|Maysan province (Wikipedia)
By mid-July, the U.S. military complained to the New York Times that nothing had come of Baghdad’s effort. The top U.S. army spokesman in Iraq said that nothing substantive came of the campaign, with only a few low-level fighters detained. He told the Times that the Iraqi government could be doing more.
Since nothing of military value came of the campaign, its real purpose might have been a warning to Moqtada al-Sadr from Maliki. Sadr’s bloc in parliament was the main reason why Maliki was able to return to the premiership. As part of that deal, the Sadrists regained controlled of Maysan where the operation was announced. Since then, the Sadr movement has begun to be a thorn in the side of the prime minister. They have increased their attacks upon American forces, and are constantly bragging about it. On July 14 for example, they claimed that have carried out nine attacks upon U.S. military bases in a week in Baghdad, Maysan, Qadisiyah, and Diyala governorates. The stepped up violence, while aimed at foreigners, damages Maliki’s claim to have improved security in the country. Sadrists in parliament are also the main opponents of American troops staying in the country. They’ve called for Americans to be banned from entering parliament, condemned the opening of a U.S. consulate in Basra, and have pushed provincial councils to bar American forces from operating there. None of these actions are legal or binding, but they show how the Trend is attempting to win over public opinion to its side. That appears to be partially working as more and more parliamentarians from a variety of parties have recently said they would oppose any extended stay for the Americans. This too annoys Maliki as he appears to want to give them an extension. Finally, Sadrists on the integrity committee in parliament are constantly threatening to expose corrupt officials including members of the premier’s Dawa party, (1) which of course Maliki would not like either. While the two parties are part of the National Coalition, that is an alliance in name only. Both agreed to work together so that they could take power, but now the cracks are becoming more and more apparent. Sadr, especially needs to be wary of any threats from Maliki as he has used military force against him before.
Maliki’s move appeared to have had its intended affect. Sadr recently announced that he would not mobilize his Mahdi Army militia again, even if the U.S. army stayed in the country. This was a major reversal for Sadr who had been threatening to bring his men back on the street for months. His followers told the press that Moqtada made the decision partially because he angered political parties, meaning the prime minister’s State of Law. That still leaves differences over a troop extension and in parliament, but for now the prime minister looks like he has gotten the upper hand.
1. Alsumaria News, “The issuance of arrest warrants for two of the leaders of the Dawa Party, on charges of corruption,” 6/30/11
Alsumaria, “Sadr Front launches campaign to prevent Americans from entering Parliament,” 7/14/11
Alsumaria News, “The issuance of arrest warrants for two of the leaders of the Dawa Party, on charges of corruption,” 6/30/11
Arango, Tim, “In Shadow of Death, Iraq and U.S. tiptoe Around a Deadline,” New York Times, 7/14/11
Mohammed, Muhanad, “Iraq military cracks down on militias and arms smuggling,” Reuters, 7/3/11
National Iraqi News Agency, “Muqtada Al Sadr denounces the opening of U.S. Consulate in Basra,” 7/6/11
Al-Rayy, “Islamic Resistance confirms implementation 9 operations against U.S. occupation forces in a week,” 7/14/11
Reuters, “Iraq cleric pursues U.S. troop ban in strongholds,” 6/30/11
Schmidt, Michael, “Iraq Begins Cracks Down on Shiite Militias,” New York Times, 7/1/11