to ministry-controlled hospitals or offices.

    Al-Maliki has been reluctant to let U.S. troops launch large-scale attacks against the Mahdi Army because it would make the militia more popular and undermine rival Shiite parties, including his own Dawa Party, Nasr says. Recently al-Maliki's government ordered the removal of Iraqi and U.S. military checkpoints that had been placed around Sadr City.

    "The government is paralyzed against these militias," says Mahmoud Othman, a leading Kurdish lawmaker. "Groups in parliament are not working as a team and don't have a united agenda, making government and parliament unable to do much. The whole thing is getting more complicated by the day."







    http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2006-11-12-al-sadr-cover_x.htm
     
  2. Gunny
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    The decision to not take out al-Sadr was made as political appeasement, just as the lefties, and UN-types want. Just a little more proof that their way of doing things always fails.

    Blaming President Bush, as you have in your thread title, is just bullshit, plain and simple. He's damned if he does and damned if he don't with you dirtbags.
     
  3. Gunny
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    The decision to not take out al-Sadr was made as political appeasement, just as the lefties, and UN-types want. Just a little more proof that their way of doing things always fails.

    Blaming President Bush, as you have in your thread title, is just bullshit, plain and simple. He's damned if he does and damned if he don't with you dirtbags.
     
  4. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    Actually this was a mistake that should be rectified. He needs to be put out of commission, should have been over a year ago.
     
  5. Gunny
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    Gunny Gold Member

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    He should have been taken out from the beginning. But, from the beginning, Bush came under fire from the left-wingnuts screaming abuse of force, torture, illegal war, etc.

    As I said, he's damned if he does and damned if he don't.
     
  6. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    Well he didn't, see where it got 'him?' Catering to everyone will get one nowhere.
     
  7. Gunny
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    I don't see that it really "got him" anywhere. If al-Sadr had been taken out, there'd already be someone else filling his shoes. Radical Islam doesn't appear to suffer a shortage of frothing-at-the-mouth mouthpieces.
     
  8. Annie
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    Point well taken, though it would have shown that he really meant to hit at the heart of the problem, at least in Iraq.
     
  9. Gunny
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    Look at it objectively. I think he meant to hit at the heart of the matter. Unfortunately, there is a PC world, and our own dimbulbs that must be appeased. Bush is a politican and HAS TO consider politics.

    If you want to take off the kid gloves, Saddam had all three sects isolated within our no-fly zones where he couldn't touch them. I'd have kept the Sunni's and Shia isolated, ringing their perimeter with military force. And they'd STILL be there.

    And can you hear the lefties here in the states, and the French, and the Chavez, and the rest of the trained monkeys whining and crying in the media every day from that to this? I can hear it now ..."Islamophobe," "racist," "Abu Ghraib," "inhuman," :blah2:

    But it WOULD work.
     
  10. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    That was the problem. He tried to appease the dimbulbs, which will not be appeased, no more than Saddam, Osama, etc.
     

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