Rice says Sadre is a chickenhawk

The LA Times carries an article on Iraq today.

American officials had long credited Sadr’s truce for having helped reduce sectarian violence in Iraq since September, a period coinciding with the increased U.S. troop presence in Iraq that began in early 2007.
But on Sunday, Rice jettisoned the delicacy with which senior American officials have tiptoed around Sadr in the last year, lashing out at the firebrand cleric.

“He is still living in Iran,” she said. “I guess it’s all-out war for anybody but him.

“His followers can go to their death and he will still be in Iran.”

Sadr on Saturday warned he would launch an “open” war if the Iraqi government did not freeze its operations, backed by U.S. forces, against his militia in Baghdad and the southern port of Basra. Sadr did not respond Sunday to Rice’s comments.

If Sadr calls for a broader conflict, it is an open question what would happen. If his militia proved stronger than U.S. and Iraqi officials evidently believe, he could very well paralyze southern Iraq and Baghdad and prove a major obstacle to U.S. troop reductions.

Rice on Sunday singled out the Mahdi Army for the troubles in Basra and Baghdad, where in the past U.S. officials had blamed “special groups” in the militia for the violence.

The reading I have done that makes sense to me is that for his own reasons Maliki jumped ahead of the original assault date on Basra, planned with Genral Patreaus, from the summer to now.