March 26, 2008
It may serve as grist for the neocon mill, churning its way toward an attack on Iran. According to the Roads to Iraq blog, citing Arabic sources, the “Mahdi Army managed to arrest 17 American soldiers” in Basra, where Shia fighters are going up against the Iraqi police — read, the U.S. installed Iraqi paramilitary forces. Alwasatonline (available only in Arabic) reports that Muqtada al-Sadr’s fighters seized “7 hammer (sic, probably Humvee) military vehicles” and refuse to negotiate release. As well, according to Alwasatonline’s reporter in Basra, Mahdi captured “250 Iraqi soldiers [who] gave themselves up.”
It would appear the Mahdi Army has reason to be sore at the United States. “At least four Shia fighters have been killed in a US air raid in the central Iraqi city of Hilla,” reports Aljazeera. “The raid on Wednesday is a continuation of US efforts to assist Iraqi forces in another day of clashes with fighters loyal to populist Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.” It doesn’t help that the United States refers to Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi as “special group criminals.”
Such language is necessary now that the long dreaded Shia uprising — at least engaged in by one large and sufficiently armed faction — is beginning to unfold.
As the fighting broke out, al-Sadr issued a statement calling for demonstrations across the country and threatened “civil disobedience” if attacks by US and Iraqi forces on members of his movement continued.
“We demand that religious and political leaders intervene to stop the attacks on poor people,” a statement read by Hazam al-Aaraji, an al-Sadr representative, said.
“We call on all Iraqis to launch protests across all the provinces. If the government does not respect these demands, the second step will be general civil disobedience in Baghdad and the Iraqi provinces.”
As to be expected, the neocons have moved a pawn into place. “Iran could do more to help end violence in Iraq, the US military said on Wednesday, calling on Tehran to use its influence to help end lawlessness in the southern city of Basra,” reports the AFP.
“There is no question that the government of Iran has significant influence in Basra, in the province and in southeastern Iraq in general,” said military spokesman Major General Kevin Bergner.
“We would love to see the government of Iran fulfill its commitments to help improve security and stability (in Basra) … and reduce the activities of those operating outside the law,” Bergner told a news conference in Baghdad.
In other words, the Shia of southern Iraq are little more than puppets for Iran and whatever happens in Basra and southern Iraq can be attributed to the Iranians. It’s more of the same neocon message that Iran, sorely in need of bombing, is meddling in the internal affairs of “liberated” Iraq, never mind the Shiites are so not onboard as to fight with government troops and attempt to get a deal on the oil all around them, oil greedily desired by mega-transnational corporations.
If the above story reported by Alwasatonline grows legs, expect the neocons to salivate over the possibility of yet another trumped up Gulf of Tonkin event, as the last one in the Strait of Hormuz failed so miserably.
It makes no sense for al-Sadr and the Mahdi to take U.S. prisoners, not unless they want the Pentagon to turn Basra into the next Fallujah. On the other hand, considering the long history of U.S. false flag operations (such as the above mentioned Gulf of Tonkin), it makes sense for U.S. operatives to capture soldiers and give the Pentagon reason to blame Iran.
If this story breaks out and is not another one of many rumors, it has serious and possibly cataclysmic potential.
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