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April 08, 2008

Comments

I think this is not so much a blessing of the army, but more not wanting to get involved. Juan Cole's take.


"Then the US press went wild for this supposed report that Muqtada al-Sadr said he would dissolve his militia if Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani ordered it. Folks, he always says that when there is a controversy. (He said the same thing in spring, 2004). He says it because he knows it makes him look reasonable to the Shiite public. He says it because he knows that the grand ayatollahs are not going to touch the matter with a ten foot pole. They are not so foolish as to take responsibility for dissolving a militia that they had nothing to do with creating"


http://www.juancole.com/2008/04/4-us-troops-killed-hundreds-flee.html

I'm definitely taking the word of a Sadr spokesman with a grain of salt. In all fairness I didn't see anything about Sistani in that CNN article. I'm sensing a pro-Sadr bias from a lot of prominent left-leaning blogs and, honestly, I'm starting to kind of freak out.

LT -- Can you elaborate on how you see this bias manifesting? (I understand if it's tricky to link to specific examples.) Without knowing any details, I'm wondering if it less a pro-Sadr bias and more a pro-fact bias in response to some very slanted reporting that neglects Maliki's connections to Iran, claims success for Maliki in the latest confrontation, etc.

I apologize if I'm putting words in your mouth, but I'd genuinely like to explore what your perception is based on.

I'm definitely taking the word of a Sadr spokesman with a grain of salt.

Absolutely.

But there are a few things to consider:

1. Sadr has put his militia's fate in Sistani's hands on numerous occasions in the past. Each time, Sistani has either blessed continued existence or refused to call for disbanding.

2. Sistani doesn't want to get in the middle of this - it's a lose/lose situation for him. Either he sides with the Americans and the Green Zone govt. (both, extremely unpopular in Iraq) or he sides openly with Sadr. Sadr's rep could be taking liberties with characterizing Sistani's silence.

3. If Sistani wants to correct Sadr's spokesman, it's pretty easy to do. He just has to say so. That doesn't require much time or effort. Now, Sistani might just do that at some point in the near future. But for now, silence is in fact consent.

As for pro-Sadr bias, I am curious as well to see if you care to put those accusations in any more concrete terms. Any specifics (and I ask that with sincere curiosity)?

LT Nixon,

I suspect the bias you're seeing may be less a pro-Sadr bias than a pro-legitimacy bias. The US has consistently backed groups with little popular support or legitimacy among Iraqis, starting with Chalabi, continuing through Allawi and culminating with al Maliki. I personally think Sadr is a thug (and I am the Left), but he's actually achieved serious popular support by acting like an Iraqi nationalist, so it would behoove us to take him seriously rather than wishing into irrelevance as we've traditionally done.

To build on what Turbulence said (though LT, I don't want you to think this is a pile on), think of the way the US treated the Gaza elections.

In the run-up to the elections, Bush made soaring speeches about democracy, elections, and the Palestinian people deciding their own fate. It was presented as the first step toward resolving the conflict.

Then the populace elected Hamas instead of Fatah.

Instead of dealing with democracy and its outcomes (desired and not), the US undertook a brutal campaign of retribution because we don't agree with Hamas' politics and methods. This accomplished two things:

Made us look like hypocrites when promoting democracy and made Hamas more popular.

We didn't have to support Hamas, but we should have shown more respect for the democratic choice, and at least refrained from starving an entire population in retaliation.

With Sadr, there is a similar phenomenon. We are looking like hypocrites, and augmenting the popularity of a less-desired faction.

I do not deny that Sadr's militias have behaved abhorrently at times, though they also deliver vital social services to impoverished Iraqis. Still, he is popular and we should not be seeking to subvert the democratic process by attacking him, or laying siege to Sadr city (killing hundreds of innocent civilians in a form of collective punishment).

Especially when we are doing so to empower Iran's main proxy in Iraq - ISCI - whose own militia (the Badr Corp) have behaved every bit as horribly as Sadr's.

Recall, ISCI controlled the interior ministry during its most infamous period of sectarian violence. They were the guys that were fond of the power drill to "enhance the interrogations" of...well, Sunnis.

If we were opposing Sadr AND ISCI, then it would appear more noble. But there is no moral reason to favor ISCI.

The real reason that we are supporting Iran's main proxy is because they are amenable to permanent bases and generous foreign oil investment deals, whereas Sadr wants us out and favors labor unions and nationalized resources.

there's also an anti-bullsh!t bias. as they have many times before, BushCo has been caught 180 degrees from reality on this.

you don't have to be a Sadr supporter to get a kick out of watching the administration clumsily try to spin this.

Farmgirl,

Well when the American media outlets are embedding with the Mahdi Army, that aroused some concern of mine. Yeah, there is a little pro-fact bias as the media frequently uses unverified stringer sources with questionable allegiances to confirm "civilian casualties" from US operations. Here's Ygleisas parading the fact that Sadr is the big winner in Basra. I understand that the Iraq war is not well liked by many Americans, but do we have to openly celebrate America's shortcomings in our current mission. Here's a Salon article about the Mahdi Army using Iranian-made weapons being some big conspiracy. Those explosions sure seemed pretty real to me!
I admit that I get a little frustrated at times. Almost like people would like to see more US soldiers killed in Iraq because it would bolster their political agenda. You might think I'm some neo-con stooge, but that's just the way I see it from my end at times. I'm not trying to silence free speech or anything, just offering my uncensored perspective. Am I mad at the people that got us into this thing, sure. But I get the impression that everyone opposed to the war seizes onto everything negative, all the time, and it hampers the ability to understand this whole mess. Whew, sorry needed to get that off my chest.

On Sistani,

Here's the latest from Aswat al-Iraq (aka Voices of Iraq), pretty reliable source. It states Sistani has nothing to do with disbanding the militia. Of course this is from a statement of a SIIC guy, so again take it with a grain of salt.


F*ck that noise, I love Sadr and I'm not afraid to let the world know about it.

Mr. Martin,

Not defending SIIC, and I'm definitely not defending tactics that have been used in Palestine. I think the best way is to provide humanitarian assistance, job opportunities, etc. to prevent the need for militias (hopefully this will be done by the Iraqi Government). Killing off Al-Qaeda is a good start to negate the need for brutal reprisal sectarian attacks against Sunnis, but you're right. The Sadr movement does have popular support among poor Shi'ites.

On Sistani,

Here's the latest from Aswat al-Iraq (aka Voices of Iraq), pretty reliable source. It states Sistani has nothing to do with disbanding the militia. Of course this is from a statement of a SIIC guy, so again take it with a grain of salt.

Why the grain of salt? Even the ISCI representative won't say that Sistani will ask to disband the militia. He says that Sistani claims the decision is up to Sadr.

Sounds like a win for Sadr on that one.

Argh, sorry screwed up my above comment. I implied that there was justification in Shi'ite death squads killing Sunnis during 2006. Obviously, I don't think killing like that is justified.

Oh yeah, Mr. Martin, as far as piling on, not to worry. I've spent many years living on the left coast with my wingnut views. You'd get a kick out of me at cocktail parties, haha.

Thanks for the response LT.

I'm not a fan of any of the militias for the record, I'm just highly suspicious of efforts to target one among many. Especially when none are covered in glory.

I suspect you feel the same, though I don't mean to presume.

Publius, I love your posts, I think you're a terrific contributor to Obsidian Wings, and I welcome every time you write - especially with Hilzoy in Pakistan.

But (you knew there was a but coming...) classes come first. Put up an open thread and let us play with ourselves for a while. (Oo-er, missus.) (Sorry, I'm watching Morecambe and Wise on TV, and missing them.)

Sistani doesn't have the heft to make such a demand of Sadr in any case. I know my belief that Sistani isn't the biggest imam in the Shia sea is not so popular on this blog, nevertheless, I think Sadr's time put in in Qom is paying dividends now. He has the blessing of more senior figures than Sistani.

Eric, I was just reading your post that publius' linked to. While doffing my cap to your prescience, I'm also wondering if Sadr and Tehran's long-terms goals aren't a great deal closer now than they used to be. Apart from the Kurds, his is probably the tightest ship in Iraq right now. They also wouldn't have to worry about him changing sides, such is the animosity between him and Washington.

Even more broadly, I'm not sure most of the Iranian leadership would want to absorb southern Iraq, since they already have significant issues with unruly minorities, and that would be a huge chunk of land and population to bite off and digest.

I think that long-term long-term, yes, Sadr seems like he would want a stronger Iraq than Iran might be comfortable with, but that seems like a distant possibility.

In honour of Slate's Hillary death watch, I'm also wondering if we shouldn't start making odds on Mr Moqtadr ending up in charge at the end of all of this. He's defied Saddam, he's defied the Americans...has the makings of the last man standing.

But Byrnie, which Shiite cleric has more sway in Iraq than Sistani?

LT Nixon: "Here's Ygleisas parading the fact that Sadr is the big winner in Basra. I understand that the Iraq war is not well liked by many Americans, but do we have to openly celebrate America's shortcomings in our current mission."

He didn't. There are no such words reasonably meeting that description in the post you link to.

Matt's post is entitled "Muqtada's Triumph."

That's descriptive, not celebratory. You can argue that it's factually wrong, but a claim that it's celebratory isn't supported by English grammar or usage.

The totally of Matt's own writing in that post:

That said, unless you just stipulate that American interests require us to locate an Iraqi leader who'll consent to America staying in Iraq for 100 or 10,000 years then I'm not sure that Sadr strengthening his position is such a terrible thing. It's bad for the Bush/McCain vision of perpetual war for perpetual occupation, but if you think the U.S. should be getting out of Iraq, then a Sadr-led Iraq is no worse than a Maliki-led Iraq. Neither has a stellar human rights record, of course, but given the practical alternatives available, Sadr seems about as good as anyone else.
Again, no celebratory words there. Your description otherwise seems, regrettably, false.

Matt's analysis can be argued with, if you like, but where's the celebration that's alleged?

This doesn't inspire confidence in your powers of analysis or accurate description, but we all have off moments, so maybe you were thinking of something else, or just having a bad afternoon, as happens to all of us at times.

If I've missed some words you wish to point to in Matt's post to support your description, by all means, please do so; I'd be happy to find that I've overlooked some interpretation, or am being hasty myself. I very much appreciate your occasional comments here, LT. Nixon, and would only like to see many more of them.

(And thanks again for your service!)

LT Nixon: I understand that the Iraq war is not well liked by many Americans, but do we have to openly celebrate America's shortcomings in our current mission.

I don't see how Yglesias saying that he thinks that al Sadr won this round is parading or celebrating. Nor do I understand why there is problem with media coverage of the Mahdi militia. And the Salon article details that the ruling Dawa/IISC coalition is much closer to Iran that al Sadr is, something that is often ignored in these discussions.

These are all a far cry from "people would like to see more US soldiers killed in Iraq". Or am I missing something?

"I know my belief that Sistani isn't the biggest imam in the Shia sea is not so popular on this blog,"

I'm not sure how you know that.

Personally, I don't know what grounds anyone would have for having any emotional connection to your beliefs at all, unless they were close friends of yours otherwise, perhaps.

Speaking only for myself, I have no knowledge of your beliefs, either. But if you'd like to link to some credible links to support whatever opinion about Sistanti you'd like to suggest we'd benefit from reading, that would probably do the job of making available to us whatever info you think we should have, so as to get our understandings more in line with yours.

Shorter version: I suggest that rather than discussing "beliefs," that you give links to info.

"...I think Sadr's time put in in Qom is paying dividends now. He has the blessing of more senior figures than Sistani."

Names? Cite? Something other than pure unsupported opinion?

Hey Byrnie, anything's possible. Still, Iran put so much time and money into Badr, that they'd have to be pretty convinced that there a losing proposition to junk em.

Some stray thoughts:

They also wouldn't have to worry about [Sadr] changing sides, such is the animosity between him and Washington.

True, but ISCI's not about to do that either. But in as much as you're saying that this isn't an added danger with Sadr, I agree.

Even more broadly, I'm not sure most of the Iranian leadership would want to absorb southern Iraq, since they already have significant issues with unruly minorities, and that would be a huge chunk of land and population to bite off and digest.

Not "absorb." That's too strong a word. Just break of a piece of Iraq where they know they can control/heavily influence. It's also a source of tremendous wealth for Iran via trade and other endeavors.

While the Shiite south remains attached to the Sunni and Kurdish factions, there's always a risk of dilution of Shiite power.

That, I still think, is why Iran doesn't view Sadr as a viable long term option.

I think that long-term long-term, yes, Sadr seems like he would want a stronger Iraq than Iran might be comfortable with, but that seems like a distant possibility.

True to some extent. I mean, they're still playing footsie with him now, so they're not quite ready to fully commit to Operation ISCI Dominance. And if they think that Sadr is most likely to win, then they'll do their best to forge strong relationships.

Unlike us, they're not basing their predictions on hope and desired outcomes. They're in the base covering business.

um, "they're" a losing proposition...

But Byrnie, which Shiite cleric has more sway in Iraq than Sistani?

Well, for starters perhaps Sadr himself. Basically, I think Sistani is a bit of a paper tiger right now, or at least that's a part of what this fighting is about. I think if Sistani was to say to Sadr "yes, shut down your militia," then Sadr would ignore him. He might well get another establishment figure in Qom to speak out in his favour. In effect then, Sistani would be the emperor with no clothes.

In that sense, Sadr's statement that he would shut down the militia if asked to was a big f*** you to Sistani and the establishment, because they don't dare call him on it. They tried to take him down in Basra, failed miserably, scurried to Qom to cut a humiliating deal, then Sadr gets to play the magnaminous role of peacemaker. By saying publicly "oh I'll shut down the militia if you want," he's rubbing their noses in it.


Gary, in the spirit of "getting your understanding more in line with mine," something I greatly encourage, start with the following overviews of Shia/Iranian politics:

Chapter One of Ziba Mir-Hosseini and Richard Tapper, eds., Islam and Democracy in Iran : Eshkevari and the Quest for Reform
Roy Mattahedeh, Mantle of the Prophet
Ervand Abrahamian, Radical Islam: The Iranian Mojahedin

Getting onto Shia in Iraq specifically:

I've heard good things about this, but you'll have to wait a few months to get it.

Online:
http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr156.pdf

International Crisis Group's reports give a good evolution of Iran in Iraq over time:
http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5158&l=1
http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4210&l=1
http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3328&l=1

why won't it let me post?

Me, neither.

Tehran shut us down..we were too close to the truth

The truth is out there...

The truth truce is out there...

Fixed.

The truth truce Bruce is out there...

Fixed the fix.

BAQUBA, Apr 7 (IPS) - Battles between rival Shia groups have spread from Basra in the south to Baquba in the north.
I’d swear I saw a 3-page article about this in the WaPo this morning, now nowhere to be found. Anyone else? And if so, anyone have a clue as to why?
A point from the piece I’m copying here: "All the fighting is for money," Haider Abu Ali, a resident of Baquba told IPS. "These councils are money factories. Millions of dollars can be stolen through them, and this is why Iraq has turned from bad to worse." Dahr Jamail Sen. Levin in his opening remarks this morning spoke of enormous reserves held by the Iraqi government. the United States is still paying for Iraqi domestic needs ranging from military training to garbage pickup when the Maliki government has $30 billion in reserves -- held in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland -- as well as $10 billion in a development fund, significant budgetary surpluses from previous years and a projected 7 percent economic growth rate for 2008. (From a preview of the hearings in in WaPo. Sounds like the characteristic foreign aid scheme, with corrupt officials pocketing the proceeds. Casts light on the situation in, for me, a whole other way, and suggests misbegotten priorities.
Gratitude to Eric Martin for the linked piece.
I confess myself to be with the pro-Sadr crowd for what can only be ill-informed reasons, as by far the best of an understandably, probably inevitably, bad bunch. Does Iran respect him so little?

what's with the filter that won't let us post? can we get past this somehow?

I published what seemed to me to be one version of each of the trapped comments. I don't know why it's doing this, or what more permanent fix we might try.

LT Nixon: For what it's worth, I do not like Sadr at all. I am not happy that he seems to be doing well. On the other hand, I don't much like any other Iraqi party much either, nor do I like the fact that Maliki seems (to me) not to have been trying to disarm militias per se (e.g., both the Mahdi army and the Badr brigade), but just the particular militia that poses the greatest threat to him. And I really, really don't like seeing our forces drawn into what seems to me to be an intra-Shi'a fight.

I don't think anyone on this blog wants to see more soldiers die. Not in any way. Nor more Iraqis, or more anyone.

I imagine some of what might have seemed like celebrating was actually just frustration at the fact that we are being lied to again. Maliki and the ex-SCIRI fighting the JAM because the latter is too influenced by Iran? Because the latter has a militia? It's like describing a crackdown by a Republican administration on Democratic political candidates as motivated by the fact that, OMG, they take contributions, or run ads.

I'd be thrilled if Iraq became stable. I'm not just saying this. Partly for that reason, the Bush administration's decisions in Iraq drive me to despair.

I think that LT Nixon should read a book about Al Sadr, or at least some commentary by Juan Cole ;-) He's so uniformed, I mean uninformed.

If you like Al Sadr, you might think that everything's copasetic with JAM. Now on to the real business, dealing with that dishonorable shill, Gen Betrayus.

I published what seemed to me to be one version of each of the trapped comments.

Thanks, I didn't see that my original post had appeared.

DaveC,

Would you care to make an actual argument or are you going to limit yourself to drive-by passive-aggressive sneers? If you think LT Nixon or his arguments are being treated unfairly, then you need to actually say that and make some kind of argument. If you refrain from presenting actual arguments, holding a discussion becomes rather difficult.

DaveC, can’t really say yer cite edged me very far along towards enlightenment. I did find that one of my sources has been accused of being a Sadrist sympathizer, and that may turn out to be a useful hermaneutic tool, but not really, yet.
If it was Dar Jamail and Cole at forty paces, I’d always go with Cole. Right now I don’t see much conflict.
Mind, in order to favor Sadr I have to do a couple of contortionist tricks to hope the stories of ‘cleansing’ are distortions of some kind, and the fact is I have trouble typing that.
A blindly hoping against hope kind of thing. Best I can do. I’m open to suggestions from anyone who can do better. It’s not that I don’t want to see the truth.

About my last comment: "It's like describing a crackdown by a Republican administration on Democratic political candidates as motivated by the fact that, OMG, they take contributions, or run ads."

To be clear, the point here wasn't that having a militia is benign, the way taking campaign contributions is; it was that since both sides do it, having one party crack down exclusively on the other, and giving the fact that the other does that thing is, um, unconvincing.

Andrew Sullivan and Matthew Yglesias were just wishing out loud. This Sadr spokesman is just one of a string saying contradictory things ever since the Iraqi government started kicking their asses. But it doesn't matter what is said by whatever imams JAM can prop up to support them (any going on the record?), Maliki has the freely elected government unified behind him for the first time. He will never stop mowing them under.

How anyone could get so screwed up in their thinking to feel satisfaction in as victory by that SOB Muqtada is beyond me. But it is clearly true for Sullivan and Yglesias and many commenting here.

CMAR II, are you Baghdad Bob?

After U.S. Troops Penetrated Central Baghdad:

April 5, 2003

"Nobody came here. Those America losers, I think their repeated frequent lies are bringing them down very rapidly.... Baghdad is secure, is safe."

More
The Collected Quotations of Baghdad Bob

I get the sense that Baghdad Bob was hired by the Admin. to do PR. on the Internets.

CMAR -- I'm not sure where you're seeing this "satisfaction", but that's a matter of perception and not particularly fruitful to discuss, especially if the responses to LT Nixon didn't affect your perceptions already.

For the rest, it would be helpful to work off the same set of facts. Can you please source your claim that "Maliki has the freely elected government unified behind him for the first time"? Really?

Farmgirl,

I think CMAR might be talking about the recent council on national security, which represents a bunch of political blocs, calling for disbanding militias. Story here from notable Neo-con propaganda rag Al-Jazeera English. This is good news indeed, and notably absent from many American media sources.

Hilzoy,

I think the Kurdish parties are okay. We only have a small PRT up there and there are barely any coalition troops. Those guys do pretty well for themselves with little to no assistance.

Sorry, didn't mean to stir up the pot on the comments section of your blog. Please don't get me in trouble =).

Someotherdude,

Why you knocking Baghdad Bob. That dude knew what was up?!?

Jesurgislac wrote:

"Oo-err missus"

Surely Frankie Howerd rather than Morecambe & Wise?

I think CMAR might be talking about the recent council on national security, which represents a bunch of political blocs, calling for disbanding militias.

"The political council of national security, which includes the president, prime minister and the heads of parliament's political blocs, made the call in a statement late on Saturday."

But read further...

"It also also urged parties that withdrew from the government of Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, to send their ministers back to the cabinet."

It sounds to me its just from Maliki and those who haven't bugged out of the Parliament, not from the Parliament as a whole.

Exactly, LT Nixon.

Also, how about this AP article:
Sadr Party Faces Rising Isolation

"We, the Sadrists, are in a predicament," lawmaker Hassan al-Rubaie said Sunday. "Even the blocs that had in the past supported us are now against us and we cannot stop them from taking action against us in parliament."
[...]
Al-Rubaie said the threat was so serious that a delegation might have to discuss the issue with al-Sadr in person. The young cleric, who has disappeared from the public eye for nearly a year, is believed to be in the Iranian holy city of Qom.

In a rare public signal of dissent in Sadrist ranks, al-Rubaie complained that "those close" to al-Sadr "are radicals and that poses problems," suggesting that some of the cleric's confidants may be urging him toward a showdown.

"We must go and explain to him in person that there's a problem," he said.

How about this one?

"Our political isolation was very clear and real during the meeting," he said, referring to the meeting of the Political Council for National Security, where the legislation was announced.
[...]
The Sadrist movement has been caught off guard by the government's announcement, and is making conflicting statements. One aide said Sadr is rushing to consult senior Shia clerics in Iraq and Iran for guidance. Another aide backtracked. He denied Sadr was seeking advice from senior clerics and the decision to disband was Sadr's alone."

-----

It's been almost a week since Sadr unlaterally and unconditionally called off hostilities in Basra to which Maliki said "thanks you" and declared that he will continue to hunt Sadrs and any police that defected during the fight. Yet, the hopers and wishers have continued to report that "the fight stalled in Basra" and hail Sadr's "strategic" genius.

[ntr Fausto Carmona] It sounds to me its just from Maliki and those who haven't bugged out of the Parliament, not from the Parliament as a whole.

Those were SADRISTS. They're the ones who are isolated. EVERY major non-Sadrist bloc has lined up with Maliki: Shi'a, Kurdish, and Sunni Arab. Finally, something Iraqis can agree on, and frankly I could not be happier about it given the issue.

EVERY major non-Sadrist bloc has lined up with Maliki: Shi'a, Kurdish, and Sunni Arab. Finally, something Iraqis can agree on

Yes it's delightful. And should they succeed in squashing Sadr, I'm completely convinced they'll all get along wonderfully and not turn their attentions back to each other afterwards.

That's if they squash Sadr or, more importantly, the Shia revolution he represents. Looks to me like Maliki, ISCI, Sistani etc. and the rest of the establishment in southern Iraq are in a shakier position, and the more they rely on American firepower to shore them up, the more this looks like Iran 1978 in the long-term.

[Hilzoy] ...the point here wasn't that having a militia is benign...it was that since both sides do it, having one party crack down exclusively on the other, and giving the fact that the other does that thing is, um, unconvincing.

The Sunni militias have allowed themselves to be legitimized. They are essentially arms of the Iraqi Army. Same is true for the Kurdish peshmuga and the Badr militia.

The Mahdi Army stands in constrast. Becoming a legitimized part of the Iraqi national security forces would mean working with and training with the Occupier. So the legislation against militias only affects JAM.

Okay. I'm done. I leave you to believe what you will.

From the AP article linked above (similar language in Al-Jazeera posting):

All major political parties are believed to maintain links to armed groups, although none acknowledge it. Some groups, including militias of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party and al-Sadr's chief rival, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, have been integrated into the government security services.

That put them nominally under the government's authority, although they are believed to maintain ties to the political parties and retain their command structures.

[snip]

Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said the Sadrists must either disband the militia "or face the Americans." He was alluding to the possibility of full-scale U.S. military involvement if al-Sadr refuses to disband his militia and the government decides to disarm it by force.

I'm sure this is open to a variety of interpretations, but the one that presents itself to me is this: the parties remaining in the government (i.e., not Sadrists) are forming an alliance of convenience to knock out a powerful political rival. They've decided their militias aren't "militias," and are clear in their intentions to use the US military to carry out their plans.

Personally, I don't see it as the role of the US military to take sides in a sectarian (also intra-sectarian) conflict. None of these groups have clean hands (and it's ridiculous to complain about Sadrists getting Iranian support when Badr Corps members are allegedly still drawing Revolutionary Guard pensions). If Sadr takes power in a fair election and invites the US to get the hell out of his country ... frankly, that's a result that I'd be willing to accept.

[farmgirl] I'm not sure where you're seeing this "satisfaction" [in believing the foul, ignorant, and criminal Mahdi Army is succeeding]

Examine byrningman's comment above. That's what I'm talking about.

CMAR -- Hm. Examining the comment, I still don't see what you're seeing.

It seems to me that there is fundamental disagreement on whether or not Sadr's bloc is succeeding against challenges from Maliki's bloc, etc.

You appear to believe Maliki is dominant; others here (including myself) believe the case is otherwise. It is difficult to pin down exactly what is happening, so I agree there is a lot of ambiguity and certainly many parties benefit from portraying events one way or another.

That said, believing that the Mahdi Army is politically (and/or militarily) besting the Maliki government because that is where one sees the facts pointing, is not necessarily "taking satisfaction" in that development. The foulness, ignorance, and criminality of any party don't enter into consideration.

That said, believing that the Mahdi Army is politically (and/or militarily) besting the Maliki government because that is where one sees the facts pointing, is not necessarily "taking satisfaction" in that development. The foulness, ignorance, and criminality of any party don't enter into consideration.

I may be wrong, but I think that some of the comments here indicate that it's a case of "agree with my perceptions or you must be with the enemy." The assumption is that any viewpoint not in accord with a mental model of how things are is of an extreme opposite polar position. In this case, any suggestion that al Sadr has not come out of this defeated implies support for al Sadr and opposition to US forces.

Personally, I'm not interested in dialog with that mindset, as there's no upside to it. My experience is that any protestations that the extreme position is inaccurate are taken as lies.

The Sunni militias have allowed themselves to be legitimized. They are essentially arms of the Iraqi Army. Same is true for the Kurdish peshmuga and the Badr militia.

That's just really deluded, sorry to say.

I'm not not sure how I've evinced 'satisfaction' at Sadr's seeming good fortune recently; that kind of accusation suggests I probably should not respond. I'm pretty convinced that Japan got the best of the USA at Pearl Harbour, doesn't mean to say I'm 'satisfied' by that brutal ass-kicking.

"The Sunni militias have allowed themselves to be legitimized. They are essentially arms of the Iraqi Army."

Do you have some cites on how, say, the IA and the Sons of Iraq, et al, take orders from each other? A chain of command chart of some sort? Anything about logistical coordination? Shared political direction?

Anything regarding that last issue -- that the Sons of Iraq, et al, and the Iraqi government in Baghdad are actually coordinating, and are in political sync, would be particularly impressive and useful. But anything that goes to substantiate the assertion that "they are essentially arms of the Iraqi Army" would be much appreciated by, and informative to, me, at least.

If so, thanks!

In general, I'd also say that cites to reports of Stern or Pleased Statements are very nice. Talk and press releases are always nice.

Cites to reports of actual action of any sort, beyond talktalktalk, however, would perhaps be more persuasive to some of us more cynical sorts, who are mindnumbingly familiar with the history of upbeat press releases, briefings, and congressional testimony, in counter-insurgency history. I see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Let me also say quickly in passing that Sadr's movement has been rife with death squads, and engaged, in its somewhat decentralized and fragmented and only partially coordinated way, innumerable hundreds or thousands of kidnappings, cases of torture, and murder.

No, I don't like them in the slightest.

And, yes, they're not particularly worse then plenty of other groups in both Parliament, and the "Maliki" government. Dawa and the former SCIRI are little or no less unlovely.

"So the legislation against militias only affects JAM."

That's a bug, not a feature.

To understate ever so faintly.

The Sunni militias have allowed themselves to be legitimized. They are essentially arms of the Iraqi Army. Same is true for the Kurdish peshmuga and the Badr militia.

Skimmed over that first time around, but byrnie's right, it's deluded.

-- the Awakened Sunnis aren't being given jobs in the IA, and they're ticked about it;

-- the Kurds may be nominally part of the IA but their loyalty is NOT to a unified Iraq and http://americanfootprints.com/drupal/node/3969> they refused to come South to fight in Basra; and

-- elements of the Badr militia have infiltrated the IA, but have not given up their loyalties either. They just happen to be a state-approved militia.

Jesurgislac: But (you knew there was a but coming...) classes come first.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. NOW you tell me?

Well, shit.

Gary -- "That's not a bug, it's a feature."

"Gary -- 'That's not a bug, it's a feature.'"

Classic phrasing, but all a matter of POV.

The point all along has been achieving a somewhat not-too-corrupt, somewhat responsive, somewhat democratic, somewhat representative, Iraqi government that holds a relative monopoly of violence, that is non-sectarian enough to function, is vaguely effective enough to be able to deliver a reasonable amount of services, including basic security, power, and an economy that allows most citizens to not live in dire poverty, and that is overall regarded as more or less legitimate by most of the population of Iraq.

Progress on this has been less than optimal.

That's all that's always and ever will be important.

Would that there was better news. Few things would make me happier.

Agreed, all I've seen over the past few years is relative change in the balance of power and degree of cooperation between the various factions; sometimes this bring less violence, sometimes more. I don't see much evidence of anything that could really be called 'progress' as opposed to 'change.'

It's hard to discern the long-term trajectories from this mess. I do think one of the major trends - which will be clearer in hindsight probably, and which began before the invasion - is a revolutionary-type situation within the Shia community; that is, Sadr is the figurehead of a populist anti-establishment movement.

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