The government of Prime Minister Maliki was undoubtedly caught in a cross fire between demands of the Bush administration for proof he could impose peace in Iraq and determination of Muqtada al-Sadr to resist any attempt of eliminating his militia. The result was an ill-fated attack by about 30,000 Iraqi army and police upon militant forces in Basra, a city sitting atop major oil reserves. In the bitter fighting, hundreds were killed or wounded and there is no evidence al-Sadr’s forces have been beaten. However, the radical cleric issued a cease fire on condition the Iraq government ends its attack. “We call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and other other provinces. Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us.”
The Iraq government is now under pressure to end “illegal arrests” of members of the Mahdi army and implementation of an amnesty for those arrested. The Iraq government regarded al-Sadrs proposal as a “positive step.” However, American airplanes are bombing targets in Basra and at least 300 people reportedly have been killed and hundreds of others wounded.
The Iraqi army attack has not accompllished its goals of enforcing peace in the Basra are. In addition to al-Sadr’s forces there are other millitant groups still in control of areas in the city. The fiasco of this attempt merely once again reflects the misunderstanding of the Bush administration that military rather than political action is essential to bring about peace in Iraq.