The Sadr City Raids

Following up the raids in Sadr City; Maliki did approve of the raids

Targeting Sadr City. Image courtesy of MNF-Iraq. Click image to view.

The primary target of the joint Iraqi and U.S. raid inside Sadr city on October 25 was directed as Mahdi Army commander Abu Dura (or Abu Deraa), a death squad leader believed to be responsible for some of the worst sectarian killing in and around Baghdad. The initial raid led to a follow on operation in Sadr City, after "credible intelligence indicating that criminals involved in the kidnapping of a US Soldier were located in a Sadr City mosque" was although it is unclear if this intelligence was obtained during the initial raid. Note the Coalition now believes the Mahdi Army may be complicit in the kidnapping of an American soldier - an incident that will only increase the pressure on Sadr.

At the initial target - a Sadr City residence believed to be hiding Abu Dura - 10 Mahdi Army fighters were killed, 2 were wounded and 10 captured, In the follow on raid at the mosque, three Mahdi Army fighters were killed. No Iraqi troops or Coalition forces casualties were taken during the fights.

The raid was lead by the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces, and supported by U.S. embedded trainers and air assets. The 1st Iraqi SOF reports directly to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who initially protested the raid and claimed he wasn't aware of it. Maliki has since backtracked from this statement, and now claims "the raid had his backing but argued that it was conducted in a heavy handed way that could wreck a political deal he had worked on with Muqtada al-Sadr," according to Reuters.

Maliki has to walk the line as a politician, and as an Iraqi politician has his Iraqi constituents to consider at times. He must not always be seen as being in lockstep with the Americans/Coalition, particularly when Iraqis are killed. Richard Fernandez sums up Maliki's dilemma nicely:

Legally Iraq is a sovereign country, which the US must treat it as any other country from the perspective of US national interest. Theoretically Maliki is under no obligation to obey Washington, which is correspondingly under no compulsion to support Maliki. While America would prefer to see a stable government in Iraq that is ultimately a task that cannot be delegated to Americans indefinitely. So expect some hardball to be played as this is the way of relations between nations. That said, Maliki's statements imply he values American support less necessary than the goodwill of his Shi'ite base. Or that he perceives Shi'ite support as so important that he's willing to risk American goodwill. How solid that Shi'ite base will prove is open to question.

He also must be concerned with the very real threat that Sadr's Mahdi Army possesses to his and his family's safety. Sadr is not above the art of assassination. An Iraqi judge issued an arrest warrant for Sadr for his role in the murder of Abdul Majid al-Khoei, the influential, pro-American Shiite Cleric, at the steps of the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf. This warrant is still outstanding. Sadr has evaded this charge, as well as responsibility for the uprising in Najaf and southern Iraq and Baghdad during the spring and summer of 2004.


READER COMMENTS: "The Sadr City Raids"

Posted by Joshua Chamberlain at October 26, 2006 1:57 PM ET:

Kill Sadr.

Posted by Neo-andertal at October 26, 2006 2:23 PM ET:

That would provide good context for the raid, and possible pretext for further pressure on Sadr's militias, if more pretext were actually required. There is only so far they can go. It may provide a bit of extra political cover for going after "rogue elements" within Sadr's militia, those that are way out in from on terrorizing the population.

I think you still want to take a measured response against Sadr himself. I think their would be overwhelming negative repercussions to taking out Sadr or someone at the center of his organization. There is a reason Sadr puts the blame on "rogue elements". It allows deniability and an out if Sadr has to back down. I would play the "rogue elements" bit to the hilt and go after them. Sadr can always disavow them if he thinks he has to.

If Sadr gets too stubborn we can always drop a few mystery mortar rounds around his house. It's not like it hasn't happened before. It's not like I think we were responsible for past incidences, but who's to say we weren't. If I remember right, it kind of rattled him the last time it happened.

Posted by Neo-andertal at October 26, 2006 2:26 PM ET:

Typo, That was supposed to say:

those that are way out in front on terrorizing the population.

Posted by Neo-andertal at October 26, 2006 2:34 PM ET:


"Kill Sadr."

As much a I sympathize with your sentiment, I think killing Sadr would create too much blowback.

Now, if they actually caught his forces with an American hostage (alive or dead), I would advise killing Sadr. If that became reality they should kill him instantaneously without announcement and without the Iraqi government in the loop. If such drastic action were called for, it would be better to make it a personal mater and leave Maliki out of it.

Posted by Wally Lind at October 27, 2006 8:11 PM ET:

The Mahdi Army has been badly beaten by U.S. forces twice (they were rescued by al Sistani's intervention once), and will certainly be beaten by the Iraqi Army shortly. Their problem is they are really not a substantive military force. They murder helpless people they kidnap, and are dumb enough to stand up to professionally trained military forces. The only real military success they have had, in the past year, is against lightly armed police, and that was when the killed 12 policemen (who held the field) and lost 18 militiamen.