Saturday, April 10, 2004

Going after Sadr: another big mistake by Washington: "The US cannot agree on a credible figure to represent the minority Sunnis because the White House rejects dealing with any former senior Baathists from Saddam Hussein's regime. Yet without a Sunni leader, the US has no chance of containing the insurgency in the troubled 'Sunni triangle'. 'That is a serious, serious problem still,' said Feldman. 'It's a no-screwing-around real problem.'

"Until recently, Feldman believed the Shiite majority would work with the Americans. Al-Sadr, he said, was being effectively marginalised by al-Sistani and he thought the US would let that play out. But al-Sadr's operatives two months ago began building a political alliance with Sunni clerics in Baghdad who were opposed to the occupation. They told Brahimi they would not support US troops being stationed in Iraq after June 30.

"Sometime in the past few weeks, Bush's national security team made a decision to take on al-Sadr and destroy his power base, crushing his ability to play any significant role in Iraq post-June 30. Rumsfeld virtually acknowledged that this week. 'We knew al-Sadr would react when the coalition took action to shut down his newspaper and to arrest his deputy.' Feldman believes it is a huge mistake. 'Going after al-Sadr was the stupidest thing Bremer has done since the disbanding of the [Iraqi] military.' Feldman believes Sadr is now giving more restive and alienated Shiites a rallying point. 'I think the Shia resistance by al-Sadr has the capacity to bubble up and get other Shia to join him if we go after him in a big way.'"

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