Remember all those rightwing cheerleaders who were determined to call A-Sadr's truce deal with his SIIC rivals as a capitulation for al-Sadr and a victory for Petraeus' Surge?
Well, they might want to reconsider after reading an analysis by StratFor, the Texas-based intelligence and policy analysis company, reprinted in the Kuwait Times.
Key Iraqi Shiite leaders Muqtada Al-Sadr and Abdel Aziz Al-Hakim announced a truce between their rival movements Oct 6. Al-Hakim heads the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), Iraq's largest and most cohesive Shiite political faction, which has close ties to Iran. Al-Sadr leads his own political faction of al-Sadrites, a nationalist movement that historically has been wary of Tehran's influence in Iraq. The two leaders' militias-Al-Sadr's Mehdi Army and al-Hakim's Badr Organization-have been engaged in an intense and violent power struggle over Shiite control in the government and over oil resources in the South.I've a slight difficulty believing that Iran had more to do with this deal than Grand Ayatollah Sistani did, but it's certainly possible. Either way, the upshot is that the biggest winner from this truce is certainly Iran.
Iran is feeling a sense of urgency in getting Iraq's Shiite house in order, particularly as the United States makes blatant efforts to band Iraq's Sunni factions together into a potentially formidable front against the Iranians. If Iran is to emerge as Iraq's kingmaker, therefore, it must find a way to overcome the fractious nature of Iraq's Shiite community and pull the main factions into one cohesive unit.
Sources in Iraq said in September that Al-Sadr had been in Iran, and it appears that this latest truce was signed in Tehran on Oct 3, when Al-Sadr was there to meet with al-Hakim. The Iranians have made clear to Al-Sadr that he must either cooperate and get his militia in line or face a massive purge led by Al-Hakim's Badr group. Al-Sadr appears to have complied.
Whether this truce will last is another question, however. Al-Sadr's Mehdi Army is highly fragmented and is not nearly as disciplined as the Badr Organization. Though Al-Sadr has been making efforts to purge his militia of dissidents and has largely followed through on previous cease-fire calls during US military crackdowns, there is no guarantee he will be able to exert full control over his movement. Al-Sadr also is going to be more resistant to heeding Iran's demands on a number of issues, particularly those concerning the division of oil revenues.
The Iranians are also heavily invested in al-Hakim's SIIC, which they view as the main vehicle to extend Iranian influence into Iraq. Iran has traditionally played Al-Sadr and al-Hakim's factions against one another to ensure that both depend on Tehran's good graces-but that policy has been more destructive than intended. Recognizing that Al-Sadr is a force to be reckoned with, Iran has decided it will be more worthwhile to co-opt him than to challenge him in the long run-though several obstacles will prevent Tehran from doing so.
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