Maliki Continues Moving Against Former U.S. Allies

nadhimAnthony Shadid had a follow-up yesterday to this January 13 story about Nadhim Khalil. Khalil, a thirty year-old Sunni cleric and former insurgent, had, through an alliance with U.S. forces, essentially become the law in his town of Thuluyah, running it as his own little mob fiefdom.

Shadid reports that Khalil has now been arrested by Iraqi government troops:

Khalil’s rivals have hailed his detention. His colleagues call it caprice. Either way, it underlines the free-for-all of elusive loyalties, stinging betrayals and unrequited vengeance as the U.S. military withdraws, its erstwhile allies splinter, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki remains tentative and everyone vies for power ahead of national elections.

In short, no one is in charge in Thuluyah. Khalil was — until his arrest. […]

He was taken to neighboring Balad, where, Khalil said, cheering members of the Iraqi security forces began shouting slogans for Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric.

While Khalil obviously has reason to lie about his jailers chanting Sadr slogans — it strengthens his claim that his detention is politically motivated — it’s not particularly surprising to hear, as the Iraqi security forces are riddled with Sadr supporters and former Mahdi Army militiamen. It’s worth recalling, too, that in 2006 Balad was the scene of Iraq’s worst episodes of sectarian cleansing, a four-day rampage in which Shia militias “all but emptied Balad of Sunnis.”