Friday, May 25, 2007

Al Sadr on Board with Congress

Iraqi cleric Moktada al-Sadr unexpectedly poked his head from a gopher hole in southern Iraq yesterday to deliver a sermon in a local mosque.

According to the New York Times, ("Shiite Cleric Appears in Iraq After Stay in Iran), "The cleric, addressing a large crowd amid heavy security, called for American forces to leave Iraq, but pointedly did not say how quickly those troops should leave, as he has in the past."

Ever watchful for significant connections to the bigger picture, the Times reporters went on to say,

“Mr. Sadr’s appearance came as the American military announced today that six more soldiers had died in Iraq, five on Thursday and one on Tuesday, according to Reuters. April was the worst month this year for the American military since the invasion, with 104 soldiers killed. About 90 have been killed in May so far.”

It is unclear why the Times reporters associate Sadr's sermon with American deaths on the same day, since none of the deaths appeared to have anything to do with Sadr.

Anyway, I thought I saw another significant connection—one strangely not picked up by the Times reporters--in that Sadr’s conspicuous failure to call for timelines on American troop withdrawals also came on the very day the US Congress finally passed an Iraq war funding bill after removing demands for withdrawal timelines.

This more than coincidence might lead one to think Sadr had been, for some odd reason, monitoring the whole American timeline debate from his hidey-hole in Iran.

The Times article continues:

“The prevailing view among American officials familiar with intelligence reports about Mr. Sadr’s return is that the cleric’s aim at a minimum is to raise his political profile in Iraq and possibly strengthen his position in anticipation that provincial elections may be held next year.”

His political profile?? Isn't Sadr most famous for being a jihadist firebrand and anti-American militia leader? Isn't he a fugitive from the Iraqi government crackdown on he and his Mahdi army? And suddenly he's testing the waters to strengthen his position in provincial elections next year?

How is it that Sadr could be so unaware that Iraq is “a broken state,” (so we're told), one in the throes of an endless and irresolvable civil war, where by next year things will be even worse than, (according to the American left), things already are now, that is, at the point where things can’t possibly get any worse?

I’m almost inclined to suspect that Sadr thinks President Bush’s hopeless, failed policy in Iraq is going to work out after all.

The New York Times continues,

“There have also been reports that his militia has been splintering during his absence, and he may also be trying to reinforce his influence over his supporters….

“The broader question is whether Mr. Sadr plans to step up his oratory against the American-led coalition and try to mobilize pressure for an American withdrawal or seek a new political accommodation.”

Am I the only one who thinks Sadr is re-enacting the cogitations of the Democratic Congressional caucus in miniature?

Compare them. Since the November election Reid, Pelosi, et al, have been steadily increasing their “oratory against the American-led coalition” to “try to mobilize pressure for an American withdrawal.” Then finally, in the face of Bush’s principled refusal to let them force surrender and throw away four years of coalition progress, Democrats now suddenly broke ranks and sought “a new political accommodation”—namely, dropping their demands for a scheduled surrender.

Sadr is a horrible murderer and a dangerous demagogue, and I wished he'd been arrested or killed by the coalition years ago. Now I suppose Shia politics in Iraq makes that impossible. If things go the way it looks like they're going, he may hang up his guns and transform into some smaller-scale Arafat-like local potentate. He wouldn’t be the world's first terrorist to end up as a municipal kleptocrat handing out political patronage to his fellow jihadists.

But the bigger point is that Sadr--triggered by Bush's triumphant turning back of the Congressional surrender policy--has drawn closer to accepting the inevitability of democracy's triumph in Iraq, a future in which he’d be better off trying to wield power through popular political means instead of by terrorism. In other words, what happens in Washington doesn't stay in Washington--it even reaches the fevered eyes of militia-leading maniacs in their hidey-holes.

It is not unimaginable that Sadr’s thinking right now is that Bush and the Americans are going to win in Iraq after all. Sadr is canny enough to realize that if the anti-war Congress can't condemn Iraq to a real civil war and collapse--the kind of chaos that would lend itself to a reconstituted Mahdi army led by himself--then he may as well hang it up and just go into politics. Couldn't this also explain why he's suddenly dropped his calls for American withdrawal, and is now seeking "a political accommodation"? (That, and that if he doesn't straighten up the Americans or Mailiki may just kill him this time).

I hope if Sadr does run next year he loses. But whether he wins or loses it will be a mark of victory for Iraq. In fact, it would be a vindication of Bush’s entire war aim in Iraq as well.

I wonder how many of the anti-war Democrats in Congress think the exact same thing?

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