Iraqi Forces Launch Offensive Against Sadr Militias
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
There were similar clashes in Baghdad today and yesterday. To find out more we turn to NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, who joins us now on the line from Baghdad. And, Lourdes, tell us about these clashes today.
LOURDES GARCIA: British forces are not involved, though the U.S., we understand, is providing air support for now.
MONTAGNE: Now, militias have been known to be in control of Basra for several years now, some of them criminal. But the one that is being targeted, it appears today, is that of more or less somebody who's political, the radical Shiite Moqtada al-Sadr.
GARCIA: So this seems to be in that context an extremely worrying trend.
MONTAGNE: What then does this mean for the wider security situation in a country - 'cause part of the lower level of violence has been attributed to a ceasefire instituted by Sadr. What is the significance of what's happening now?
GARCIA: So it could all be kicked off if Sadr fighters decide to really take up arms and start battling in the way that they used to. The situation in Iraq is still very fragile and very precarious. And the U.S. military leaders will tell you that at every turn. So what happens with the Sadr movement in Basra and Baghdad is very important because it could signal serious problems.
MONTAGNE: Because for one thing it's Iraqi versus Iraqi.
GARCIA: That's exactly right. And there is a wide political context to this. The elections are coming up in October. These are provincial elections and there is a very large power struggle going on in the south right now between members of Sadr's political block and other groups. And as often happens in Iraq, these political battles become actual battles fought with guns. And so this could signal real trouble to come.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro speaking from Baghdad. Thanks very much.
GARCIA: You're welcome.
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