They’re really pouring it on. No fewer than five suicide bombers detonated at Shiite markets in Baghdad and the town of Khalis today. They’ve hit the Green Zone with rockets and mortars on six of the past seven days, killing one American soldier and necessitating helmets and body armor while outdoors for whatever reason within the embassy complex. There have been two major attacks on U.S. forts in Anbar since Wednesday, too: an assault by a pair of truck bombs and 30 jihadis armed with RPGs on the coalition post in Garma, and then yesterday a “complex” operation targeting the Fallujah government center that began with mortars and ended with two more truck bombs, this time packed with chlorine. Fifteen U.S. and Iraqi troops were injured in the blast; “numerous” others are being treated for chlorine inhalation.
Why now? Probably to take back some momentum from the surge, probably to goad the Sadrists into retaliating and make things hot again. The Post has an article about the Mahdi Army out today that glosses Bill Roggio’s claim that there really wasn’t any such thing as “rogue” JAM until Sadr skipped town. If there wasn’t before, says WaPo, there is now:
At least two Shiite rivals, with some internal support, have been jockeying to take over parts of Sadr’s powerful Mahdi Army since he left for Iran earlier this year, officials say. Sadr has had trouble both leading and controlling his movement from afar, they said, as his absence has encouraged subordinates and earlier rivals to move in on his turf.
“It’s clear that he does not control all the organization. There are splinter groups that don’t answer and won’t answer to him, particularly since he is in Tehran now,” the senior Pentagon official said. While some officials think that Sadr — who is the son of a famous ayatollah who was killed during Saddam Hussein’s rule — is in Tehran, others said he is in Qom, a center of religious learning with many ties to Iraqi clerics…
In early August, Sadr purged undisciplined factional commanders not showing fealty, leaving the Mahdi Army smaller, tighter and more coherent, U.S. officials said. The streamlining was influenced in part by the Iranian government, which sought a unified front rather than a ragged array of militias fighting one another, the sources added.
Splinter groups would be bad if the splinters are more fanatic than Sadr, but obviously not so bad if they’re less so. Roggio has said the game all along has been to label the guys we’re bumping off as “rogue” to preserve the legitimacy of the rest and give the moderates among them space to negotiate. Hopefully that’s what’s happening with some of these breakaways. Which, if so, would explain the urgency among the Sunni jihadis to make the war hot again.
I’ll leave you with a pair of links: Stratfor on anxiety among Al Qaeda’s leadership about their burgeoning feud with homegrown Iraqi Sunni insurgents, and Reuters on the release of some of the Iraqi cops who went on a rampage in Tal Afar the other day — to help quell the unrest caused by their rampage.