U.S. forces had been surrounding the Iraqi slum for five days, and are now retreating under pressure from the anti-American cleric Moqtada Al Sadr—another sign of Sadr’s power over the country.
U.S. forces ended a five-day-old military blockade of Baghdad’s impoverished Sadr City section Tuesday, meeting a deadline set by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki amid tensions between U.S. and Iraqi officials and pressure from the anti-American cleric whose militia controls the sprawling Shiite slum.
Maliki ordered that the security cordon be lifted hours after cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for a civil disobedience campaign in Sadr City to protest the blockade, which the U.S. military launched Wednesday in an effort to find an abducted U.S. soldier and capture a purported Iraqi death squad leader.
It was the Maliki government’s greatest demonstration of independence from the occupying U.S. military forces, following two weeks of increasingly pointed exchanges between Iraqi and U.S. officials. But it was also a reminder of the degree to which Maliki must cooperate with Sadr, who leads the political party that comprises one of the biggest blocs in the governing alliance and who effectively runs the Shiite Muslim stronghold named for his deceased father.