April 3, 2004
NOW HE TELLS US: The Shiite cleric Sadr is sounding off:
"I and my followers of the believers have come under attack from the occupiers, imperialism and the appointees," Moqtada Sadr said in a sermon in the southern town of Kufa, outside the holy city of Najaf. "Be on the utmost readiness, and strike them where you meet them."
Where was this when Saddam was in power? Clearly Sadr, more than any Baathist loser in Falluja, represents the most potent threat to the coalition. The WaPo continues:
A particular concern has been Sadr's militia, called the Mahdi Army, which was formed last year and has thousands of members. The United States wants to dissolve the militias affiliated with several Shiite organizations in southern Iraq because of the threat they pose to stability in Iraq after the planned end of the civil occupation on June 30.
And most worrisome:
"From here, I declare my solidarity with the solidarity between Hezbollah and Hamas," Sadr said. "May they consider me their striking hand in Iraq, whenever necessity requires it."
The question is: do we strike now, before June 30th, to defang this or do we hope that the transition eases the trauma of occupation. Regardless of who is nominally in power, it will be our job to quell Sadr's goons if they decide to go jihadi on us. Will the UN step in after June in any meaningful way if Sadr is promising large-scale violence? If Sistani is at least moderately happy with the transition of power, can he muffle Sadr?
The future of the War on Terror's success hinges on the next few months.