Is Iraq's Sadr Cease Fire Unraveling?


A couple of weeks ago, Gen. David Petraeus touted the decline in violence in Iraq in recent months, and credited two main developments: the Sunni “Awakening” and the cease-fire called by Shiite cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr. This week, the latter seems to be unraveling.
A cease-fire critical to the improved security situation in Iraq appeared to unravel Monday when a militia loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr began shutting down neighborhoods in west Baghdad and issuing demands of the central government.
Simultaneously, in the strategic southern port city of Basra, where Sadr’s Mahdi militia is in control, the Iraqi government launched a crackdown in the face of warnings by Sadr’s followers that they’ll fight government forces if any Sadrists are detained. By 1 a.m. Arab satellite news channels reported clashes between the Mahdi Army and police in Basra.
The freeze on offensive activity by Sadr’s Mahdi Army has been a major factor behind the recent drop in violence in Iraq, and there were fears that the confrontation that’s erupted in Baghdad and Basra could end the lull in attacks, assassinations, kidnappings and bombings.

This not only points to a potentially devastating development, it’s also a relatively surprising reversal. Just one month ago, Sadr announced an extension of the cease-fire for another six months, leading many to hope there might be some semblance of stability (by Iraq standards) in the lead up to the country’s October elections.

Conditions in Iraq have worsened in recent weeks, but that was before Sadrists began making their move. Now, even the semblance of stability is very much in doubt.>p

Today offers no more encouragement than yesterday.

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