Tensions rise between Iraqi prime minister and coalition forces after Basra raid

In a possible sign of rising tensions between the Iraqi prime minister's office and coalition forces, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned a raid by British and Iraqi forces on an Iraqi intelligence detention center in Basra Sunday.

The BBC reports that the British military said the raid on the National Iraqi Intelligence Agency headquarters targeted a "known death squad leader." However, Mr. Maliki said the raid was an "illegal and irresponsible act," and has called for a full investigation and punishment of all those involved.

"The prime minister has ordered a prompt investigation into the incident of breaking into the security complex headquarters in Basra," a statement released by Mr Maliki's office said.

The British military responded with a statement saying the National Iraqi Intelligence Agency headquarters was not deliberately targeted and was only entered because of information gained in preceding raids.

"During the operation, Iraqi forces discovered around 30 prisoners, including a woman and two children, who were being held, and many of whom showed signs of torture and abuse," the statement said.

The Kuwaiti News Agency reports the British military has repeatedly said that Iraqi intelligence is being infiltrated by supporters of insurgents, "belonging mainly to Jaysh Al-Mahdi (Al-Mahdi Army) of Shiite leader Muqtada Al-Sadr."

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the raid caught the Iraqi government off guard and raised new questions about the "rule of law" in the Shiite-dominated southern part of Iraq. The Morning Herald writes that news of the raid overshadowed the newest stage of the security sweep in Baghdad.

The operation part of the latest security plan was announced nearly three weeks ago. The push into Sadr City, a bastion of Shiite militancy and anti-Americanism, will serve as a test of Mr Maliki's willingness to confront the Shiite militias, particularly the Mahdi Army, which is based in Sadr City and is led by the Shiite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr.

The Associated Press reports that Maliki is under "mounting US pressure" to take more control of security in Iraq, and has said that he will reshuffle his cabinet in the coming days. AP also writes that the reorganization is expected to result in the ouster of five of the six ministers loyal to Mr. Sadr, though Sadr's allies say they will not go unless other members of the ruling coalition do the same.

"We will not give up our share and any of our ministerial posts under any circumstances unless all other blocs are subjected to the same procedure," Saleh al-Ukaili, head of Sadrist faction in parliament, said.

Al-Ukaili said his group was especially keen to retain control of the Ministry of Health and if the others in the coalition didn't like the current management, "then we are ready to discuss another name with the prime Minster."

"But we are not ready to give up one of the six ministerial posts," he said.

Rod Nordland reports in Newsweek that Sadr has come under increasing pressure from his patrons in Iran, as well as from Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and the Marjaiyah, the Shia clerical leadership in Najaf, to stop reprisals against Sunnis for the killing of Shiites.

"Sadr is convinced that there's no real outcome of this struggle, and [death-squad reprisals have] backfired," [Human Rights Minister Wijdan Salim] says.

Some analysts worry that Sadr and Shia extremists are just biding their time. But as additional U.S. troops arrive during the next two months, that may prove an uncomfortable wait. Already, in Karbala, a group of Sadrists recently split after one of them blamed other Sadr followers for killing civilians, including a prominent sheik close to Sistani. Police in Karbala went on to arrest 50 of Sadr's followers. "Even if they lie low, they will lose contact with their people," says the senior Iraqi official. "Even an organized army would lose its command and control." When the surge is over, says U.S. Embassy political officer Margaret Scobie, the Sadrists "may find their opportunities to resume are limited." In the meantime, authorities can breathe a little easier with only one set of extremists to fight.

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