MUQTADA CALLS A TIME OUT. The big news from Iraq is that Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered his militia to stand down, though he has stated they will continue defensive operations against the occupation forces. Muqtada's image has suffered greatly from the perception among Iraqis that elements of his Mahdi Army incited the violence we saw earlier in the week. Starting a fight at the birthday observances of the imam after whom your group is named doesn't speak well of your piety, which is one of the strongest things he has going for him, so he has to do some serious damage control.

The Washington Post article quotes both U.S. military sources and sources close him who suggest that the freeze is also part of an effort by Muqtada to root out factions of his militia which he believes to be directed by Iran. We can add this to the pile of evidence against the claim that Muqtada is an Iranian proxy, despite that claim being constantly stated as fact by those who seem intent on compounding the tragedy of the Iraq war with an Iran war.

Speaking of the Bomb Iran Chorus, Yglesias links to this report by Kimberly Kagan on Iranian interference in Iraq. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I was struck by a passage on page 7, regarding Muqtada's relationship with Iranian Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri:

"Teheran had a natural Shia proxy in the Badr Corps and SCIRI, but it hedged its bets from the beginning by backing Moqtada al Sadr as well. Sadr visited Teheran in June 2003, and was apparently receiving funds from Iranian Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri until October of that year when al-Haeri started to cut his ties to Sadr."

There's nothing "apparently" about this: Muqtada was clearly receiving funds from Haeri, for the simple reason that Haeri was the designated successor of Muqtada's father (a position which Muqtada did not yet have the scholarly credentials to claim), and as such was responsible for disbursing funds to maintain the elder Sadr's clerical network. Kagan notes that Haeri later cut ties to Muqtada, but neglects to mention why: Because of Muqtada's outspoken opposition to Iranian interference in Iraq. Tell me again how this demonstrates Muqtada’s fealty to Iran? If I didn't know better, I'd think Kagan was trying to trick me...

--Matthew Duss