DAT WASCALLY MUQTADA!

Eric Martin has a great post on the significance of the Sistani brokered accord between Muqtada al-Sadr and Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim:

The Shiites are fearful that the Bush administration is tilting too heavily in favor of the Sunnis - in order to counter Iran, and to keep its own indigenous options open. In fact, there is concern that the Bush team might eventually undertake an all out abandonment of the UIA in favor of "friendlier" Sunni allies. This fear has prompted the Maliki government to cut a $100 million arms deal with China, amongst other "base covering" maneuvers. With the increasingly cozy relationship between the US and Sunni elements burgeoning, Sistani's message of Shiite unity took on an added air of wisdom no doubt.

And so the Shiites are hunkering down, not because Sadr has been weakened and forced to crawl back to the UIA, but because there are common enemies to be dealt with first, and intra-Shiite fighting will leave each faction weakened and vulnerable. Thus, rather than an encouraging sign of Shiite/Sunni rapprochement, this Shiite accord is born out of the need to consolidate ranks in light of the likelihood of a reinvigorated conflict."

Even granting, for the sake of argument, that "the surge is working," the various developments which conservatives attribute to the surge have made the prospect of an accommodation between Sunnis and Shias less likely, not more, and the prospect of future violence more likely, not less. But that's not important. What's important is that MoveOn hates the troops.

On the issue of "Sadr weakened," Martin links to conservative blogger Captain Ed, who suggests that Muqtada's agreeing to hold his militia in check is a sign that--wait for it--Muqtada's on his way out.

"Sadr is a survivor, as we have learned over the last four years. He knows when to hold 'em, and he knows when to fold 'em. It looks like he's made another pragmatic calculation, but even Sadr can't hide the fact that he's taking his faction ever backwards. At one time, he played kingmaker to Maliki. Now he has to fight for scraps from Hakim's table and only has indirect influence over the government. Surviving may be a form of success, but Sadr could have played his hand so much more effectively--and it won't be long before his underlings start to realize it, if they haven't already."

As Eric notes, and as I've written elsewhere, "Ha! Muqtada's Had It Now!" has now grown into an entire sub-genre of conservative writing about about Iraq. That these predictions always have always turned out to be wrong (because they are based in a fundamental misunderstanding of the unique political-religious space which Muqtada has carved out for himself as an Iraqi Shia nationalist) has not prevented the very same people from making the very same prediction over and over again. Sadr's movement is deeply rooted in Iraq society; his followers support him not just because of what he and his movement can do for them, but because he embodies their suffering, their aspirations, and, for many, their vengeance. They are no more likely to abandon him because of perceived "setbacks" than constant sex scandals, corruption, and staggering executive incompetence will stop people from identifying as Republicans.

--Matthew Duss

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