Good news or bad in Iraq?

1. Our army has arrested a bunch of Sadrists, including at least one senior figure.
2. The PM says he’s against it.
3. Moqtada just rejoined the governing coalition.

Well, this sounds like good news, doesn’t it?

Sadr fears for life in security crackdown

Mark Oliver and agencies

Friday January 19, 2007

Guardian Unlimited

Moqtada al-Sadr has moved his family to a secure location because of fears he will become the target of a security sweep of Baghdad, it was reported today.

News of the radical cleric’s decision came as the US military said it had detained a suspected death squad leader.

Aides to Mr Sadr described the arrest of the man, named as Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, as a “provocation”, saying he was a spokesman for their movement.

“We are angry,” Abdul-Mehdi al-Matiri told Reuters. “This is a kind of revenge. Sheikh Darraji deals with the media. He is not a military man.”

A US military statement said the man had been arrested by Iraqi special forces, backed by US advisers, on suspicion of kidnap, torture and murder.

And so does this:

Top Al-Sadr Aide Arrested In Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 19, 2007

(CBS/AP) U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested one of Muqtada al-Sadr’s top aides Friday in Baghdad, his office said, as pressure increased on the radical Shiite cleric’s militia ahead of a planned security crackdown in the capital.

Or, perhaps, not:

An adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, however, denied the government knew in advance about the raid, in which Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji was captured and said the detention was not part of the new operation aimed at quelling Baghdad’s sectarian violence.

“There was no coordination with the Iraqi political leadership and this arrest was not part of the new security plan,” the adviser, Sadiq al-Rikabi, told Al-Arabiya. “Coordination with the Iraqi political leadership is needed before conducting such operations that draw popular reactions.”

His comments reflected the differences between the United States and Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government on how to deal with the Shiite militias that have been blamed for much of the recent violence, particularly the killings that have left dozens of tortured and bullet-riddled bodies daily in Baghdad and elsewhere.

And then there’s this:

Sadr group ends political boycott

The Sadr alliance say their grievances have been addressed

The political followers of Iraq’s radical Shia cleric, Moqtada Sadr, say they are ending a two-month boycott of Iraq’s parliament and government.

The boycott was imposed as a protest over a planned meeting between Iraq’s prime minister and President Bush.

Correspondents say the move signifies an easing of tensions among Shia groups in Iraq’s government.

The anti-US group, a key member of PM Nouri Maliki’s coalition, has 32 MPs in the 275-seat parliament.

The Mehdi Army, the Shia militia loyal to Moqtada Sadr, has fought sporadic battles with the US since 2003 and has been identified as a disruptive force within Iraq by Washington.

‘New beginning’

The Sadrists announced their decision at a news conference with senior figures from the umbrella Shia alliance.

“Since there has been a response to our demands, we declare that we will attend parliament today,” said Bahaa al-Araji, a Sadrist spokesman.

Opposition to the continued US presence in Iraq has been a key feature of the group’s demands.

At the news conference, parliamentary speaker Mahmoud al-Mashadani said all parliamentary parties would now form a committee to discuss the reasons for the boycott and resolve the issues.

“This is a new beginning,” he said.

“We want to say to the world that an Iraqi solution for Iraqi problems is the key, and others must support these solutions.”

As one who’s been skeptical that adding troops would reduce, rather than increasing, sectarian violence, I have to say that evidence that we’ve taken the gloves off with respect to the Mahdi Army is somewhat encouraging. But the fact that the Iraqi government still isn’t with us, and that Sadr and his friends are keeping their place in the governing coalition, is the opposite.

The optimistic spin would be that the crackdown has scared the Sadrists away from running their side of the civil war and back into parliamentary politics. But the past-performance charts suggest that betting on the optimistic spin in Iraq is a good way to go broke.

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: