January 13, 2007

Muqtada Al-Sadr: He has to go

The biggest threat to our success in Iraq is Muqtada Al-Sadr. He has to go. President Bush needs to tell Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki that either he neutralizes Al-Sadr or we will. Then the President needs to order American forces in Iraq to hunt down Al-Sadr and capture or kill him. I don't mean "negotiate his surrender" (we saw how well that worked for us in Afghanistan at Tora Bora), nor allow him to go into exile in Iran, but unconditionally seize him and place him under arrest. If he resists and is killed in the process, so much the better.

Am I being clear enough? Al-Sadr has become the folk hero to the Iraqi Shi'a, indicated by the chanting of his name by witnesses at the execution of Saddam Husayn.

During last week's ceremonies marking the 86th anniversary of the creation of the Iraqi Army, soldiers openly chanted the names "Muhammad, Haydar, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn." That in itself should raise concern. While Muhammad is revered by all Muslims, Haydar (a nickname for 'Ali), Fatimah (Muhammad's daughter and 'Ali's wife), Hasan and Husayn (both children of the couple) are revered only by the Shi'a. The Iraqi Army is theoretically the army of the entire country, not just the Shi'a, although many Sunnis perceive it that way. To make matters worse, those chants of the Shi'a religious icons were followed by chants of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada."

Consider the reaction of 'Abd Al-Razzaq Al-Nadawi, a senior official in Al-Sadr's movement, to the planned increase in the number of American forces in Iraq - "The American people have to prevent their sons from coming to Iraq or they may return in coffins."

We should have arrested Al-Sadr long ago for complicity in the 2003 murder of Imam 'Abd Al-Majid Al-Khu'i. Since that did not happen, he should have been killed or arrested when he engineered an uprising in Al-Najaf in 2004. Thanks to the Ambassador Bremer's lack of spine he was allowed to survive both times. Now he has reached cult status among Iraqi's Shi'a.

Analysts have warned that killing Al-Sadr will create a martyr. That may be, but at this point that is a risk that must be taken. If he is not removed - imprisoned or killed - he will eventually emerge as the main power figure in the country, and we can look forward to the "Tehran annex."