POLITICS

Is "Success" Of Iraq Surge About To Unravel?

04/02/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A cease-fire with Muqtada al Sadr and his loyalists in the Mahd army is showing signs of deterioration. The agreement, which has been critical to the improved security situation in Iraq, has shown signs of unraveling as his supporters shut down parts of Baghdad as part of a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience:

On Sunday, a barrage of at least 17 rockets hit the heavily fortified Green Zone and surrounding neighborhoods, where both the U.S. and Iraqi government headquarters are housed, according to police. Most of them were launched from the outskirts of Sadr City and Bayaa, both Mahdi Army-controlled neighborhoods.

On Monday, the Sadrists all but shut down the neighborhoods they control on the west bank of Baghdad. Gunmen went to stores and ordered them to close as militiamen stood in the streets. Mosques used their loudspeakers to urge people to come forward and join the protest.

Fliers were distributed with the Sadrists' three demands of the Iraqi government: to release detainees, stop targeting Sadrist members and apologize to the families and the tribal sheiks of the men.

Meanwhile, Iraq security forces clashed with militias in Basra, a stronghold of the Mahdi army:

Al-Sadr's headquarters in Najaf also ordered field commanders with his Mahdi Army militia to go on maximum alert and prepare "to strike the occupiers" -- a term used to describe U.S. forces -- and their Iraqi allies, a militia officer said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't supposed to release the information....

In Basra, Iraqi soldiers and police battled Mahdi fighters for control of key neighborhoods in Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad. The fighting erupted a day after al-Maliki flew there to supervise a security crackdown against the militias.

Police and hospital officials reported that at least 22 people had been killed and 58 wounded in the clashes. Iraqi authorities on Monday imposed an indefinite nighttime curfew on the city.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Shiite militias have seized control of checkpoints and have begun stockpiling weapons:

Fighting broke out Tuesday on the streets of Sadr City, an area controlled by Shiite firebrand cleric Muqtada al Sadr, and the Mahdi Army militia announced it had taken over Iraqi army checkpoints in an escalation of tension with Iraqi government security forces.

The sound of gunfire could be heard in Sadr City throughout the morning and Mahdi Army members walked down the streets carrying rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons in what appeared to be a show of force, according to two witnesses. It is unclear whether the men were legitimate Mahdi Army members or part of a faction that has broken from Mr. Sadr....

Residents in two Shiite-controlled neighborhoods here said Monday that armed militias have taken over rooms in several schools and stocked them with rockets, in a sign they could be gearing up for more attacks against the U.S.-backed government. On Tuesday, Mahdi Army members told employees at local ministry offices in Sadr City, such as the Ministry of Education, to go home, according to witnesses.

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