Rockets fall int he Green Zone, machine gun fire can still be heard in Basra, and the only reason relative calm is found in that war-torn city is due to the decision by Muqtada al-Sadr to issue a cease fire order to his troops. President Bush claimed the fight in Basra was a “defining moment” for the gvernment of Prime Minister Maliki. Maliki promised to crush criminal elements in Basra, but the real person calling the shots is al-Sadr. John McCain, who met with Maliki during his recent visit to Iraq, expressed “surprise” at the attempt to crush al-Sadr in Basra. According to latest figures about 1,247 Iraqis died in recent fighting including civilians as well as militants.
Where does Maliki go from here? The military approach which is favored so strongly by Bush is not working in Iraq. Al-Sadr will have to be recognized as an important force in Iraq politics. Maliki can boast his troops are in Basra, but he can not claim to have complete control of the city. If al-Sadr ends the cease fire, the chaos which has characterized Iraq will continue. The only defining moment is when all political parties in Iraq work together for peace.