...pledged Thursday to expand his crackdown on Shiite militias to Baghdad, despite a mixed performance so far against militants in the southern city of Basra.Does anyone really know what is going on in Iraq? Sure, Basra is a mess with various thugocracies competing for control of not only Shia souls but more particularly 80% of Iraq's oil wealth which comes from the southern provinces.
The U.S. ambassador, meanwhile, said that despite a "boatload" of problems with the Basra operation, he was encouraged that the Shiite-led government was finally confronting extremists regardless of their religious affiliation.
U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who will appear before Congress on Tuesday with top commander Gen. David Petraeus, said he was surprised at the way the Basra campaign unfolded.Another million man march...We'll see.
"I had the understanding that this was going to be an effort to get down, show they were serious with additional forces, put the squeeze on, develop a full picture of conditions and then act accordingly," he told reporters Thursday. "I was not expecting, frankly, a major battle from Day One."
Still, Crocker said he was encouraged that the Iraqi government was willing to take on Shiite militias, some of which maintain close ties to major political parties in the national leadership.
"Were there problems? There were a boatload of problems, and they still have a long way to go," Crocker added.
The cleric has also called on Shiites to converge on the holy city of Najaf next Wednesday — the fifth anniversary of the U.S. capture of Baghdad — to protest the American military presence in Iraq. Al-Sadr urged for a "million-strong" turnout.