The renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged Iraqi forces to stop cooperating with the United States and told his guerrilla fighters to concentrate their attacks on American troops rather than Iraqis, according to a statement issued Sunday.
The statement, stamped with al-Sadr’s official seal, was distributed in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Sunday — a day before a large demonstration there, called for by al-Sadr, to mark the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.
“You, the Iraqi army and police forces, don’t walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your archenemy,” the statement said. Its authenticity could not be verified.
In the statement, al-Sadr — who commands an enormous following among
Iraq’s majority Shiites and has close allies in the Shiite-dominated government — also encouraged his followers to attack only American forces, not fellow Iraqis.
This looks to me like a bid to reunite his fragmenting army by giving them a common infidel enemy to fight. And that enemy would be us. Secondarily, he probably wants to unite all Iraqis to fight against the US under his banner. That ain’t happening. He doesn’t have that kind of clout.
Our troops have had a hands-off approach to al-Sadr for far too long, due to his dual status as both an armed rabble-rouser and a legitimate politician. But if he has now decided that his forces will exclusively attack Americans, he’s putting his entire army and himself back in the US crosshairs. The sooner we deal with him now that he has declared war on us, the better.