Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It Was Only A Matter Of Time

The Mahdi Army cease-fire appears to have ceased. McClatchy has more in Battles wrack Basra, threatening success of U.S. surge:

BAGHDAD — Bloody clashes between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi government forces paralyzed the southern port of Basra Tuesday as the Iraqi government swore that it would cleanse the city of militia influences.

Residents of Basra cowered in their homes as Mahdi Army militiamen and Iraqi security forces battled across the second largest city in Iraq. Some 15,000 Iraqi Army and National Police were brought in to the city to take control. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, as well as the country's defense and interior ministers, were in the city to oversee the effort.

In Baghdad, Mahdi Army-controlled neighborhoods were virtually shut down in an act of protest against the government. Militiamen attacked the headquarters of their Shiite Muslim rivals, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and its military wing, the Badr Organization.

The fighting was the worst combat involving in the Mahdi Army in months and threatened to end a Mahdi Army cease-fire that U.S. officials have credited in part for the relative calm of the last several months. Basra, Iraq' primary port and the home province to 90 percent of Iraq’s oil, has long been disputed by various Shiite militias, including the Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization.

When the British military pulled out late last year it essentially handed the city over to the militias, and the Mahdi Army, which is loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, took control.

Government officials said they intended to take control of the city in three days.

Three days? Is it possible that things weren't ever going as well as we were lead to believe? You can be it is.


+Update: Tomorrow's Monitor has this chilling quote:

"The cease-fire is over; we have been told to fight the Americans," said one Mahdi Army militiaman, who was reached by telephone in Sadr City. This same man, when interviewed in January, had stated that he was abiding by the cease-fire and that he was keeping busy running his cellular phone store.
(HT: Atrios)