"After four years of hostility, Sadr and the Americans are cooperating uneasily as the United States and Iraq attempt to tame Baghdad’s sectarian violence. American officials, who in recent months described Sadr’s Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias as the biggest threat to Iraq’s stability, now praise the Shiite cleric.
The collaboration represents a remarkable shift for two adversaries who control the largest armies in Iraq and who fought some of the fiercest battles since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
For Sadr, it is the latest stage in an evolution from populist cleric to guerrilla fighter to political kingmaker and now to power broker. In the early months of the occupation, U.S. officials dismissed Sadr as irrelevant to Iraq’s future. Today, they view him as a political catalyst who can help keep Iraq together — or implode it." WAPO
"Mugged by Reality." I forget to whom that bon mot is attributed, but I think it is a good description of where the US now finds itself in Iraq.
About a month ago I remarked to a senior officer that I thought that the US would eventually have to acknowledge the sad truth that Moqtada al-Sadr and his political and militia forces are the most useful faction (from the American point of view) among the "big three" Shia groups in Iraq. It was clear that my interlocutor was doubtful about that idea, but now it seems that the "high command" understands Moqtada al-Sadr’s potential. Does this mean that I "like" Moqtada al-Sadr? Hardly, but as a member of the "reality based community," I need to note that:
– Moqtada al-Sadr controls a virtual "army" of descamisados, an assemblage of the poor and the powerless brought together in the typically Shia spirit of grievance and oppression, in the hope of the coming of the Mahdi (whose army they think themselves) who will bring justice to the world. Many of them think that the coalition presence in Iraq is a portent of his coming and that they have organized to support his cause. In the world of Islam there is no separation of "church and state." For the Mahdi Army Moqtada al-Sadr is both a religious leader and the leader of their political party.
-Moqtada al-Sadr is a very ambitious young man intent upon achieving great power in Iraq and someone who has shown a willingness to reach beyond the Shia Arab community to the Sunni communities and to the unfortunately shrinking Christian element in the Iraqi population. The US needs to find a Shia politico who can develop into a unifying factor across communal "boundaries." His self interest and ambition may indicate that Moqtada al-Sadr might be such a man.
-Moqtada al-Sadr is an Iraqi nationalist. He is a Shia Iraqi nationalist, but nevertheless an Iraqi nationalist. his connections to Iran are substantial but they do not seem to be as close as those of his rivals in the Dawa’ and SCIRI parties and their associated militias. Those groups are virtual tools of Tehran. It is in the interest of the United States to find a leader of the majority Shia population of Iraq who is not covertly acting on behalf of the Iranians.
-Moqtada al-Sadr is "cooperating" with us at the moment and seems to be passive in the matter of our "purge" of the excessively "hotheaded" in his group. Is this a signal? It could be.
In any event, the auguries look good. One of our correspondents has "accused" me of "reading the entrails." She is correct. That is what analysis about. Right now the chicken’s guts look interesting.
Then there is the matter of General Petraeus’ ever growing requests for more troops for his "quadrillage." I assume that he has developed a belief in the need for these additional forces since he arrived in Iraq. If I did not believe that, then I would have to think that he had not been completely frank in the tenor of his statements before he left to take up his command.
It should have been obvious that the forces needed to execute the administration’s plan for a last throw of the iron dice (now labeled "The Petraeus Plan") would greatly exceed the number announced as reinforcements around the time of Petraeus’ confirmation hearing.
I guess that he has been "mugged by reality" as well. pl