EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN. There's not much to say about the latest big outbreak of sectarian violence in Iraq. Somewhat more interesting is the news buried deep in the piece that recently "American and Iraqi troops have conducted several operations against the powerful Mahdi Army militia, which is loosely under the control of the influential Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, and is regarded by Sunni Arab leaders as a main force behind many sectarian reprisal killings."
As you may recall, several members of Sadr's party are actually serving in the Iraqi cabinet. What's more, it was initially thought after the election that incumbent Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari was going to lose his job. Then Jafari earned the support of Sadr's party and appeared to have the support in parliament necessary to stay in office. But after much arm-twisting by the United States, Jafari was dumped after all and Nouri al-Maliki installed as Prime Minister instead. And now we -- in collaboration with armed Iraqi's under Maliki's control -- are back at war with Sadr's armed forces. Sadr's no prize pig, but it's worth keeping all this in mind and not getting unduly naive about Iraqi democracy or America's support for it. The United States spends a lot of time trying to manipulate Iraqi domestic affairs and Iraqi actors spend a lot of time trying to get the United States to throw its weight behind them in internal struggles.