It is still not clear who was involved in the clashes, which later drew reinforcements from police commandos. The sources said the police commandos were accompanied by members of a Shi'ite Muslim militia.
Residents of Adhamiya, a stronghold of Sunni insurgents, took up arms to prevent the Shi'ite militia from entering, the sources said.
Given that the source was the Iraqi police, you have to wonder... did the inhabitants of Adhamiya district turn against Shi'ite militia on their turf, or did they turn against the police too? Could it be that the police were attacked because the local inhabitants believe that they might be part of Interior Ministry death squads?
Keep in mind the lax US controls over the arming of the Iraqi police, and the fact that the Iraqi Interior Ministry has refused to deploy many of the police recruits trained by the US and UK, prefering instead to hire men affiliated with the Shi'ite militias. If its true that the Iraqi police have, in many cases, become Shi'ite shock troops, then the animosity seen in this Sunni neighborhood is really no surprise.
Obviously, this kind of open, general confrontation could get worse or happen elsewhere. Factor in potential U.S. plans for a "second liberation of Baghdad" in which Iraqi forces supported by American air power and troops would systematically target sections of Baghdad -- quite possibly both Sunni and those controlled by Sadr -- and you can see the possibility of the US becoming actively involved in a Shi'a vs. Sunni civil war.
Lieutenant-General John Vines, the commander of ground forces in Iraq at the beginning of this year, said the following on the subject:
"Ultimately we want a police solution in Baghdad."
That's all fine and well, *IF* the police aren't behind the death squads, or end up provoking a SCIRI vs. Sadr turf battle. Right now, Moqtada al-Sadr is a dangerous politician for the US. His support for Prime Minister Jaafari has arguably led to four months of deadlock in forming a new government, making the occupation longer, bloodier, and more likely to result in an escalated civil war.
If the decision has been made that Sadr has to go, what will be the cassus belli? A conflict between his forces and the Iraqi government, or perhaps an attack on Iran, which Sadr has pledged to defend? For a year in Iraq that started off on a relatively quiet note, things certainly have the potential to get pretty ugly, pretty quick.