Friday, April 11, 2008

There Will Be Blood

I would be pretty nervous right now if I were a high ranking ISCI official.

Iraqi police imposed a curfew to prevent an outbreak of violence in the southern Shi'ite holy city of Najaf on Friday, after a senior aide to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was shot dead.

Police set up road blocks and drove through the city with loudspeakers ordering shops closed and people off the streets after Riyadh al-Nuri, a top Sadr aide whose sister is married to the cleric's brother, was gunned down.

Sadr blamed the United States and the U.S.-backed Iraqi government for the slaying.

"This is the hand of the occupier and his successor reaching out traitorously and aggressively against our precious martyr," the cleric said in a statement. "It is my vow that I will not forget this precious blood."

Dozens of angry followers gathered at Shi'ite Islam's main cemetery in the holy city to bury Riyadh.

In a speech to mourners, Sadr aide Abdul-Hadi al-Mohammedawi quoted the cleric as saying followers should remain "calm and not to drift into strife".

It's good to hear appeals to calm, but I'd bet there's going to be a tit for this tat in the next couple of weeks. Worse still, it is indicative of a larger trend. As I noted recently, the US and its Iraqi allies seem to headed toward a full-on confrontation with Sadr and his constituency.

Recent airstrikes in populated areas, as well as collective punishment tactics employed against Sadr City and the Shula districts of Baghdad (home to roughly 2.5 million Iraqis), are creating a deep bitterness in much of the Shiite population toward occupation and Green Zone forces.

That population is an unwieldy size to try to suppress with such measures, and it is hard to imagine such hardened attitudes will disappear in short oder. The situation could easily spiral out of control - to the extent that it hasn't already. On the other hand, the Surge is working, we are (still) winning (again) and the Democrats refuse to acknowledge our imminent victory out of political calculation.

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