The Corner

Important Iraq news

From the New York Times:

The Iraqi government removed the country’s two most senior police commanders from their posts on Tuesday, in the first broad move against the top leadership of Iraq’s unruly special police forces.

The two generals had led Iraq’s special police commandos and its public order brigade, both widely criticized as being heavily infiltrated by Shiite militias. Their removal comes at a crucial time for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who has come under intense American pressure to purge Iraq’s security forces of the militias and death squads that operate within their ranks.

Also, there’s this:

Iraq’s interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani, said Friday that he had already fired more than 3,000 employees, and that, with Mr. Maliki’s approval, no one was too senior to be immune. It was not clear, however, how much more of a purge would be needed.

But Sadr is still a big, and politically delicate, problem:

Another serious problem for American officials is Mr. Maliki’s refusal to allow a major crackdown on Mr. Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi Army. This has been a long-smoldering issue for the Americans, who faced two uprisings by the Shiite militia in April and August 2004, only to have Mr. Sadr escape outright defeat when Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most powerful Shiite cleric in Iraq, intervened, allowing Mr. Sadr to keep large parts of his militia intact…

…In the face of resistance by the Iraqi government, the American military has shifted to a campaign of attrition against the Sadr forces. There have been a series of raids in recent months similar to the one carried out in Shuala on Tuesday morning, each of them aimed at major figures in Mr. Sadr’s network. American commanders have said that some of the targets have been rogue groups that have broken with the Mahdi Army, becoming little more than independent criminal gangs. But others, including the cleric arrested in Tuesday’s raid, appear to have been important figures in Mr. Sadr’s power structure.

Reflecting the political sensitivities involved, the American forces, in announcing the raids, have studiously avoided any reference to Mr. Sadr or the Mahdi Army.

Mr. Maliki strongly criticized American forces on national television in August after a raid in Mr. Sadr’s stronghold, a sprawling district of cinderblock houses and fluttering Shiite flags called Sadr City.

Mr. Sadr has denied that his militia is involved in criminal enterprise or sectarian killings, but it is impossible to tell just how implicated the senior leadership is. Some senior aides have gone into hiding.


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