With the Iraqi government applying pressure to the Sadrist movement and Muqtada al Sadr to disband the Mahdi Army, Iraq’s senior Shia cleric has weighed in on the issue. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most revered Shia cleric in Iraq, backed the government’s position that the Mahdi Army should surrender its weapons and said he never consulted with Sadr on disbanding the Mahdi Army. Instead, the decision to disband the Mahdi Army is Sadr’s to make.
That goes back to my point about being careful about how you read the word "refused" when it was first reported that Sistani "refused" to tell Sadr to disband. Instead he refused to make that decision for him.
Leading figure in Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, Jalal el-Din al-Saghier, said on Tuesday that dissolving the al-Mahdi army is Shiite Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s responsibility, asserting that top Shiite Cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has nothing to do with this militia as al-Sadr did not consult the SIIC when he established it.
“Al-Sistani has a clear opinion in this regard; the law is the only authority in the country,” al-Saghier told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq (VOI).
“The top Shiite cleric had not been consulted in establishing al-Mahdi army, so it could not interfere in dissolving it,” he added.
“Whosoever established the al-Mahdi army has to dissolve it,” he underlined.
“Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr established this army and it is only him who has to dissolve it,” he explained.
“Al-Sistani asked al-Mahdi army to give in weapons to the government,” the Shiite official said.
This puts Mookie in a bit of an awkward position. Sistani is backing the Maliki government declaring it the only legitimate authority, and Maliki is moving on al-Sadr's militia in its stronghold of Sadr City.
The Iraqi soldiers pushed their way up a main thoroughfare in Sadr City over the past week, but the militias that still prowl the Shiite enclave were sniping at them from the alleyways.
So a platoon of American troops drove up a bomb-cratered road in their Stryker vehicles on Thursday to give the Iraqis some pointers on how to hold the line.
After the ramps of the Strykers were lowered, Second Lt. Adam Bowen sought out his Iraqi counterpart at the battered storefront in the Thawra district that served as an Iraqi strongpoint.
“Are you going to stay?” the Iraqi lieutenant asked hopefully.
Lieutenant Bowen told them his platoon was not. Surveying the terrain, he recommended that the Iraqi soldiers set up a firing position overlooking a sniper-infested alley. After an hour, the Americans headed back to the abandoned house that served as the company command post, and the gunfire in the streets picked up again.
The struggle for control of Sadr City is more than a test of wills with renegade Shiite militias. It has also become a testing ground for the Iraqi military, which has been thrust into the lead.
Iraqi soldiers, suffering from a shortage of experienced noncommissioned officers, have often been firing wildly, expending vast quantities of ammunition to try to silence militias that are equipped with AK-47’s, mortars and rockets. But pulling back from their positions earlier, they now appear to be holding their ground — albeit with considerable American support.
Nothing prepares you for combat like combat. And exposure to combat is necessary to "season" troops. Neptunus Lex recalls WWII and green American troops recalls "the process of exposing the force to fire and its consequences was called “blooding the troops”"
That's precisely what is happening now with the ISF. That's a good thing. They're going to make mistakes, and they're going to fail in some endeavors, but this is a tempering process and, the good thing is there's a fall back if it gets out of hand - the US troops are there to back them up.
There - not in Okinawa.
But American commanders also see this as an opportunity to shift more responsibility to the Iraqi troops — in this case Iraq’s 11th Army Division, one of the newest divisions in the Iraqi military.
Whether they like it or not, Iraqi troops are hundreds of yards ahead of the farthest American position and in the thick of the fight.
Good. Better them than our guys. But that said, I wish them all the luck in the world for success.