Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 21, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

ELECTION UPDATE (IN IRAQ)....Here's the good news in Iraq: provincial elections have been scheduled for October. And here's the bad news in Iraq: provincial elections have been scheduled for October.

In a nutshell, the problem is this: for the past few years, the south of Iraq has been the scene of a battle for control between the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Badr Organization of ISCI's Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. But while the surge and the various Sunni Awakenings have gotten most of the credit for the recent drop in violence in Iraq, another key ingredient has been a cease-fire announced by Sadr six months ago — a cease-fire that's looking less and less tenable with elections coming up. Sadr didn't contest the last round of elections, which left ISCI in political control of the region, and Sadr now feels that the U.S. is taking advantage of the cease-fire to team up with ISCI to make sure things stay that way. Tina Susman and Raheem Salman of the Los Angeles Times report:

Sadr loyalists have said their foes are taking advantage of the cease-fire to try to crush the movement politically and militarily.

....Sadr aides cited military raids on the group's strongholds, such as Baghdad's Sadr City district, and they accused U.S. and Iraqi security forces of targeting loyalists in southern provinces where the movement is vying for power with the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. The council's leader, Abdelaziz Hakim, is a U.S. ally. Scores of Iraqis have died in clashes involving Sadr's Mahdi Army and the Council's Badr Organization.

....Salah Ubaidi, Sadr's spokesman, said the cleric, who rarely has appeared in public in the last year, would make a statement Saturday if he decided to extend the truce. That would mark the end of the six-month deadline according to the Islamic calendar.

If Sadr remains silent, Ubaidi said, it will mean the Mahdi Army is back in action.

Eric Martin suggests that although Sadr might have actually welcomed some of the early U.S.-ISCI raids as part of his "attempt to purge unruly, disloyal and radical elements from his ranks," things have since gotten out of hand:

But the US forces and ISCI went too far — creating a nearly untenable position for Sadr, who has been facing extreme pressure from within his movement's ranks to release his hold on the militia and respond to this aggression. Sadr is letting ISCI know that, going forward, full retaliation will result from any future assaults (with perhaps a bit of payback mixed in for good measure).

Like it or not, it's long been obvious that Sadr isn't going away. Eric notes that outwardly the U.S. is doing its best to treat Sadr respectfully, but that the raids on Sadr's forces have continued unabated. If Sadr decides that, deferential words to the contrary, this is our way of making sure that Hakim wins this year's elections — elections that Sadr plans to contest — he may decide that restarting the war is his only option. And that means restarting it against us, not just the Badr Organization.

There's no telling how this is going to play out, but it's definitely something to watch.

Kevin Drum 1:11 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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Comments

Like it or not, it's long been obvious that Sadr isn't going away.

Neither is that Hakim guy. He's a lot more friendly to Iran than al-Sadr and like Maliki has no problems with a Sunni free Iraq.

I'm pretty sure Bush and Hakim are on the same page when it comes to getting rid of al-Sadr. Everything else? I don't think so.

Posted by: Daryl on February 21, 2008 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

But the surge is working, Baghdad is like a street fair in Indiana, and victory in Iraq is just around the next 100 year-long corner.

Posted by: AJ on February 21, 2008 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Reuters reports:

Iraq's Sadr expected to extend truce

Powerful Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is expected to extend a six-month truce by his militia, two officials in his movement said on Thursday, a move Washington says is important for maintaining security gains.

They said Sadr had issued a declaration to preachers to be read during midday prayers on Friday at mosques affiliated with the cleric, whose militia was blamed for fuelling a cycle of sectarian violence with minority Sunni Muslims in 2006 and 2007.


http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/iraq_dc;_ylt=AvXPlje9jCV5cVn7QdHuFvVX6GMA

Posted by: ex-liberal on February 21, 2008 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm, an election in Iraq scheduled just about month before our own Presidential elections. What does this tell us?

It tells me that the Bush Administration is fairly confident that this will be a relately successful election with the cable news channels showing images of purple-fingered Iraqis voting in relative safety throughout the country. This will allow McCain to successfully claim that his strategy that led to the "surge" has been completely vindicated and has resulted in real political progress that remains the Dems' last talking point about the failures of Bush's Iraq policy. More importantly, it will allow him to point Obama as a naive liberal pussy who runs at the first sign of trouble or when the going gets tough. With this being a very tough world filled with countries and people who are willing to kill us, McCain will argue that Obama is completely unfit to be the next Commander-in-Chief.

Posted by: Chicounsel on February 21, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

This will allow McCain to successfully claim that his strategy that led to the "surge" has been completely vindicated and has resulted in real political progress that remains the Dems' last talking point about the failures of Bush's Iraq policy.


Hmmm. So y'all have worked out the justification for the clusterfuck in the first place? I mean, after the WMD lies were exposed, and the "bring Democracy" meme failed to fly...

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on February 21, 2008 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

What a fucked up world we live in that Chicounsel's, and my, first instinct to Iraqi elections in October is "Elections before the US Presidential election? What a striking coincidence!" Instead of "Iraqi elections? Good for them!"

This is why I hate the Bush administration so much - there cannot a single thing that is good for them and good for the rest of us at the same time. I can't wait for Obama to be elected, to be able to think about the leadership of the country without feeling deeply angry and sad. I was 16 when Clinton left office. I just want to be an adult who admires and trusts his president.

Posted by: Aaron on February 21, 2008 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, my immediate thought was "October-- so the Republicans get the good press of free elections in Iraq, and we don't get enough time to see if the elections actually have a positive effect or not."

Posted by: DBake on February 21, 2008 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a question for the war supporters: If the "Mookster" really is dangerous to our troops, then we should just take him down (literally I presume), right? But realistically we can't do it since he is part of the political coalition, it would cause massive anti-US riots and turn much of the population against the current Shia-geared government etc. Now, what does that tell you about how flaky this whole arrangement is?

Posted by: Neil B. on February 21, 2008 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

just take him down

If our troops are in any danger, why not bring them home to safety instead of engaging in murder?

Taking people down is not the prerogative of the US.

Posted by: Brojo on February 21, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Neil B., IMHO we should have taken him down a long time ago, but, as you say, we cannot do so today. I think our failure to take al Sadr down cost quite a few Iraqi lives and some American lives as well.

Going forward, the Iraqi government will have to find a way to deal with him, but not via assassination. I think he will be an ongoing thorn in their side.

Posted by: ex-liberal on February 21, 2008 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Fuck American assassins. May they develop bleeding string warts on their genitals.

Posted by: Brojo on February 21, 2008 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Standard issue reply by the US government/MSM on Iraq War progress:

Things are going well. Freedom is on the march. Less bombings and killings but we still have a long way to go since the country is in ruins, there are no jobs, soldiers get blown up regularly and a few stray rockets always seem to go off in the wrong places. Overall, we're cautiously optimistic.

Repeat over and over again for the next 50 (100?) years.

Posted by: Dr WU-the last of the big time thinkers on February 21, 2008 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

I think you left out something about "turning the corner". We've always either just turned the corner or expecting to turn the corner after some event anticipated in the near future...

Posted by: cmdicely on February 21, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

IMHO we should have taken him down a long time ago...

Your opinion means less than nothing, you draft-dodging, war-mongering, no-conscience-having, minion of evil.

Posted by: Isle of Lucy on February 21, 2008 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

IMHO we should have taken him down a long time ago...

And that would clear things right up? The Sadrists would just say, "Time to go home and patch up the country, now that Muqtada is gone!"?

It's that kind of thinking that got us into this mess in the first place.

Posted by: JM on February 21, 2008 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

"...and the "bring Democracy" meme failed to fly..."
__________________

Bringing democracy to the Iraqi wasn't a major reason for going to war, but preserving the chance of a stable democracy is certainly a major goal now. It will remain an official goal even if the next President decides to reduce our footprint in Iraq. No politician is going to say that we don't care what will happen to the Iraqis. We will therefore be supporting the Iraqi government as long as there is any chance of success.

Posted by: trashhauler on February 21, 2008 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

But my larger point was - is - that the invasion and occupation was and is unjustified, and to date remains unjustifiable.

And frankly, I am especially furious now, with Russia acting up (I never thought trusting Putin was a good idea) Oh - and now we have Serbs overrunning the embassy in Belgrade. Yeah. compromised readiness pisses me off. Doubly so in that I know what, precisely, that fucking means. Nothing good has come of the Iraq fiasco. Nothing.

I'm as pissed off as any liberal, and in the same ways, but I am also pissed off in a whole other way, because I know without doubt what, exactly, has been pissed away, and what kind of rebuilding process is in store for our military. And how utterly unnecessary it all was.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on February 21, 2008 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK
IMHO we should have taken him down a long time ago...

That worked really well for Saddam, who, after all, killed the Sadr for whom the movement is named, and thereby destroyed the movement entirely, right?

Posted by: cmdicely on February 21, 2008 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

The Obama/Hillary debate is starting at 7pm CST for those who might have forgotten... If you don't have cable or satTV, but have DSL internet you can watch it at CNN.com...

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on February 21, 2008 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Trash, idiot-conservative, you stupid assholes have murdered a hundred-thousand Iraqis. The "democracy" bullshit was always just for the rubes. There was never any justification for America's assault on the innocent people of Iraq. That Iraq's current dictator Bush has planned elections in time to give your murderous candidate a bump is just another unnecessary piece of evidence that the entirety of the Iraq war has been one simple thing:

A Republican Campaign Commercial

Posted by: heavy on February 21, 2008 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

creep,

Are you still on Saddam's payroll? He's gone dude, you can't put your "petty tyrant" back in office. Give it up.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 22, 2008 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Rumsfeld and Cheney were on Saddam's payroll when Reagan was predident. They were cashing in on the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iranians.

Posted by: Brojo on February 22, 2008 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Mary, your taunts are weak. Where's the imagination? Where's the spice? Where's the fucking beef?

If I came upon a serial killer who had killed thirty people and, in response, a decade after he'd stopped, killed ten people to get him, the police would be after me as a serial killer. They would be right to do so.

You know the difference between us Mary? You support the slaughter of innocents and I don't. It really is that simple. Of the 300,000 Saddam Hussein killed, I didn't pay for a single death. Nothing I did helped him do it. If it could have been prevented, that would have been a good thing. If he could have been removed and punished, that would have been a good thing.

That's not what you and your bloodthirsty goons did though, is it Mary? When he was actively murdering people, you did nothing. Once that was safely in the past you gleefully murdered 100,000 more human beings just to get one petty tyrant. And you insist that I help pay for and support this stunning act of brutality.

In five years Iraq's new tyrant has murdered 100,000 individuals and turned the place into a nightmarish hell-hole. There is simply no defense for making the Iraqi citizens long for the days of Saddam Hussein.

In my example above, the world would rightly consider me a monster for killing ten people just to get one bad guy. You killed 10,000 times more. And somehow you think I'm the bad guy? How fucking warped are you?

Posted by: heavy on February 22, 2008 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

You know the difference between us Mary? You support the slaughter of innocents and I don't.

No, you support the slaughter of innocents, you just prefer to keep a degree of separation from it so you can feel clean about it. You do it passively, a sin of omission. You let it happen, then bemoan that someone else didn't do anything to stop it. You also do it actively here, by giving protection and cover to the genocidal dictators and working to ensure they never have to worry about interference in their efforts to kill their own people again.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 22, 2008 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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