I have been trying to piece together what is happening in Iraq from the usual sources without much success. At first glance it doesn’t make sense that the out of all the ad hoc militias roaming around the country, the one that has declared a cease fire and pretty much held to it for over six months should be the target of such an all-out assault.
If al-Sadr were sending suicide bombers into markets or supervising the kidnapping of government ministers with his ‘Mahdi army’, one could understand Maliki and the Green Zone regime going all-out to rip them to shreds. But to attack the one group showing a little restraint? I don’t get it.
This looks like an attempt by a faction within the Iraqi state, such as it is, to exploit the American occupation force and wipe out the competition. All the talk about how bringing the troops home would unleash a civil war in Iraq looks pretty bogus if the civil war is launched precisely because the troops are still there.
As usual, the official American rhetoric on the events is hilarious. The shells now falling inside the Green Zone are not proof of the failure of the ‘surge’, oh no. Instead, we’re supposed to believe they were made in Iran and shipped over specifically for this purpose—even though the government being shelled is led by the most pro-Iranian of all the factions. No doubt an intrepid private first class was sent out to gather up the fragments and read the markings.
Finally, what does it mean to call those shooting at you ‘extremist criminal elements’? In war people use deadly weapons to kill each other, whether you like it or not, and personally I don’t. But those are the rules, especially after Bush took a public dump on the Geneva Convention a while back.
The entire episode looks rather desperate, and once again there seems to be little thought about what might happen if it doesn’t work. I suspect we will soon be reading accounts of the deepening chaos and anarchy and pained questions about why this outcome wasn’t foreseen.