August 16, 2008

Muqtada al-Sadr - Let's address the issue

Last week, Muqtada al-Sadr surprised many Iraq-watchers with the announcement that he was converting his jaysh al-mahdi (Army of the Mahdi) from a militia to a services organization. It was met with skepticism.

We've seen this sort of behavior before from other insurgent/terrorist organizations - it is reminiscent of Hizballah in Lebanon. Years ago, Hizballah began a series of service programs to provide education, health care, financing, etc., in southern Lebanon. True, these efforts were needed and well-received. On the other hand, Hizballah continued to increase its military capabilites and the size of its militia, supported by the Iranians and Syrians.

Their excuse for not adhering to the Taif Accords and United Nations resolutions? As long as Israel is occupying a part of Lebanon, they have the right to maintain their militia. That is true - the accords state that the militia will be disbanded and the Israelis will withdraw from Lebanon. However, the Lebanese terrority that Hizballah claims is occupied by Israel is not (and never has been) part of Lebanon. The Shab'a Farms are part of Syria, despite the fictitious claims of both the Syrians and Hizballah leader Hasan Nasrallah. Even the United Nations agrees that the Shaba' Farms (currently occupied by Israel) are part of Syria.

Just as everyone thought al-Sadr's announcement was a step in the right direction for the future of Iraq, reality soon set in. Al-Sadr did not decide to become a humanitarian out of his concern for his fellow man - he realized that resistance to American forces and the emerging Iraqi security forces was futile. Every time his band of thugs challenged American troops, they suffered huge casualties. That's usually the case - when you have a bunch of undisciplined thugs and bullies with guns take on professional military forces, they lose.

Now we have the real story - Muqtada al-Sadr has called for his followers to sign - in blood no less - an oath of resistance to what he calls American occupation forces. He just will not work with the government for the betterment of the country - this guy has been a problem since 2003.

Why is al-Sadr being allowed to continue this seditious insurgency? There were plans to elimiate him in 2003, but were cancelled by Jerry Bremer - yes, the same man that disbanded the Iraqi army and forced the United States into an occupation that we had not planned for, nor were manned for.

If Muqtada al-Sadr insists on continuing down this path of obstruction, perhaps it is time to finally - and I mean finally - address the issue.