Wednesday, November 14, 2007

That Sadrist Surge

By Cernig

I want to bring to your attention a report from FOX News that isn't being talked up by the "we won" cadre of the Fighting Keyboardists:
Top U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus has met with representatives of Muqtada al-Sadr, once one of the top enemies fueling the insurgency against the elected Iraqi government, FOX News has confirmed.

The general has not met personally with al-Sadr, the military said, but the meetings come as the Pentagon is softening its approach to the firebrand Shiite leader who recently eased his hard-line stance with a ceasefire call last August.
What? Negotiating with the evil Sadrists? Why?
First reported over the weekend in Newsweek, U.S. commanders said the pullback of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army has been a major factor in the decrease in Baghdad violence. They also said U.S. forces and Sadr's forces now have a common enemy: so-called "special groups" that once were aligned with Sadr but have splintered from the main organization.

Those groups, Newsweek said, are allegedly funded through Iran, and al-Sadr has formed a new unit to go after the special groups -- which are ignoring the ceasefire.

"We do applaud and welcome the efforts of Muqtada al-Sadr in his previous announcement of a ceasefire and what he is doing to try to bring those elements under control. We believe that what has happened (with respect to decreases in violence) can be attributed in part to those efforts.

"Those elements such as the special group, extremist elements, have in fact dishonored Sadr's pledge of honor to bring about the ceasefire and become part of the process to move forward," Boylan said.
Ahem. Excuse me? First reported when? Newshoggers beat Newsweek to the punch by a month and a half.

On the first of October, we wrote that Sadr's ceasefire, rather than Petraeus' Surge, was the only logical proximate cause of the sudden drop in casualties in Iraq. At the time, Col. Boylan disagreed with us in Newshogger comments, writing:
Sadr is only one element of the issue. If he has in fact regained control of his militia, then all the better, but the numbers of events based soley on his militia was not the prime killer or reasons for the levels of attacks.
His latest statement seems rather at odds with that. We replied:
Yet we are being told by the administration and by the White House military press officers dispatched to Iraq over the last year that Sadr's JAM are the major group "in league" with Iran.

What you write suggests, then, that Iran is not a major motivator of attacks either.
That indeed seems to be the case since Boylan is now stating, officially, that those in league with the Iranians are simply splinter groups, not the whole Sadrist organisation and Sadr himself. It's an assessment that he repeated when he agreed to be interviewed by us in a purely personal capacity in mid-October. However, it leaves massive questions about just how threatening the alleged Iranian meddling in Iraq actually is.

It's nice to see the military confirm Newshoggers' thinking now, even if it means contradicting what they were telling the world just a month ago. It's also interesting to see that Newsweek says Sadr himself is hitting the books, studying for his ascension to the next stage of Shia clerichood - the one immediately below Ayatollah. We've said for a while here that Sadr's ambition involves not just political power but also Grand Ayatollah Sistani's job. That would put him in an unassailable position as Iraq's premier Shia leader.

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