Another Day, Another Cease-Fire, Another Add-On to Death and Human Suffering

Leila Fadel in McClatchy:

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.

The 14-point agreement, via Bill Roggio:

The major points of the agreement, based on press reports, are as follows:

• The Iraqi government and the Mahdi Army would observe a four-day cease-fire.
• At the end of the cease-fire, Iraqi forces would be allowed to enter Sadr City and conduct arrests if warrants have been issued, or if the Mahdi Army is in possession of medium or heavy weapons (RPGs, rockets, mortars).
• The Mahdi Army and the Sadrist bloc must recognize the Iraqi government has control over the security situation and has the authority to move security forces to impose the law.
• The Mahdi Army would end all attacks, including mortar and rockets strikes against the International Zone.
• The Mahdi Army must clear Sadr City of roadside bombs.
• The Mahdi Army must close all “illegal courthouses.”
• The Iraqi government would reopen the entrances to Sadr City.
• The Iraqi government would provide humanitarian aid to the residents of Sadr City.

American forces are banned from entering Sadr City, according to a Sadrist quoted in the McClatchy piece:

Like many things in Iraq, the precise effect of the agreement won’t be known immediately. Sadr officials long have claimed that their militia has no heavy weaponry, and Sadr has condemned those with such munitions.

Sadr supporter Araji, however, said the agreement specifically barred American forces from entering Sadr City.

“The Iraqi forces, not the American forces, can come into Sadr City and search for weapons,” Araji said. “We don’t have big weapons, and we want this to stop.”

The usual suspects on the right are casting this as a victory for U.S. military strategy:

… the Iraqi people were not rising up to side with Sadr and the Mahdi thugs, but instead were relieved when they Mahdi thugs were dispatched and the Iraqi government took control. Sadr was doomed from the beginning – as I predicted. He had no support among the mainstream Shiite leadership. …

So Maliki and the US have taken on and beaten the Mahdi Army which now agrees to disarm as Maliki directed. Will there be cheering in the streets of Sadr City on this finale? You bet there will be, along with a new sense of pride in the Iraqi government. The second biggest losers in all this were the doom&gloom liberal SurrenderMedia and Surrendercrats. The world just won’t produce another Vietnam for them. Their predictions were wrong – again. And their hopes of a US failure in Iraq were wrong – as they have always been. Wrong in a smelly, sick kind of way.

… as a defeat for Iranian influence in Iraq (without mentioning the fact that al-Maliki’s government is also backed by Iran):

… 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. …

… as a humiliating defeat for al-Sadr: “Oh, look. Maliki beat the Sadrists like a red-headed stepchild.” (Touchingly sweet simile there, Moe.)

… and as a triumph for democracy and the will of the people (without mentioning that the people’s will was exerted in response to the devastation caused by a massive air and ground attack by U.S. and Iraqi Army forces):

Sadr had no choice, he was loosing [sic] thugs via the American/Iraqi forces, but most important support [sic] of the local populace due to collateral casualties. …

[…]

… this is a big story from the standpoint of something more than just the Iraqi government’s taking charge of their own affairs. Even the offensive against Sadr’s forces which was unmistakable and swift [sic].

It’s a big story because of who is really responsible for the success – the people of Sadr City.

[…]

In a democracy it’s the will of the people that rules and here we can call that principal [sic] a glowing success.

For me, though, the prize for Most Oblivious Right-Wing Commentary goes to Bruce McQuain, who chides Matthew Yglesias (misspelled in McQ’s post) and Eric Martin (of American Footprints) for being “a day late and a dollar short” in posting about the terror, death, and destruction being visited on the 2.5 million residents of Sadr City before the cease-fire ended the killing.

Here is part of what Eric wrote:

The BBC offers one version of the grisly death toll:

In the last seven weeks around 1,000 people have died, and more than 2,500 others have been injured, most of them civilians.

Back to McClatchy:

In most of Sadr City, people haven’t had food rations for more than a month and a half, and the Red Crescent has distributed thousands of food packs, 100 tons of flour and supplied four tons of medical supplies to the two main hospitals.

Wonder if this hospital was on the receiving end of those supplies:

IRAQI soldiers yesterday detained dozens of policemen and closed down a hospital suspected of treating Shiite militiamen in a Baghdad stronghold of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

Or maybe this one?

A major hospital in Baghdad’s Sadr City slum was damaged Saturday when an American military strike targeted a militia command center just a few yards away, the U.S. military said. […]

The rocket strike near Sadr Hospital injured 30 people, shattered the windows of ambulances and sent doctors and hospital staff fleeing the scene, hospital officials said.

So let’s recap the scene: the US military and its Iraqi “allies” are laying siege to a sprawling neighborhood in Baghdad housing roughly 2.5 million Iraqis, launching air strikes, artillery attacks, tank shells and other assorted ordnance, shutting down hospitals and bombing others, cutting off the supply of food and walling off entire sectors of the embattled region, causing a refugee crisis by their actions – and now actually pursuing a policy with the intent of creating a larger refugee crisis!

And part of Matthew’s response:

Indeed. One of several perverse elements of the U.S. presence in Iraq is that the presence itself is, at least in part, a cause of violent conflict in Iraq. The big achievement of the past 18 months, after all, has been to convince many Sunni insurgents to stop allying with Al-Qaeda in Iraq. But the alliance with AQI only commenced in the first place because Sunni Arab groups wanted to take up arms against the American occupation and were seeking allies in that cause. Now our guns are aimed at the Sadrists because they want us to leave. And naturally, we can’t leave until we’ve achieved “victory” defined as killing everyone who wants us to leave.

McQ’s response: “Matt Yglesais and Eric Martin, are, as usual, a day late and a dollar short.” Is there any way to read that but as a dismissive sneer at the two wusses who are obsessing about thousands of dead and injured civilians, U.S. airstrikes on hospitals, and a flood of new refugees, when the U.S. occupation forces and U.S.-trained Iraqi forces of the U.S.-backed al-Maliki government have just given us an exhilarating example of military might by America and America’s proxies? Bombed-out cities and dead women and children? That is SO yesterday.

And about those dead and wounded:

More than 1,010 have died in Sadr City since fighting erupted at the end of March, according to Iraqi government figures offered by al-Sheikhly. Another 2,930 have been wounded, he said. Ongoing fighting continues to worsen the crisis in the vast Shi’ite slum, the Baghdad stronghold of the Shi’ite Mahdi Army militia. Mohammed Kamel Hassan, a volunteer organizer in Sadr City for the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, said up to 500 families have already been displaced from areas around the fighting in recent days. “We have a big movement,” said Hassan, whose organization is working closely with the Iraqi government on new emergency plans. “The situation is very bad.”

U.N. estimates say that up to 6,000 people have already fled their homes in Sadr City while another 150,000 remain essentially trapped in areas locked down by military forces. Al-Sheikhly and Hassan said at present no evacuation of any part of Sadr City is underway. But residents in areas of heavy fighting said Iraqi army troops were urging civilians to move to the shelter of nearby stadiums with announcements over loudspeakers.

Cernig has the reality-based commentary:

News reports and statements from Iraqi government members say that once again Iran played a big role in getting Maliki to back off from wiping out his main political rival, through pressure on Sadr as well as on the ISCI and Dawa parties. The deal thus consolidates Iran as the main Big Brother neighbour for Iraq’s Shiite majority and makes it’s influence there well-nigh unshakeable. Witness Maliki’s back-pedalling on U.S. claims of Iranian weaponry.

As to Sadr, winning an armed conflict with the U.S. and the Iraqi central government was never an option for him. He’s succeeded in splitting the Iraqi Army off from U.S. aid against his movement – thus neutralising the threat to his militia, as Crittenden notes, because the Iraqi Army on its own cannot defeat the Mahdi Army despite U.S. spin to the contrary. Maliki has backed off from earlier demands that the Mahi Army be dissolved and there will, it seems, be a four day ceasefire before the Iraqi Army begins to search the teeming slum for heavy weapons. Best of luck to them with that, after giving the militias so much time to hide everything.

But far more important for him is that he now keeps his political hopes alive, with elections where his movement can expect to make considerable inroads against his ISCI rivals looming. That was always the prize, and he has taken it.

3 Responses to “Another Day, Another Cease-Fire, Another Add-On to Death and Human Suffering”

  1. Papa Ray says:

    While no one likes to see “civilians” killed or injured, the facts are that in the type of war that is being fought in Iraq and the Afghan is being fought right smack dab in the middle of civilians.

    Mostly by design by the “insurgents” and “freedom fighers”.

    They know that the western military is shy when it comes to killing civilians, so they take advantage of it. Also it seems the Iraqis and others don’t seem to understand that they need to leave the area of fighting, they want to stay and protect what meager things that they have. That is to be admired, but it also leads to more civilian deaths and injuries.

    Today’s “precison” weapons are still not so “smart” that they can tell the difference between a civilian and a “freedom fighter” when they are both in a house that just fired a weapon out the window or from the roof. Someday maybe weapons will be developed that just put everybody to sleep for a few hours and allow them to be taken alive.

    But that day is long coming, and I suspect if we did have them today, there would be outrage and cries of using “Chemical Warefare” against civilians.

    Just be glad that no more were killed or injured. War is not designed to allow just the bad guys to be killed. It is an equal oppertunity killer.

    While liberals and progressives bitch and call our millitary murderers, the rest of America prays for all (especially the liberals) and praises our military.

    Papa Ray
    West Texas
    USA

  2. Malagent says:

    So war sucks, people die – what’s new about that?

    Just imagine how many civilians would have died by the hands of Saddam and his minions. Or a little later how many would die if the US forces did pack up and leave as so many from left field want.

    Whether the conditions are optimal or not the point is that the Iraqi government is getting control of Iraq, which is not a good thing but a very necessary thing.

    The terrorists/insurgents and self proclaimed “freedom fighters” in Iraq (and indeed elsewhere) know that US troops do their best to avoid harming civilians but as the commentator above correctly points out the bad guys will take advantage of this. they take over homes, neighborhoods and even cities. that way they can shoot at, fire rockets at and kill troops. then when the troops fight back they can start screaming that “civilians were killed”

    Of course the media and the raging left are quick to jump on that bandwagon as well.

  3. DrGail says:

    Malagent: It is not, as you and Papa Ray suggest, that we’re quick to call the military murderers. At least speaking for myself, I am well aware that civilians are frequently killed and displaced when they are in the path of a war, and I understand that putting civilians in harms’ way is often a tactic in a guerilla-type war.

    In fact, I believe that this is precisely why we should take every step to avoid wars of this kind. We should be sure that every diplomatic and other possible avenue for peaceful resolution has been exhausted, and it goes without saying (or at least it should have) that we have an obligation to ensure that we have our damn facts straight beforehand.

    There are innocent people being killed — people who did absolutely nothing wrong beyond trying to live their lives and love their families and do whatever it is they wanted to do in life. Instead, they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    What if it were your neighbor? Or your daughter? Or you?

    And the military. Don’t get me started on that. It is absolutely disgraceful what we’re doing to them. Making them fight a stupid war that was started by people so vain and blinded by their own ambitions that they can’t even end the damn thing, gracefully or otherwise. Putting the troops in harms’ way for no good reason, risking their lives and bodies and minds without giving them proper protection, training, services, or care after they come home. Respecting the troops, indeed!

    Finally, the media, who you lump in with us “raging left”. It’s a funny thing about them. I guess it depends on where you’re sitting, because it sure doesn’t look like they’re very liberal to me.

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