The Iraq army’s offensive against the Shiite militia of Muqtada al-Sadr apparently has stalled in its efforts to dislodge them from positions in Basra. The American military expected the Iraq army offense to demonstrate the success of US training efforts and make clear the government of Prime Minister Maliki was in control of the country. Instead of being a show of strength, the assault has encountered fierce opposition from opponents. Saboteurs blew up one of the two main oil export pipelines near Basra and cut by one-third exports of crude oil. In Baghdad, tens of thousands of supporters of al-Sadr marched through the streets shouting anti-Maliki slogans. “We demand the downfall of the Maliki government,” said Hussein Abu Ali, a demonstrator, “it does not reprsent the people. It represents Bush and Cheney.”
The main bastion of al-Sadr supporters is Sadr City which contains about two milliion people and the densely packed slum area has been sealed off by US troops. People are trapped inside without adqequate food, water, and electricity. In Basra, the Iraq army has cordoned off several districts but has failed in its attempt to dislodge Mahdi militia. The Iraq government says at least 51 are dead and hundeds wouonded as a result of the fighting.
President Bush offered congragulations to the Maliki government saying it faces a “tough battle against militia fighters and criminals.” The Iraq force of 15,000 soldiers and police is certainly insufficient to handle an area of two miillion people. At some point, the Maliki government will have to switch its efforts to the political arena since further military action is only bound to exacerbate the situation.