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January 19, 2007

Muqtada al-Sadr's Mouthpiece Arrested In Baghdad: Are We Finally Getting Real About Winning In Iraq?

In what just may be a 'for real' offensive against Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army, the AP reports that U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, Muqtada al-Sadr's media director in Baghdad.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested one of Muqtada al-Sadr's top aides Friday in Baghdad, his office said, as pressure increases on the radical Shiite cleric's militia ahead of a planned security sweep aimed at stemming the sectarian violence ransacking the capital.

Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, al-Sadr's media director in Baghdad, was captured Friday and his personal guard was killed, according to another senior al-Sadr aide.

"We strongly condemn this cowardly act," Sheik Abdul-Zahra al-Suweiadi said.

The U.S. military said special Iraqi army forces operating with coalition advisers captured a high-level, illegal armed group leader in Baladiyat, but it did not identify the detainee. It said two other suspects were detained by Iraqi forces for further questioning.

The raid came as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pledged to crack down on Shiite militias as well as Sunni insurgents in a planned security operation to quell the sectarian violence in Baghdad amid concerns that his reluctance to confront the Mahdi Army of his political backer al-Sadr led to the failure of two previous crackdowns.

Two Shiite militia commanders said Thursday that al-Maliki has stopped protecting the militia under pressure from Washington, while the fighters described themselves as under siege in their Sadr City stronghold.

Promising as this is since Al-Darraji has long been al-Sadr's mouthpiece, even more promising is that Reuters reports Darraji may not have been the main target as he was detained with "guests", one of whom may have been a senior Mehdi Army commander.

Captain Ed has more commentary and calls attention to the current key issue in Iraq - the question in of whether the US and the Iraqis have the tenacity to finish the job this time. We've let Sadr off the hook at least twice before, which has led us to where we now stand:

... our mercy and political correctness allowed one of the most troublesome figures of the post-Saddam period garner enormous power and infiltrate the elected government. Sadr is the key, and the mission to end the sectarian strife has to include his capture. If that happens, then we know the effort is serious indeed.
As readers will know from my previous posts, I've been pessimistic about Maliki's willingness to dismantle the Shi'ite militias, and remain so now. I still believe that unless Maliki is either replaced by someone who is not in Sadr's and Iran's pocket, or America runs over him and does what it must do to win - changing what has been up to now - "hands tied" rules of engagement, we cannot when a peace in Iraq. Victory for those who seek peace and true democracy in Iraq begins with killing al-Sadr and destroying his militia, and others like it.

Posted by Richard at January 19, 2007 7:41 AM

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