Remember the time not so long ago when U.S. commanders used to call Muqtada al-Sadr “Sayyid”? Well, those days are now officially over. GEN Raymond Odierno, who will take over from Petraeus in September, spells out the new approach in a New York Times interview:
General Odierno said he would pay particular attention to militia forces loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric. In recent days Mr. Sadr has urged his followers to volunteer for a new social wing of his movement that he said would work alongside his militia, the Mahdi Army.
The effort raises the prospect of a radical group’s trying to garner popular support by challenging the government in meeting the needs of ordinary Iraqis. General Odierno warned that the tactic had proved effective in allowing Hezbollah forces in Lebanon allied with Iran to weaken the central government there.
‘We do not want the Hezbollah model inside of Iraq,’ he said. ‘We do not want an organization that is an alternative to the government.’
Maybe it’s a slip of the tongue, but Odierno is absolutely right. The U.S. has indeed proved again and again it will not tolerate any alternatives to its chosen Shia Islamists. It’s good to hear the American military command openly acknowledge it will henceforth discourage Iraqi militias from disarming and evolving into social organisations.