Radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has imposed his own cease fire, has become furious at recent events in the city of Basra where Iraq army units attacked members of his Mahdi army. He is now calling for a “civil revolt” after the crackdown on his army resulted in the loss of 22 lives. Al-Sadr told the Iraq people: “We call upon all Iraqis to stage sit-ins all over as a first step. And, if the people’s demands are not respcted,by the Iraqi government, the second step will be to declare a civil revolt in Baghdad and all other provinces.” There was mention of a “third step” but not details were forthcoming as to what it would entail. Iraq General Ali Zaidan said his forces were engaged in dealing with “outlaw” and TV footage revealed firing in Basra and people getting killed. British forces which have been in Basra from the initial days of the Iraq war are not getting involved in the fighting.
Basra is being contested by several rival groups including al-Sadr’s Mahdi army, the Supreme Iraq Council and the smaller Fadhila party. If al-Sadr ends his truce there is no telling how it will impact the war in Iraq except to deepen divisions within the nation and escalate fighting. Fighting and killing in Iraq has begun to rise during the past few weeks after the decline that resulted from the surge. Perhaps, the Bush administration was too quick to claim a victory and the future is still clouded as to what will happen.