New York Daily News: Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, tough in speech and, so far, equally forceful in deed, must deliver an iron-fisted blow to the insurgency spreading through Iraq at the command of renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. With his army of thugs and arsenal of Iranian weapons, al-Sadr has done nothing less than challenge Allawi's authority to lead the country. It's time to crush him.
For months, it has been clear that al-Sadr wants to be the No. 1 guy in Iraq. There he has stood, a lone rabble-rouser, backed not even by other clerics as he encouraged violence against the forces of democracy. Now, U.S. Marines and, importantly, Iraqi troops are engaged against his militias in what's building to be one of the most important battles for Iraq's future.
Allawi clearly understands what's at stake. Boldly going to al-Sadr's stronghold, the holy city of Najaf, he declared on Sunday: "The gunmen should ... lay down their weapons and return to the rule of order and law, and if not, they will be out by force."
It will take action as strong as Allawi's words to put al-Sadr in his place. Remember, this is a man who is wanted in the shooting, stabbing and beating death -- a public execution, really -- of a rival cleric in 2003, and who is fomenting resistance on numerous fronts. In the southern city of Diwaniya, al-Sadr's fighters surrounded the governor's offices and police stations. In Basra, his thugs kidnapped a senior Iraqi police official and are demanding the release of all militiamen held prisoner. They have threatened to take over government buildings and target oil pipelines if U.S. troops do not leave Najaf. One large oil company has ceased operations.
Make no mistake: Al-Sadr has declared war on the legitimate government of Iraq and vowed to fight "until the last drop of my blood has been spilled." Allawi must now put that promise to the test.