Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Has Iraq’s PM Finally Wised Up?

After some much needed convincing by American intelligence reports, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has finally seen the errors of his ways and has stopped supporting Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric with no great love for America, the Sunni or an Iraq governed by the people.

According to two unnamed government officials (the Associated Press story does not mention which government they are with), al-Maliki, who was a supporter of al-Sadr, finally realized that the militant leader of the Mahdi Army was really hurting the new Iraq. Apparently, the bombs, executions and bloodshed were not a tip off to al-Maliki, but then again, who knows what happens behind closed doors that made the prime minister open his eyes.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite himself, was supporting the Mahdi Army, even going so far as ending a U.S. blockade of Sadr City back in October of 2006, where the militia army has headquarters in the northeast Shiite enclave of Baghdad, according to the AP story, “Iraqi PM Ceases Protection of Anti-American Militia,” published Jan. 22, 2007.

In a previous blog (See Dec. 1, 2006, “Iraq Is Sleeping With The Enemy,” for more,) it stated how much control that al-Sadr had in the new Iraqi government and the best way to reiterate that is to quote the AP story.

“In a desperate bid to fend off an all-out American offensive, the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr last Friday ordered the 30 lawmakers and six Cabinet ministers under his control to end their nearly two-month boycott of the government. They were back at their jobs Sunday,” reports the Associated Press.

Did al-Maliki really need U.S. intelligence information to tell him who was really controlling a good portion of the new Iraq government? When you have a radical insurgent leader, who is killing your countrymen, telling your government leaders not to go to work, that’s a big wake up call that you’re not wearing the pants, Mr. Prime Minister. (The question that needs to be asked is, why didn’t Iraqi President Jalal Talabani step in and take proper control of that matter?)

And this is the biggest problem that we should all have with the new Iraqi government. Maybe that memo about the prime minister that was leaked a few months back was true about al-Maliki. He just does not have what it takes to run the country, or maybe he just enjoyed being in al-Sadr’s pocket. What type of benefits package did he receive?

However, he is listening to the wisdom of the U.S. military about al-Sadr but it is fair to speculate that there was some arm-twisting for him to see the light. That was an impression that I received in President Bush’s speech on the new Iraq plan a few weeks back.

“In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods — and Prime Minister (Nouri al- )Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated,” the president said on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007.

And to give al-Maliki credit, there has been significant progress. The Associated Press reported on Jan. 18, 2007, that 400 Shiite insurgents were arrested because of al-Maliki’s green light.

While al-Maliki’s loyalties should be questioned and considered, he is finally sending the right message to the Iraqi people and to the vicious insurgents who are destroying the country. Hopefully, this is the first major step in the new Iraq plan that will take down the insurgency.