Playing Hardball In Iraq
Since leading Shi’ite cleric Al-Sistani declined to back a more balanced governing majority coalition in Iraq, the US appears to have stepped up confrontations with the majority Shi’ite faction.
NAJAF, Iraq (AFP) – Tension was mounting in the Iraqi city of Najaf after an American soldier killed a senior ally of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr during a raid on his house.
Sadr supporters and local police told AFP Wednesday that US and Iraqi soldiers had stormed the family home of Sahib al-Ameri, the president of a pro-Sadr political foundation in the holy city of Najaf, and shot him dead.
The shooting was justified as Ameri was armed and took position to fire on an Iraqi soldier, however that hasn’t stopped the Sadrists from protesting.
Even more troubling is this report which suggests that two Iranians being held were taken at or near the compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who recently met with President Bush. The Iranians appear to have been working with Iraqi government officials in arming outlaw militias, as well as planning attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces.
Ten people were arrested and "documents, maps, photographs and videos" seized in the raid, which linked them to "illegal activities", he said. After interrogation it was discovered that two of the 10 were Iranians, he added.
"Debriefing of the detainees and investigation of the seized materials has yielded intelligence linking some of the individuals being detained to weapons shipments to illegal armed groups in Iraq," said a US military statement.
"These 10 individuals are still in the custody of coalition forces," said Caldwell, confirming a pre-dawn raid that has increased tensions between the US-led coalition and Iraq’s embattled government.
Iraqi leaders cited by the New York Times, which broke the story last week, said the Iranians were detained at the compound of powerful Shiite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim who met US President Bush at the White House this month.
With a second carrier group soon to be stationed in the region and Iran not moving off of its nuclear development program, to say that tensions are high in the region is an understatement.