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Catfish and Cod
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
 
Al-Sadr's making trouble: III.
(Link path: CNN)

The CPA and the US military, it seems, have decided on their action. A series of raids in the early morning hours of Tuesday (Oct 21 for those of you keeping score) have grabbed up 21 members of al-Mahdi, probably those involved in the altercation at al-Hassani's place last Thursday (Oct 16). The CNN reporter points out the obvious, that al-Sadr himself is not among them (of course not! al-Sadr's in Najaf, not Karbala!) but is silent on whether al-Hassani is in custody. (If he is, expect squawking later today from all sides -- but given the reports of his flight earlier in the week, I doubt it.) The AP says 32 were detained, including five at the home of Khalid al-Kazemi. It also points out that mucho ammo was seized in the operation.

The raids apparently took place close to the shrine, as it opened late for prayers on Tuesday morning. Al-Bawaba's report suggests that, in fact, at least some of those rounded up were the gang that's been stuck in al-Mukhaiyam mosque since Oct 10. In contrast, the onerous 9 pm to 6 am curfew was suddenly lifted at 4:30 am Tuesday morning, a sign that the US forces think that the Karbala situation is defused.

Wisely, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps took the lead and made the actual arrest, with both Polish and US troops acting as backup. This is good three ways: (1) making sure the Iraqis have the experience to fix things themselves and aren't dependent on us; (2) in propaganda terms, it looks good that Iraqis are fixing things themselves (because it is good); and (3) if the al-Mahdi kill any of them, they're killing Iraqis and not infidel occupiers. Killing Iraqis makes it more difficult to explain how they are valiant martyrs for Islam and Iraq later on.

As our main man Salam Pax said, "Iraqi police kick major ass. Much respect."

The purpose of this raid is likewise threefold: (1) To improve Karbala security; (2) to arrest and try whoever was responsible for killing a U. S. Lt. Col., and (3) to convince al-Sistani and the Shi'ite population at large that America is working to maintain law and order, without provoking them into taking further measures or increasing their rhetoric against the occupation.

I hope it works.

Other episodes: I. II. III. IV. V. VI.