IRAQ UPDATE….Hot on the heels of news that the Sunni Awakening councils are running out of patience with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, it looks like intra-Shiite tensions are coming to a boil as well:
Tensions between Iraq’s major Shiite Muslim factions erupted today as Iraqi security forces launched a major crackdown against militiamen in the southern oil hub of Basra.
….Representatives of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, who has led two major uprisings against U.S.-led forces in Iraq, issued a statement threatening a “civil mutiny” if U.S. and Iraqi forces don’t stop targeting his followers.
Prime Minister Nouri Maliki flew to Basra Monday to oversee the operation, which began before dawn. The clashes were concentrated in Basra’s poor northern and central sections, which are under the control of Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia.
Spencer Ackerman and Juan Cole have more. It’s not clear if Sadr was really in control of this “mutiny” from the beginning, or if it was started by rogue elements of the Mahdi Army and then adopted later by Sadr, who can’t afford to let his movement splinter too publicly. That’s probably unknowable at the moment. But stay tuned.