Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Muqtada Al-Sadr's Infantile Dysfunction

Muqtada Al-Sadr yesterday refused to meet with the delegation from the National Assembly. Like a child, Muqty reasoned that if he stayed in his room and didn't actually meet the group, then they wouldn't be able to give him the message. Muqty: Message? What message?

His spokesmen were left to whistle in the wind for him, stooping to new lows in this laughable charade, reminding commentators more of a Marx Brothers vehicle than anything else.

As soon as they entered the shrine, they got signals that they would not meet with Sadr. "If you have connections with the U.S. leader, you should call him and ask him to withdraw his forces a little bit so that we can bring Sayed Moqtada Sadr safely here," said Ali Smeisim, Sadr's deputy, using a religious honorific for the cleric.

"Isn't he in Najaf?" Hussein Sadr asked.

"He is -- in a secret, secure place," Smeisim said.

"The U.S. forces do not follow our orders," Hussein Sadr said. "It is not necessary for him to come. Take me to him."

"Well, it's a secret place," Smeisim responded. "As you know, we are in war conditions."

With that, the delegation was left to wait for three hours before leaving. The group gave Smeisim a communique from the national conference that calls for Sadr to dissolve the Mahdi Army, vacate the shrine and join the political process.

I imagine Muqty will now say that the message MUST be delivered to him in person, thus stalling for another day or two the inevitable confrontation (and if all goes well, his death).

Hey, Muqty, help is on the way. The chemical giant Pfizer is currently working on a pill for infantile dysfunction.


UPDATE: Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan is itching to get started.

"Today is a day to set this compound free from its imprisonment and its vile occupation," Shaalan told the Arab-language television station Al-Arabiya.

Since peace talks have failed, "we have to turn to what's stronger and greater in order to teach them a lesson that they won't forget, and to teach others a lesson as well," Shaalan said.

After Shaalan's threat, renewed bombing and gunfire were heard near Najaf's Old City, the center of much of the previous fighting.

Shaalan said Iraqi forces were fully trained to raid one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam. He reiterated that U.S. forces would not enter the shrine, which almost certainly would cause an uproar among the country's majority Shiites.

"There will be no American intervention in this regard. The only American intervention would be aerial protection and also securing some of the roads that lead to the compound," Shaalan said on Al-Arabiya.

"As for entering the compound, it will be 100 percent Iraqis. Our sons in the national guard have been trained on the breaking-in operation, which was easy for them."

While never referring to al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia by name, Shaalan referred to those who occupied the shrine as a "gang dressed in the clothes of religion."

State Minister Qassim Dawoud said the planned raid on the shrine would send a message to insurgents throughout the country.

"This will be a civilized lesson for those in Fallujah, Samarra, Mosul, Yusufiyah or Basra. Their is no lenience ... with those people," he said.


UPDATE: Has Muqtada Al-Sadr caved? Folks, it ain't over until it's over. Keep your eye on the ball, my friends.

Sheik Hassan al-Athari, an official at al-Sadr's office in Baghdad, said the cleric had agreed to the plan but wanted the delegation to return to Najaf to negotiate how it would be implemented and to ensure his militants would not be arrested. He said al-Sadr had other, more minor conditions, but did not elaborate.

Al-Sadr has made contradictory statements in the past, and a previous cease-fire with his Mahdi Army militia that ended a spring uprising two months ago collapsed two weeks ago into street battles throughout the city.

Minor conditions? Like let us keep our weapons?


UPDATE: On the radio a reporter with the Mulitnational Forces says that nothing has changed on the ground in Najaf. Firing continues. "The soldiers have heard this before from Al-Sadr," he said.

And here's Al-Jazeera:

"Our leader al-Sadr is ready to meet the delegation when the security situation gets better, where the bombing stops and the siege is lifted," al-Shaibani told Aljazeera.

Al-Shaibani said al-Sadr’s organisation was ready to take part in the political process "if it is honest".

When the security gets better? Just watch, people, as Muqtada Al-Sadr drags this out until he can come up with a new plan.

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