U.S. raid on Shiite shrine served as a warning
The U.S. military was trying to send a "little reality jab" to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr when American and Iraqi troops raided a Shiite community center and shrine over the weekend, says a top U.S. military official.
The joint assault killed at least 16 people, most of them believed to be tied to Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army. U.S. officials insist the center was being used as a base for insurgent activities and was not a mosque. But many Iraqis say the complex did indeed include the Shiite equivalent of a mosque, and the raid has drawn harsh condemnation from Shiite politicians and prompted Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to launch an investigation.
The mayor of Baghdad promptly cut off cooperation with the U.S. Embassy, and Shiite politicians suspended their negotiations to form a new government. The U.S. military has long contemplated taking tougher steps against Sadr and his troublesome militia but has held off in the past because it did not want to antagonize his many fervent supporters. This raid, officials say, was intended as a reminder to Sadr of the U.S. military's reach in Iraq.
U.S. officials had been quietly praising Sadr's group in recent weeks because of its calls for calm in the wake of the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samarra that sparked a wave of sectarian violence.