A crackdown on Moqtada?

It’s about time. But it’s a bad sign that the Iraqi civilian political leadership seems to be backing away from the effort instead of supporting it.

The good news is that American and Iraqi special forces have started to crack down on the Mahdi Army, Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia/death squad. Sixteen of Moqtada’s troops were killed in a raid in a Sunni neighborhood of Baghdad; a hostage was freed in the raid, which found bomb-making equipment.

The bad news is that, with Sadr controlling 30 votes in the Iraqi Parliament, no Iraqi political leader is prepared to stand behind the operation. The Transportation Minister calls it “a crime” and says “I think we are going to have a firm stance against the American forces because of this crime.” The interim Prime Minister, who needs Sadrist votes to keep his job, waffles in public while his spinmeisters put out the word that the government wasn’t consulted in advance and that “The incident has injured the whole political process.”

I hope the business about not consulting first is a lie. Cracking down on sectarian warfare is vital, but the precedent of the Iraqi military acting without reference to the civilian political structure would be a very bad one to set.

No word yet on who was responsible for the thirty fresh headless corpses found together in Baghdad Sunday.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com