Everyone knows it’s happening, but it’s one thing to know it and another thing to see it. I’ll send you over to Iraqslogger to watch; you’ll need Zeyad’s translation to understand what’s happening anyway. Click the image.
The question after the big kidnapping in Baghdad is to what extent Sadr himself is still pulling the strings with these turds. The Telegraph reports that there were hints last week of an “emerging understanding” that we would leave him alone if he would bring them to heel. There were also rumors that the JAM deputy killed by the British in Basra last Friday was a troublemaker whom had fallen out of favor with the Sadrist leadership. In that case, why would Sadr have ordered a kidnapping to avenge him? Maybe it was Mahdi Army members acting on their own who did it. Or, of course, maybe Sadr felt he needed a show of force after he resurfaced to rally the troops behind him. Hard to say yet, but insofar as it suggests a possible power struggle within the group, it’s worth watching.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Pentagon thinks it may have to take a more “hands on” approach with the Iraqi government:
One debate roiling Baghdad now concerns whether the political process is stalled because elected officials are merely inneffectual or because they are more interested in advancing their sectarian agendas than in governance. The strategy review conducted for Gen. Petraeus seems to conclude it is a bit of both. The report argues that Iraq is essentially a failed state and that the U.S. must devote far more effort to making Iraq’s ministries work, said officials who participated in the review.
“We’ve been too passive and deferential to Iraqi sovereignty,” says one U.S. military official involved in a review of the surge for Gen. Petraeus.
It also recommends that the U.S. take a more active role in “isolating the irreconcilable Iraqi government officials from the reconcilable ones” by demanding they be replaced, said the military official who was involved in the review. Stephen Biddle, who served on the panel, said he believes Iraq is in the midst of a low-grade sectarian civil war and that U.S. forces should be used as leverage to compel Sunnis and Shiites to reach an accord.
The more we try to muscle the government, the more they’ll try to drum up support in parliament to ask us to withdraw. That’s their trump card, per Bush’s thousand speeches about democracy, and they know it.
Update: The Telegraph may have solved the mystery of the kidnapping.
A senior official in the Mahdi army militia told The Daily Telegraph that the captives – four security guards and a computer expert – had been taken to put pressure on Tony Blair and George Bush.
“We are holding the British until they release our brothers from Camp Bucca in Basra,” the cell commander said. “There are hundreds there under British security, some of them for years. When they are released the British will be allowed to go.”…
The Mahdi army official said the order to seize the hostages was handed down by Hassan Salim, the militia’s leading figure.
He said the group was seeking to emulate what it saw as the successful outcome of the recent seizure of the 15 British sailors by its allies in the Iranian government.
I don’t quite get that last part. Iran didn’t get anything in return for the sailors except the PR that came with looking magnanimous by letting them go. In any case, a top aide to Sadr denies he was involved. Annnnd … he might be telling the truth. Because another Telegraph article adds more details:
But today sources inside Sadr City claimed that the five [hostages] had since been moved south to the Dayara district.
They were said to be in the hands of Abu Daraa, a notoriously violent Shia warlord and criminal who split with Sadr to establish his own fiefdom.
Abu Deraa is known as the “Shiite Zarqawi,” mainly for his fondness for drilling holes in Sunnis’ heads. He’s long been rumored to be operating on his own but ostensibly under the banner of the Mahdi Army, so maybe Sadr really wasn’t involved. But then how to account for Hassan Salim’s involvement? I wonder if even these guys know anymore which of them are on the same side and who’s collaborating with whom.