According to the Basra Narrative, Moqtada al-Sadr scored a huge victory yesterday when he capitulated Sadr City to Nouri al-Maliki. Faced off against the Iraqi Army and the US military, Sadr agreed to drop all resistance to the central government as long as his men got to keep their small arms. McClatchy, however, still bitterly clings to its criticism of Maliki for “picking a fight” against armed thugs and rebels:
Followers of rebel cleric Muqtada al Sadr agreed late Friday to allow Iraqi security forces to enter all of Baghdad’s Sadr City and to arrest anyone found with heavy weapons in a surprising capitulation that seemed likely to be hailed as a major victory for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.
In return, Sadr’s Mahdi Army supporters won the Iraqi government’s agreement not to arrest Mahdi Army members without warrants, unless they were in possession of “medium and heavy weaponry.”
The agreement would end six weeks of fighting in the vast Shiite Muslim area that’s home to more than 2 million residents and would mark the first time that the area would be under government control since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003. On Friday, 15 people were killed and 112 were injured in fighting, officials at the neighborhoods two major hospitals said.
It also would be a startling turnaround in fortunes for Maliki, who’d been widely criticized for picking a fight with Sadr’s forces, first in the southern port city of Basra and then in Sadr City.
First the media declared Basra a military disaster, then complained that Maliki didn’t achieve victory quickly enough for them. Then they predicted disaster for Maliki and the US when they turned their attention to Sadr’s biggest power base, sure that a civil war would break out that would undo the gains achieved under the surge — gains they mostly ignored in the first place. They started toting up combat deaths and opined that Bush’s strategy had failed.
Today’s gripe is so absurd as to be comical. Maliki “picked a fight” with an armed militia that gets its funding and support from another country. The Mahdi Army conducts attacks against the government, runs protection rackets in territory it controls, and imposes its own laws on the terrorized populations in those areas. Let me ask McClatchy this: did Rudy Giuliani “pick a fight” with the Mafia in the 1980s? Maliki had tried for years to get Sadr to disband his gangs, but in the end Sadr either couldn’t or wouldn’t do it, and the Iraqi government had to end their rebellious activities and the Iranian hegemony they produced.
Now that Sadr has surrendered Sadr City, he has no more points of refuge outside of Iran. How about the media? What will be their point of refuge?