October 20, 2006

Iraqi prime minister and the militias - ADDENDUM

This is an addendum to my earlier piece, "Iraqi prime minister and the militias."

The Associated Press reported today that the 800 members of the jaysh al-mahdi (Mahdi Army) had taken over the southern city of Al-'Amarah (read story), in direct defiance of the Iraqi government. The militia members destroyed local police stations, set up checkpoints in the city, began armed patrols of the streets and ordered residents to remain indoors. British forces pulled out of Al-'Amarah in August. Since then, the Mahdi Army has tried to enforce adherence to Islamic law. The Mahdi Army is the militia associated with radical Shi'a cleric Muqtada As-Sadr.

Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki dispatched a delegation to negotiate the situation in the city. If he handles this like he has dealt with other militia activity, especially that of As-Sadr's Mahdi Army, not much will happen. If he is not willing to use Iraqi security forces to restore order, this will happen in other cities, and the spiral toward civil war will accelerate.