US House wants US out; al-Sadr wants US in?

Defying President Bush’s veto threat, the House of Representatives April 25 narrowly approved a war funds bill that sets a timeline for the withdrawal of all US combat troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008. “Tonight, the House of Representatives voted for failure in Iraq and the president will veto its bill,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) said it was “ironic” that Bush will be sent the bill on May 1, the fourth anniversary of the president’s speech aboard a US aircraft carrier emblazoned with a banner claiming “mission accomplished” in Iraq. Said House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio: “We can walk out of Iraq, just like we did in Lebanon, just like we did in Vietnam, just like we did in Somalia and we will leave chaos in our wake.” (Reuters, April 26) He may be right. But the alternative may be staying—presiding over, and contributing to chaos.

The day before the House voted, the New York Times ran an analysis claiming that, rhetoric aside, Moktada al-Sadr is equivocating on a US pull-out. When his aides are questioned on it, the hedge their bets. “In order to drive out the occupation, we need to build up the security forces; then we can have a timetable,” said Abdul Mehdi Mutairi, one of Sadr’s top political officials, referring to the Iraqi government’s largely Shi’ite army and police. (IHT, April 24)

Meanwhile, US forces have apparently killed a key al-Qaeda operative they allege sent 12-year-old Iraqi boys to their deaths as suicide car bombers. US command said they had identified a suspect killed northwest of Baghdad on April 20 as Muhammad Abdullah Abbas al-Issawi (AKA Abu Akram and Abu Abd al-Sattar), al-Qaeda “security emir” in eastern Anbar province. The statement also alleged that the dead suspect was an associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq who was killed last June in a US air strike. (AFP, April 25)

See our last posts on Iraq, the the insurgency and the politics of withdrawal.