August 18, 2004

Sadr Quits Najaf (Updated)

Moqtada al-Sadr has quit his Iraq insurgency (for the second time):

Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Iraqi Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al- Sadr agreed that his militia should lay down their arms and quit Najaf's Imam Ali Mosque, acceding to demands from an Iraqi delegation to end an uprising in the city, Reuters reported.

A letter from the cleric's office was read out to delegates at the government-backed Iraqi National Conference in Baghdad, saying that al-Sadr had agreed to their demands to join the country's political process, Reuters said. A spokesman for al- Sadr, Sheikh Mahmoud al-Sudani confirmed the accord to Reuters.

This could be interpreted as a victory for both sides.

The U.S. and Iraqi governments were able to coax some kind of surrender out of him without having to storm the Imam Ali Mosque.

And Al-Sadr is alive, out of prison, and has a political career ahead of him if he wants it. (He should not expect a life-long career as an insurgent leader unless he expects a short life.)

Something about all this seems strangely familiar. Oh yeah. That's right. On June 16 of this year I wrote the following:

He's damn lucky he's breathing.

So it looks like he's decided to become a "mainstream" Religious Right figure now. He'll be Iraq's Pat Robertson instead of Iraq's Ayatollah Khomeini, unless he just can't resist the temptation to bring the gun back into politics, in which case he won't be just toast he'll be burnt toast. If he's smart he'll get a TV show where he can rail against Godless heathens, raise money for kooky causes, and call it good.

I guess that still stands.

I have an idea. Let's not make me post that again.


UPDATE: Okay, so that was a brief little "peace." He's fighting again. He cannot be reasoned with, bargained with, or trusted. Kill the bastard, and do it right now.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 18, 2004 06:55 PM
Comments

No kidding. I still hope'll be arrested eventually, like Pinochet or Milosevic.
Why did they never use tear gas to clear the mosque? The main thing is to break up the Mehdi Army, right?

Posted by: John T at August 18, 2004 07:07 PM

"I have an idea. Let's not make me post that again"--MJT

Third times the charm,they say.I stand behind my earlier support of the 'KILL AL-SADR'tactic.
SOON.

Posted by: doug at August 18, 2004 07:08 PM

I worry about how weak we seem. Just as we seem to be on the point of winning, some Iraqi's show up and want to negotiate. The mainstream media is always concerned about "violence" and seems thrilled that there are negotiations happening "to end the violence".

It is hard to see why this is good, except that we have the Iraqi's involved in determining their own destiny.

Regards,

Jim Bender

http://anglo-dutch-wars.blogspot.com/

http://kentishknock.com/

Posted by: Jim Bender at August 18, 2004 07:36 PM

>>>"I guess that still stands."

A wiser man than I said "you can fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

Al-Sadr man will be back, and not as a democrat. They should have killed him when they got the chance, and he'll have more recruits after beating the U.S. twice. TWICE.

Posted by: David at August 18, 2004 08:28 PM

Ye, (and me) of little faith...

the US was so spoiled by the swift victory in Gulf War I, that we consider anything a failure that isn't solved quickly in things military. This is not to say I'm so rah rah behind the Bush admin's efforts in Iraq, but it took more than 35 years in South Korea before we got the democratic government Truman claimed to be protecting. The same MAY be the case here. We promised to marginilize (or kill) this guy but 5 months later we still haven't. Not great, but if we're successful a year from now, whether it's Kerry or Bush, in the long run it's still a success.

Posted by: Daniel at August 18, 2004 08:50 PM

Jim: thrilled that there are negotiations happening "to end the violence".

I would be thrilled, too, if the negotiations would actually end the violence rather than make it worse by dragging the violence out over a longer period of time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 18, 2004 08:51 PM

A wiser man than I said "you can fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

Or, as a dumber man than me once put it:

"Fool me once ... shame on you ... fool me twice... I'm not gonna get fooled again."

Posted by: Mork at August 18, 2004 08:51 PM

I would be thrilled, too, if the negotiations would actually end the violence rather than make it worse by dragging the violence out over a longer period of time.

Maybe there are only two choices ... a drawn out insurgency that continually hampers efforts to create a civil society, and an explosion of violence that cripples those efforts right here and now.

Posted by: Mork at August 18, 2004 08:56 PM

>>>>"I would be thrilled, too, if the negotiations would actually end the violence rather than make it worse by dragging the violence out over a longer period of time."

That's why it's better to negotiate AFTER the victory has been achieved, not before.

The Leftists are right that this war is like Vietnam--this war too is being fought by the politicians.

Posted by: David at August 18, 2004 08:57 PM

Mork,

Who did say that? Yogi Berra, or whatever his name is/was? Or was it George W?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 18, 2004 09:04 PM

>>>"a drawn out insurgency that continually hampers efforts to create a civil society, and an explosion of violence that cripples those efforts right here and now."

Mork,

what about a third and more likely choice -- an explosion of violence that ended the insurgency right then and there, and allowed the country to move towards democracy.

This is what Arabs understand. They see a weakling government, and it doesn't command their respect. Neither the U.S. nor Allawi is gaining points by waffling like this. Al-Sadr is gaining points -- he's already achieved two victories on the battlefield.

Posted by: David at August 18, 2004 09:07 PM

Fallujah, Sadr - both American disasters which will be future "Mogadishus" that jihadis can use to "prove" that the U.S. can be beat.

/BTW, Here's what Dubya said:

"There's an old saying in Tennessee, I know it's in Texas, it's probably in Tennessee. It says "Fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. Fool me, can't get fooled again."

I hate to link to IMC, but they have it (as seen on the Daily Show):

http://vancouver.indymedia.org/news/2003/09/69455.php

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 18, 2004 09:15 PM

Michael:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0361596/quotes

David:

I wonder how you can say what you say about Arab cultures, yet refuse to countenence that these or any other cultural characteristics may limit the likelihood of the country progressing into a western-style democracy.

Posted by: Mork at August 18, 2004 09:16 PM

>>>"limit the likelihood of the country progressing into a western-style democracy."

Mork,

A fair question.

I don't discount limits, but I refuse to believe that they can't do it; especially with us backing them up. But we didn't pander to post-War Germans, nor the Japs. We shouldn't pander to the insurgents. It sends the wrong message.

Posted by: David at August 18, 2004 09:22 PM

I refuse to believe that they can't do it ...

That's kind of how it seems to me, too ;-)

Seriously, though, if you want to make a study of cultures, you'd have to concede that both the Japansese and German cultures are pretty different to the Iraqi/Arab culture.

Posted by: Mork at August 18, 2004 09:31 PM

Mork: both the Japansese and German cultures are pretty different to the Iraqi/Arab culture.

Yes. And they are very different from each other, as well.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 18, 2004 09:34 PM

Michael,

you took the words right out of my mouth.

Posted by: David at August 18, 2004 09:36 PM

Yes. And they are very different from each other, as well.

True, but my point there was just that they don't provide a very useful guide to the likelihood of democracy taking root in Iraq.

Posted by: Mork at August 18, 2004 09:38 PM

Mork,

the biggest obstacle I see is not a flaw in Arab culture, but the divisions that exist within Iraq, ie, shia vs sunni, etc. That to me is the big one. It will take a FORCEFUL elected government. No pussyfooting around kind of democracy, like Abraham Lincoln didn't pussyfoot around. Not like they're doing now.

Posted by: David at August 18, 2004 09:42 PM

the biggest obstacle I see is not a flaw in Arab culture, but the divisions that exist within Iraq

David - I think both are big problems.

On the cultural side, we sometimes take our own democracy for granted, but it wasn't just a random occurence. Rather, (in its modern form at least) it began in countries that shared some very specific cultural, historical and economic characteristics. The fact that we tend to think of democracy as "natural" or obvious is a function of those shared cultural assumptions, plus the fact that our own successful democracies have lasted now for many years.

Just to give you one example - the idea of individuals having "rights" is a concept that is indigenous to western cultures ... it probably shares something of a common heritage with the protestant christian idea that people have a personal relationship with God unmediated by church or state.

Now, most cultures come up with some philosophical/moral basis for insisting on good behavior, such as obligations to others (as in many Asian cultures) or obedience to a divine law. But you can see how it would affect your expectations and behavior, and therefore the way that people collectively respond to a situation, if you believed that the mere fact of your humanity endowed you with an inherent right to be treated in a certain way.

Posted by: Mork at August 18, 2004 09:59 PM

Mork,

I'm going to bed so I can't play.

Interesting. But I'll just give you the short answer. The Japanese.

Posted by: David at August 18, 2004 10:41 PM

David - good night, but I'll leave you with something to chew on when you wake up:

The Japanese culture is (or at least, has been historically) extremely conformist, hierarchical and communitarian. In the aftermath to the war, the existing hierarchy, including the Emperor, who was regarded by many as divine, threw its full weight behind the new "democratic" structures.

And so the people followed. But note this: from the end of the second world war until 1993, there was not a single change in government. And, what's more, the governing party (the LDP) drew a lot of its early leaders directly from the existing ruling class/bureaucracy ... in fact, as early as 1957, a convicted war criminal became Prime Minister of Japan. The LDP itself became the classic "ruling party", extending its tentacles deep into the bureaucracy, business, media, judiciary, education and so on, such that it dominated virtually every institution that could have become a counterweight to its influence.

So, in a very real sense, the post-war government was a continuation of the pre-war one, although it was rubber-stamped by the people in elections.

Was Japan a democracy? Sure, in a sense. But until relatively recently, although it was formally democratic, it lacked effective opposition parties, had a largely compliant media, an entrenched and heavily politicised bureaucracy, a high level of institionalized corruption and an education system that was used as a political instrument.

Now, it is clearly the case that under this regime, a society that is closer to what we recognize as democratic has emerged (although opposition parties have still only held office for a total of two years).

But, vis a vis Iraq, what you take away is that there were some cultural conditions (which aren't present in Iraq) that greatly assisted the occupiers to implement the institutional framework that they wanted: specifically the full co-operation of the leadership of a very hierarchical society. Even then, it took the better part of 50 years for the society to develop into something that could legitimately be described as a liberal democracy.

Posted by: Mork at August 18, 2004 11:10 PM

Hmm...

I remember saying back on June 16th that al Sadr was well on his way to becoming the Iraqi Arafat.

Hmmmmm. Am I right guys? Are we now to the point that killing al Sadr would actually do more harm than good? We should have crushed this thing sooooo long ago.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 18, 2004 11:11 PM

And just for the record...

MORK AND DAVID:

This whole civil dialogue thing between the two of you is giving me the creeps. Not that I'm complaining, just saying it's really out of the ordinary and I don't quite know how to handle it. Keep it up, though.

And my two cents are as follows...I think I'm honestly somewhere in between your two positions. There's no way in hell we're going to see a liberal democracy in Iraq anytime soon. Probably not even something solidly democratic, even, at least not to the standards Lincoln knew. But I don't think all hope is lost or that we're heading towards an Iranian-style theocracy or a bloody civil war. I'm done trying to figure out the situation in Iraq or, at least I should say I'm done trying to make sense of it. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. The answer is probably none of the above.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 18, 2004 11:22 PM

What about the insurgency against GOP neofascists that Mr. Rall and his fellow progressives are planning in NYC?

See here:
http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0818-11.htm

Posted by: nowarblog at August 19, 2004 07:48 AM

David
"the biggest obstacle I see is not a flaw in Arab culture, but the divisions that exist within Iraq, ie, shia vs sunni, etc."

Thats because Iraq never really formed a cohesive nation. It was welded together by the British out of three provinces of the Ottoman Empire after WW1. Nobody really put much thought into whether or not the various groups within the new nation would actually get along.

Ever since then the country has been held together by the government stamping on any areas that started to make trouble or tried to become independent. From the British, right up through to Saddam. Now we've got a country packed with groups that dislike or outright hate each other and we're trying to get them to play nice long enough to form a democratic government of their own. Thats even without considering the fact that we're looking at the aftermath of a totalitarian government here.

I'm not saying such a plan is impossible, but anybody who expected a functioning democracy this soon after the overthrow of Saddam should get their head examined.

If there had been an honest vote taken, say fifty years ago, the country would probably have voted to split up into different nations. As it is now, a loose coalition of provinces with a fairly weak central government is the best result we can expect. Assuming the country doesn't break down into outright civil war in the next few years.

Posted by: sam at August 19, 2004 08:14 AM

Getting back to the original topic of Sadr, he isn't going to be going anywhere for the next few years. If he can get into the new Iraqi government at an early stage it'll be almost impossible to prise him out of there.

He's got enough supporters that he can keep getting re-elected. But he probably doesn't have enough support to become president. But he will command a voting bloc big enough that anyone else who wants to become president will have to kowtow to him to a certain extent if they want to get elected. If anybody has any information that contradicts this, please let me know.

Also, Sadr probably figures that if the political angle doesn't work out he can just go back to insurgency tactics. If he does, we shouldn't waste that opportunity to get rid of him on a permanent basis.

Personally, I'm hoping he stays with politics. Better to have him on the inside pissing out than on the outside pissing in, after all.

Posted by: sam at August 19, 2004 08:26 AM

Hey Michael,

you still think Sadr is quitting Najaf? You got fooled twice.

And for the rest of you appeasers, once again you've been made fools of, and it will cost more live.

Posted by: David at August 19, 2004 10:15 AM

"And for the rest of you appeasers, once again you've been made fools of, and it will cost more lives"--David

Don't be looking at me when you say that.In regards to fat-boy,I not only don't agree with 'peace at any price',I don't even agree with'peace at all'. The only possible use that creature ever has had is as an example 'pour encourager les autres'. I am STILL not confident that anything good will happen, as unlike Saddam,we seem to believe that 1000 words is more powerful than 1000 rounds.This is worse than appeasement;it is spinelessness.

Posted by: dougf at August 19, 2004 10:41 AM

Okay, so that was a brief little "peace." He's fighting again.

Shortest Hudna Ever.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at August 19, 2004 11:51 AM

So here's an appropriate question...

If Bush is this spineless on standing up to terrorists in Iraq, anyone have any idea what a Kerry Administration would do?

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 19, 2004 01:16 PM

Imagine what conservatives would be saying if John Kerry did the things President Bush has done this year in Falluja and Najaf.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 19, 2004 01:17 PM

There's a great article over at the New Republic about this. It's entitled "touch of gray". Subscription only.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 19, 2004 01:23 PM

Grant: If Bush is this spineless on standing up to terrorists in Iraq...

Disclaimer: I do not in any way support al-Sadr, his ideology, not his methodology. I find his belief in theocracy to be odious, and his version of populism to be abhorrant.

He's not a terrorist.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 19, 2004 01:25 PM

DPU: He's not a terrorist.

He's just a militant clerical-facsist insurgent, a hit man, and a murderer who kidnaps journalists.

We can argue about lots of things here, but the fact that he is our enemy is not controversial. And that's the main point.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2004 01:30 PM

He's just a militant clerical-facsist insurgent, a hit man, and a murderer who kidnaps journalists.

... but not a terrorist. "Hit man" is dubious.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 19, 2004 02:32 PM

DPU,

You're right, "hit man" isn't exactly what I meant. I should have written "assasin." He killed a rival cleric, at least according to the Iraqi government.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2004 02:46 PM

You're right, "hit man" isn't exactly what I meant. I should have written "assasin." He killed a rival cleric, at least according to the Iraqi government.

"Alleged assassin" then, but even that isn't correct. The assassins were the ones with the knives, and al-Sadr wasn't even in the same city.

Also, lots of charges are being thrown about in Iraq these days. I have my doubts that he was involved in that one. His followers were almost certainly involved, but they're not a very disciplined mob, and I don't think that orders were given.

It's often tempting to demonize personalities that happen to be enemies, but I don't think al-Sadr is competent enough to fit most of these charges.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 19, 2004 03:41 PM

Okay, for starters, al-Sadr is incredibly competent. His rise to power scares the hell out of me. Politically, the way he's working the powers that be, he's probably the most skilled we've dealt with in years.

First he publishes a newspaper and pushes the envelope further and further, begging us to pick a fight with him. We did. We shut it down. He, thereby, became the victim in the eyes of some of his countrymen. Then, in a pattern that has repeated itself far too many times already, he does the following: Provokes a crisis and displays himself as a symbol of resistance to the occupation; forces his adversaries into a position where our military options carry potentially disasterous political costs; agrees at the last minute to some mock "cease-fire" resolution that preserves 9/10 of what he was after in the first place; and then reaps acclaim for being the Iraqi that backed the United States down.

He's been playing us all along, it's nothing more than a power grab, and we've enabled him every step of the way. The political genius inherent in the way al-Sadr operates is breathtaking. He knows we're hamstrung by the Allawi Government into not taking him out without permission and he's single-handedly beating back the United States Armed Forces.

The more he does this, the more popular and the more powerful he gets and he knows it. We should have killed him long ago, but he knew that we wouldn't. He's the most dangerous man in Iraq right now not because of his militia, but because of his political skills and the reputation he's built for himself. Don't tell me the guy isn't competent when he's making the Occupation look like a joke.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 19, 2004 04:46 PM

And, yes, I do think he's a terrorist. Define terrorism for me. Let's talk about this.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 19, 2004 04:48 PM

>>>I not only don't agree with 'peace at any price',I don't even agree with'peace at all'."

LOL !!!

word on that

Posted by: David at August 19, 2004 05:16 PM

Ok DPU,

how about "alleged" terrorist. Happy?

Posted by: David at August 19, 2004 05:17 PM

++UG,

Remember "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" Henry II was pretty much held responsible (he was scourged if I remember my English history). So Sadr, even if he didn't directly give the order probably should be held to account the same way.

Grant is right, this guy is NOT incompetent. He's jerking us around much like Hitler jerked around Europe in the mid 1930's. Attack and apologize (sort of) and promise this is the last time. Repeat.

Posted by: spc67 at August 19, 2004 05:42 PM

spc67,

and our chamberlains keep running around crying peace peace peace.

Posted by: David at August 19, 2004 06:18 PM

So where's our Churchill, David? I'm thoroughly convinced at this point that neither Bush nor Kerry have what it takes to win the War on Terror. Bush isn't smart (dare I say "sensitive") enough and Kerry's too much of a wimp. Is it too late for McCain to jump in at this point? I trust him more on defense than Bush and Kerry put together.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 19, 2004 06:59 PM

We can argue about lots of things here, but the fact that he is our enemy is not controversial. And that's the main point.

Well, he's our enemy because we decided to attack his country and support rival internal factions over his. That's worth bearing in mind, too.

He's not like Al Qaeda, which attacked us first.

I think that's a relevant consideration when you talk about indiscriminately killing his supporters.

Posted by: Mork at August 19, 2004 09:37 PM

Mork,

Nobody cared that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor because we were choking their oil supply routes through the straits of Malaca. We killed Japs, that's all.

As long as we're in combat with Al-Sadr, I don't care what kind of enemy he is. After the war is over and he is defeated, then perhaps we can reflect over a cappucino the history of Al-Sadr vs Osama.

Posted by: David at August 19, 2004 10:21 PM

Grant,

Bush is our churchill.

I know, I know. Churchill was a giant, and Bush isn't. But if there is a man alive today that fits that bill, it's Bush.

Posted by: David at August 19, 2004 10:23 PM

So, David, if we launch an unprovoked attack against, say, Switzerland, that's fine by you because as soon as they shoot back, that's combat, therefore we must be in the right and there's no point questioning it any further?

Posted by: Mork at August 19, 2004 11:48 PM

Interesting question, Mork. Some people would say it doesn't matter - combat is combat. I say it does matter a great deal. Not every war is just. We are not always right.

That said, I should remind you. Moqtada al-Sadr and his goon squad are not besieged formerly-neutral Swiss innocents. We did not invade Iraq to get Moqtada al-Sadr. It could have gone a different way. He wanted a fight, so that's what he gets. He has no right to expect us not to shoot back.

If here were a militant liberal human rights activist fighting a fascist America, I would be his cheerleader.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2004 12:41 AM

Interesting question, Mork. Some people would say it doesn't matter - combat is combat.

I'm surprised that you even consider it a question that's open to debate, Michael. I meant it as a reductio ad absurdum.

I have no love for al-Sadr. But you only fool yourself if you try and paint this as a simple matter of good versus evil. What is happening here is that we are taking sides in a civil war.

A lot of things flow from that ... including the fact that our involvement has the potential to create as many enemies as it defeats.

When it comes to al-Sadr's followers, have you asked yourself why so many Iraqis are prepared to risk their safety fighting the Americans under his banner?

You surely don't think that they're all just evil people who deserve to die, do you?

Posted by: Mork at August 20, 2004 01:32 AM

Whoh, they have job openings somewhere for "militant liberal human rights activists"?! I need more information! I've searched monster.com, but there was nothing like this.

Seriously. Where do I sign up?

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 20, 2004 03:00 AM

Can I still go to Grad School first? Is it a requirement? I'm dying to become a militant liberal human rights activist.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 20, 2004 03:03 AM

>>>"So, David, if we launch an unprovoked attack against, say, Switzerland,"

Mork,

unprovoked? That's your word, not mine, and your question sets up a false premise. Try again.

Posted by: David at August 20, 2004 06:43 AM

Grant: And, yes, I do think he's a terrorist. Define terrorism for me. Let's talk about this.

I don't have to define terrorism because it's already been defined. Here's the CIA's:
The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.
Here's Wikipedia's:
Terrorism is a tactic of violence that targets civilians, with the objective of forcing an enemy to favorable terms, by creating fear, demoralization, or political discord in the attacked population.
In Iraq right now, the most evident acts of terror are car bombings, which most sources indicate are being done by ex-Baathist sunnis, who have the training, the technical ability, the motive, and the munitions to commit these crimes. Al-Sadr's militia are largely untrained, undisciplined, unemployed Shi'ite youth.

Grant: Okay, for starters, al-Sadr is incredibly competent. His rise to power scares the hell out of me.

He rose to power purely because he had a popular clerical uncle who was martyred, and an incredibly popular father who was martyred. And that's it. If he were competent at all, we'd have seen an end to this useless fight, and he'd be part of the governing council. The fact that he can't control his militia long enough to get out of a firefight with the superior armed forces of the US should be a big screaming sign that he reeks of incompetence. He's now in a spot where his own martyrdom is the only way of moving forward.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 20, 2004 08:24 AM

DPU...

You speak of Sadr's only chance to move forward as becoming a martyr. You're absolutely right. Every action Sadr has taken has built up his reputation as the "little guy". You don't have to die to be a martyr. You also say if he had any sense at all he'd give up fighting and join the governing council. Why do you think that? His fight, for him, is far from useless. I doubt he even believes in what he's fighting for, but the fight has been an incredibly useful tool in gaining power (what he's really after). Because he has stood up to the United States and because the United States has stood down every time, Sadr is now the most popular figure in all of Iraq. So, let's compare. He could have joined the Governing Council, which the Iraqi people have little or no faith in whatsoever. He could work with Allawi, who the Iraqi people have little or no faith in as well. Or he could manipulate the circumstances and become more popular and more powerful than anyone else in his country.

Everyone in any place of authority in Iraq now wants him dead. We want him dead. Allawi wants him dead. Everyone. But nobody can touch the guy for fear of sparking off a national movement against the occupation. Hmm...reeks of incompetence to me.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 20, 2004 05:29 PM

Kill the bastard, and do it right now.

This blog is not exactly Juan Cole is it. Hardly analysis. Unlike this Totten blowhard, Cole actually knows something about the Middle East.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 20, 2004 06:05 PM

If Al-Sadr is so brilliant a politian, then killing him would likely kill his movement. It is hard to believe that at some point in the near future, he will be taken out, he just has too many enemies.

Posted by: tallan at August 20, 2004 08:31 PM

TALLAN...

And how many enemies does Arafat have? Case in point.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 20, 2004 09:28 PM

>>>"Cole actually knows something about the Middle East."

Saddam Hussein knows plenty about the middle east too, and so does Al-Sadr.

But it's not Cole's "knowledge" that are at issue here, it's his sympathies.

Posted by: David at August 21, 2004 06:15 PM

Don't tell me the guy isn't competent when he's making the Occupation look like a joke.

I wish I could believe that took a lot of competence on his part.

If he were competent at all, we'd have seen an end to this useless fight, and he'd be part of the governing council.

Juan Cole says Muqtada has said at length what he wants, and Cole gives a list.

But it's not Cole's "knowledge" that are at issue here, it's his sympathies.

No, he's providing an informational resource. Unless he's lying about the events, his sympathies don't get in the way of that.

Muqtada wants:

1. US troops gone. (The last poll I saw, 55% of the people wanted the US troops gone right away. He has a lot of support in this one. Allawi says he wants the US troops gone but it just isn't practical yet.)

2. No cooperation with the Allawi puppet government. (This is a valid position this month, less valid after the elections in January. He has no particular reason to join the sham advisory council which has no authority over Allawi. Allawi was chosen by the puppet GC, his main claim to authority is that the USA gives him money and officially lets him call off US military offensives and we say we'd leave if he told us to.)

3. Sadr wants a strong central government with a strong military, but not Ba'ath. (We don't want them to have a strong military and until recently we wanted them not Ba'ath too.)

4. He wants iraq together and not split up. (So do we.)

5. He wants iraqi Shi'ism to be independent from iran. (Iraq has the shrines and the traditions, if things fell out right iraqi shi'ism would be rather dominant over iranian shi'ism.)

6. He probably wants to control a militia that will maintain "order" in his heighborhoods. (We don't want islamic order in iraq.)

7. In the long run he probably wants a government similar to iran, but completely independent of iran. Islamic law, clerics rule, that kind of thing.

We oppose Sadr on #7, but there's no way he could achieve it regardless. In the short run we oppose him on #6, but that would turn into a local police matter if the local police were strong enough to keep order. We agree with him on # 3 4 5. #2 will evaporate if iraq gets an independent elected government. Sadr can pick people to run for office; he had no reason to pick people to join the sham convention for the sham advisory council.

The big issue is #1, he wants us out of the country and we want permanent bases. If iraq gets a representative government they'll order us out. It's one of the biggest issues they have. The obvious way to prove they're not a puppet government is to order the US military out, and if they don't do that it will be a strong sign to iraqis that the fix is in.

We really don't have all that much cause to go after Sadr, unless we intend to keep permanent bases in iraq. We don't want SCIRI to give iraq closer ties to iran. Sadr can't get too much power because only a minority of shi'ites want the sort of theocracy he wants. In the short run he's on our side about everything except the occupation, and about disbanding his militia.

We went after him because he was speaking out against the occupation. We started arresting his aides and we closed down his newspaper and we tried to kill him. He took over some areas and tried to defend them from us; when we attacked his people they shot back.

Now he has this thing about defending shrines from us; this is a game we can't win. He can lose. He can for example come out looking like the idiot who got the foreign heathen to bomb the shrines. But even if he loses everything we're still the foreign heathen who bomb shrines. We have destroyed several mosques that his supporters were in, less important than the big ones. It doesn't show up in our media, but every destroyed mosque gets a lot of arab publicity.

If we could hold elections tomorrow and let a Sadr party run, the whole thing might blow over. Get an elected government, the elected government tells the US army to go away, at that point Sadr has everything he can reasonably get. He might settle down and do politics. His big rallying cry would be gone.

But we have to hold out until January or so. Kill Sadr and his replacement will want the same things but won't be able to negotiate about them. These are reasonable political goals shared by a large minority of iraqis. Give them the chance to argue it out politically and they might not fight over it. And if they do, at that point it mstly isn't our problem.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 22, 2004 09:48 AM

Here's the link to Cole's claims about Muqtada's position.
Cole Muqtada

Posted by: J Thomas at August 22, 2004 10:00 AM

No offense, but Juan Cole is a flaming bag of hippie crap gas.

"Bush has a sadistic streak. He clearly enjoyed, as governor, watching executions. His delight in killing people became a campaign issue in 2000 when he seemed, in one debate, to enjoy the prospect of executing wrong-doers a little too much."

Posted by: bob at August 23, 2004 08:00 PM

"He might settle down and do politics. His big rallying cry would be gone."

And pigs might fly.

"7. In the long run he probably wants a government similar to iran, but completely independent of iran. Islamic law, clerics rule, that kind of thing."

And who, may I ask will be the head mullah of this independent theocracy?

Let me guess..

Posted by: bob at August 23, 2004 08:12 PM

Bob, every bit of news I've been able to double-check from Cole has come out solid. I ignore his general opinions and look at what he says is going on.

Of course Sadr would want a bunch of ayatollahs to be in final control of iraq. He wouldn't be one of them, he hasn't spent the years in study. According to Cole there are 4 main guys in this, with a fifth who might be more influential than he is now when he comes home from London. (#5 is, ah, more radical than the others and it makes sense the US or Allawi would have him killed if he came home too soon.)

Sadr is not qualified to be an ayatollah. He just plain hasn't put in the hours studying islam. Maybe in 20 or 30 years, if he lives that long.

If Sistani manages to get people enthused about democracy, and they actually do get a democracy, Sadr won't get anywhere trying to commit violence. He has something like 70% of the population behind him when he tries to get rid of the americans. He'd have 10% support or less about his own policies.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 24, 2004 08:44 AM

J,

It's hard for me personally to seperate objective information when it comes from someone who is so shrill. I'll take your word for it that Mr. Coles inside information is usually solid.

Al-Sadr appears at arm's length to be a classic firebrand who has no interest in sharing power with anyone. His demeanor and his chanting followers pretty much convey all I need to know about where he wants to go.

Last I heard the public opinion was floating around 55% wanting the U.S. out immediately. I would be sorely tempted as commander in chief to call their bluff and start packing up troops.

My guess is that two things would happen: one is that the Iraqi's would realize that our intentions are not to stay and they really have control over our presense on their homeland. The other is that on realization of our exodus, the population would quickly reconsider and on their own accord ask us to stay.

This is pure gut feeling on my part and I'm sure most people are damn glad that I'm not the president.

Posted by: bob at August 25, 2004 12:08 PM

Bob, I tend to agree with you.

Sadr is in a peculiar position. He can't get spiritual power without going back to school for 20 years. And his political power at the moment is based on opposition to american troops. When the US troops are gone why should people follow him? At that point he's at best in third place behind Al Dawa and SCIRI.

I can actually imagine a world where he would go back to school for 20 years. But it looks like long odds.

Saw they actually had a democratic government going. Sadr would have, say, 10% of the seats. If we keep giving him such great publicity, maybe 20%. He'd be important but he couldn't be president, he couldn't be prime minister, he wouldn't have a veto. His alternative to sharing power would be to tell his militias to pick up their guns and fight, but what does that get him or them? He doesn't have enough supporters to take over. And shooting people gets you no sewage treatment plants.

He might learn to settle down and share power. Otherwise he can get killed and they find out whether he replacement can share power.

But in the meantime it's the USA trying to suppress him that gives him his popularity.

I don't know whether they'd ask us back if they saw we were leaving. We have a pretty bad reputation. But we could do a whole lot worse than if they ask us to leave and we go. Better yet, if individual provinces ask us to stay out. Then we could stay in kurdistan and let the sunni west go. It would be cowardly to leave when we promised them we'd help them get set up. It would be worse not to leave if they do ask us to.

They might or might not.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 26, 2004 09:46 PM

Any new opinions about the Sadr/Najaf thing?

Posted by: J Thomas at August 31, 2004 08:38 PM
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