twitter

Monday, July 25, 2016

Powerful Shia cleric says US troops are a target

Powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr told his followers to target U.S. ground troops deploying in Iraq to help fight against the Islamic State.

While Al-Sadr has tolerated the allied bombing campaign, he has constantly warned about the presence of U.S. troops on the ground. The U.S. has been continually raising the number of troops on the ground in Iraq even though they are supposedly just in an advisory role. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said 560 additional troops will be sent later this year to Iraq to help retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State. The total U.S. troops in Iraq now will be 4,647, although troops just in Iraq for a short term apparently are not counted.
Al-Sadr was prominent after the 2003 occupation of Iraq. His Mahdi army — disbanded in 2008 and replaced by the Peace Brigades, who helped keep the Islamic State out of Baghdad — often battled with U.S. troops. The group is present in Baghdad and several other cities.
Sadr's main target so far has nothing to do with the U.S. and its troops but is against his own government. Sadr and others have been demanding reforms of the government and political system to root out corruption. Sadr's followers and supporters of reform have already twice breached the Green Zone, an ultra-secure area where the parliament and many embassies are. When the Zone was breached, the Iraqi parliament was the target, not the U.S. embassy.
Other Shi'ite militias have made similar pledges to target U.S. troops, but so far none have attacked them. If Sadr actually carries through on his threats, this could cause serious problems for the U.S. deployment in Iraq — the U.S. might find itself having to fight Shi'ite militias who are allies in the fight against IS. However, it seems Al Sadr's more immediate goal is to reform the Iraqi government. He wants to replace often corrupt cabinet ministers appointed by parties by technocrats. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has tried to implement reforms of the type Sadr recommends but political pressure has prevented him from doing so. The present parties benefit from the existing power-sharing system.
Just last Friday, Sadr supporters demonstrated at the entrance to the Green Zone but no attempt was made to breach the barrier. Security was tight and included representatives of the Peace Brigades.
Just today, Al-Abadi announced the resignation of six cabinet ministers. One was the Interior Minister who resigned after the recent blast in Baghdad on July 3 that killed almost 300 people. However, the oil minister also resigned, as did the minister of transport, housing, water resources and industry. Al-Abadi said he wanted to move away from the present power-sharing system. Perhaps with the resignation of the six ministers, Al-Abadi will be able to meet some of Al-Sadr's demands for reform.


1 comment:

Blogger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.