Window Of Lost Opportunity?
The Sadr militia has now made it clear that its cease-fire may not be permanent, and many senior Sadrites are openly calling for a resumption of hostilities:
BAGHDAD (AP) - Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has threatened to lift by the end of the week a six-month cease-fire widely credited with helping reduce violence in Iraq, officials said Wednesday.The Sadr forces are angry about joint U.S.-Iraqi army actions against Shi'ite militia in the south of Iraq, far from the Sadr strongholds in and around Baghdad.
Sheik Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for al-Sadr in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, said that if the cleric failed to issue a statement by Saturday saying that the cease-fire was extended "then that means the freeze is over."
The cease fire was declared in August and due to expire at this month's end.
Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army is among the most powerful militias in Iraq. The crux of the message being sent by the organization was that al-Sadr followers would be free to resume their activities if no message was sent by the cleric on Feb. 23.
Should they go back to full-on terror warfare, the relative peace in the country would very likely be shattered, even if the Iraqi people reject the Sadrites as forcefully as they have been turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq. (Or the announcement could just be a bargaining ploy to exact power and authority out of the Iraqi government.)
If the Shi'a militia jump back in, fighting that could easily be peaking just as the Surge is scheduled to end. That glum scenario, if it becomes real, will certainly accomplish one thing: It will rip the election away from the economy and health care and back to the war in the months building up to the parties' conventions.