Ed Morrissey predicted that the crackdown in Sadr City would give us a repeat of the “Basra narrative“; that is, report defeat until victory can no longer be denied. Right on cue, Time gives us our first report of defeat in Sadr City. A month ago, Time won the prize for obtuseness, continuing to report defeat in Basra long after everyone else had noticed that the Iraqi army had won. Their latest article is eerily similar to their reporting in Basra, enough so that for a moment I thought I was looking at an old article.
Anyway, Time reports that Sadr has won again by declaring a cease-fire he does not intend to honor:
Al-Sadr aide Sheik Salah al-Obeidi said the agreement, “stipulates that the Mahdi Army will stop fighting in Sadr City and will stop displaying arms in public. In return, the government will stop random raids against al-Sadr followers and open all closed roads that lead to Sadr City.” . . . [He] added: “This document does not call for disbanding al-Mahdi Army or laying down their arms.”
The fact that a leading figure in al-Sadr’s ranks announced the deal and pointedly rejected the Iraqi government’s key demand to disarm suggests that the cleric is still controlling the agenda tactically and politically despite the most serious challenge his power the Iraqi government could muster.
Meanwhile, Bill Roggio reports on the progress of the war by tracking the activities of the combatants, rather than by interpreting the hidden meanings of public statements. (Via Instapundit.) He notes that operations against Mahdi Army holdouts are continuing, as is the construction of a barrier around Sadr City:
US and Iraqi forces continue to strike at the Mahdi Army in Baghdad despite the agreement reached between the Iraqi government and the Mahdi Army late Friday. Seventeen Mahdi Army fighters were killed in northeastern Baghdad over the past 24 hours. . .
The cease-fire signed yesterday between the Sadrist movement, which runs the Mahdi Army, and the government of Iraq will not hinder the building of the concrete barrier or operations against the Mahdi Army, US military officials have stated.
“Seeing as how the Special Groups never listened to [Sadr] to begin with, I don’t see how things will change,” Lieutenant Colonel Steven Stover, the chief Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Division Baghdad, told The Long War Journal on May 10. “We’re not stopping [construction on the barrier],” Stover said. “The barrier emplacement is ongoing and about 80 percent complete.”
Brigadier General James Milano, the Deputy Commanding General for Multinational Division Baghdad, confirmed the barrier is 80 percent complete and gave no indication the construction would be halted.
It sounds like our approach to the cease-fire is exactly what it should be: “you first.” At the same time, the backbone of the Mahdi Army isn’t listening to Sadr. On planet Time, this is a victory for Sadr.