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Yeah, The End of the Sadrist Ceasefire

Aaaaaaaand so much for the Sadrist ceasefire. According to The New York Times, Iraqi and U.S. (!) forces are now battling the Mahdi Army in Baghdad — and around the country. And it’s not even just the Sadrists who are fighting.

Heavy fighting broke out Tuesday in Basra and Baghdad, after Iraqi ground forces and helicopters mounted a major operation in Basra against Shiite militias, including the Mahdi Army, whose months-long cease-fire is credited with reducing the level of violence during the troop surge. There were also serious clashes in the southern cities of Kut and Hilla.

In Basra, Iraq’s most important oil-exporting center, thousands of Iraqi government soldiers and police moved into the city around 5 a.m. and engaged in pitched battles with Shiite militia members that have taken over big swathes of that city.

What appeared to be American or British jets also soared through the skies, witnesses said, providing air support. The operation, which senior Iraqi officials had been signaling for weeks, is considered so important by the Iraqi government that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who went to Basra on Monday, intended to personally direct the fighting, several Iraqi officials said.

I recommend a two-pronged strategy. First, begin drinking heavily. Second, withdraw immediately from Iraq. Consider this:

“We are doing this in reaction to the unprovoked military operations against the Mahdi Army,” said a Mahdi commander who identified himself as Abu Mortada. “The U.S., the Iraqi government and SCIRI are against us,” he said, referring to a rival Shia group. “They are trying to finish us. They want power for the Iraqi government and SCIRI.” But Basra has been riven by violent power struggles among the Mahdi Army and local Shiite rivals, such as one controlled by the Fadhila political party. In the weeks leading up to the operation, Iraqi officials indicated that part of the operation would be aimed at the Fadhila groups, who are widely believed to be in control of Basra’s lucrative port operations and other parts of the city.

That doesn’t sound like “civil disobedience.” That sounds like an intifada. If it doesn’t get tamped down like right now, it represents an overturning of the creaking apple cart known as the Baghdad political process, and the replacement of the Shiite political leadership. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that here in the States it’s Happy Hour.

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