Jaafari's allies denounce the Hayy Ur raid while MNF-I disputes the allegations of an unjustified assault
The political maneuvering has begun in the aftermath of the raid on the Mahdi Army headquarters in the Hayy Ur neighborhood. Jawad al-Maliki, an ally of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and spokesman for the United Iraqi Alliance, has called "for a rapid restoration of (control of) security matters to the Iraqi government," according to Reuters. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reports "Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr today described the killing as 'unjustified.' Baghdad provincial Governor Husayn al-Tahan said he has suspended cooperation with U.S. forces until an independent investigation can be carried out."
Reuters also reports Abd al-Karim al-Enzi, minister of state for national security, has decried the attack as a crime, inflated the casualties and basically equated the operation to that of a death squad; "At evening prayers, American soldiers accompanied by Iraqi troops raided the Mustafa mosque and killed 37 people...They were all unarmed. Nobody fired a single shot at them (the troops). They went in, tied up the people and shot them all. They did not leave any wounded behind." The United Iraqi Alliance has canceled Monday's talks on the formation of the Iraqi government.
Multinational Forces - Iraq continues to dispute claims such as those made by al-Enzi, and has photographs which demonstrate the "husseiniya" (again, which can be a mosque, a prayer room or just "a place of Hussein") did contain weapons, and that Iraqi troops were indeed involved in the operation. Omar at Iraq The Model provides further evidence the Sadr militia was in the room, and not innocent 'worshippers'; ; "However, the best evidence that proves that members of Mehdi army were inside the building came from a prominent Sdarist parliamentarian and spokesman of the Sdar trend; Baha' al-Aaraji told al-Hurra this evening that 'worshippers from inside the besieged husseiniya talked to us in person on the phone and asked for help '. So I wonder why would 'innocent ordinary worshippers' have the personal phone numbers of parliament members and Sadr office officials?"
A Soldier from the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade secures a small weapons cache. Click to enlarge. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Earnest Christian).
It should be noted that the Iraqi politicians condemning the raid in Hayy Ur are allies of Jaafari and Muqtada al-Sadr, and the various other political groups (the Kurdish alliance, the Sunni groups, Allawi's secular party and even SCIRI) have remained silent on this issue.
The raid on Sadr's milita should not be viewed as an isolated event, but as part of the continuing struggle to form the Iraqi government. The issue of the militias, and particularly Sadr's Mahdi Army, as well as Sadr's influence in the government, has come to a head. Last week, we discussed the creation of the Security Council, as well as a potential split between SCIRI and the United Iraqi Alliance over the selection of Jaafari as prime minister:
The Iraqi Security Forces continue to take on more of the security responsibility. And in an encouraging sign of political progress, the Iraqi politicians have agreed on the creation of a Security Council designed to "give each of the country's main political factions a voice in making security and economic policies for a new government..." and is "expected to set policies governing the army and police, the counter-insurgency campaign in Sunni Muslim Arab areas and the disarmament of Shiite Muslim militias accused of sectarian killings."
Two Soldiers from the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade secure a small weapons cache during an operation in northeast Baghdad March 26. Click to enlarge. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Earnest Christian).
Also, there is talk that SCIRI may break with the United Iraqi Alliance and join with Kurdish, secular Shiite and Sunni parties to nominate Abdel Mahdi as prime minister. This would override the UIA's appointment of Jaafari, and reduce the influence of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia is thought to be behind much of the Shiite-led sectarian violence. While this has not been confirmed, it certainly demonstrates the various parties are willing to discuss options, despite political or sectarian differences.
The initial reaction of Sadr and Jaafari's allies in the Iraqi government are likely a ploy to wrest further control of the Security Council and ensure Jaafari's appointment as prime minister. The opposing political parties, including elements within the United Iraqi Alliance, may be horrified by the stature Sadr's thugs are being given. The United Iraqi Alliance is by no means a monolithic bloc, and Jaafari's nomination was approved by a slim 64-63 vote. The Hayy Ur raid may actually serve to break the deadlock which has settled over the formation of the new Iraqi government, one way or another. And one has to wonder if that wasn't by design. As we stated yesterday, the Coalition has been telegraphing this move for some time.