Thursday, March 01, 2007
in a way he's the one who devised the plan:
Babak Rahimi of Jamestown spits hot fire with this paper on Moqtada Sadr's increasing closeness with Iran. Much of this substantiates what's already been out there: Iran wants to hedge its bets among Iraq's Shiite leaders; Sadr wants to bolster his military strength against his rivals, and Iranian munitions and cash are very good for that; and Iran has an interest in keeping the Mahdi Army as a deterrent force against a potential U.S. attack, as Sadr can open up a new front against the Americans.

What's perhaps the most interesting about Rahimi's analysis is his provocative use of nationalism to explain the reported fracturing of the Mahdi Army. According to Rahimi, the closer Sadr moves to Iran, the more he forfeits his nationalist credentials; and there's enough of a nationalist current within the Mahdi Army (or JAM, for Jaish al-Mahdi, as we should start calling it) to splinter the Sadrist movement in unpredictable ways:
It still remains to be seen as to what extent al-Sadr will remain loyal to Iran. SCIRI, al-Sadr's arch rival, receives greater financial and military support from Tehran, and this could certainly cause major problems between Iranian officials and al-Sadr. Due to internal Shiite rivalries, it is not clear what the outcome of the alliance would be.

The problem is not limited to competition between SCIRI and the Sadrists. The most dangerous consequence of Tehran's close ties with al-Sadr is that he could face powerful challengers within his own militia who accuse him of getting too intimate with the Iranians. Sadrist splinter groups and offshoot Mahdi Army leaders have already paved the way to the formation of new radical militias. This is potentially dangerous as these splinter militias can radicalize the Shiite community with their messianic ideology of the new millennia through revolution and violence.
Rahimi quotes an anonymous JAM militiaman as saying the Sadrist ambition is to "become Iraq's Hezbollah" -- defending the country from the "occupying forces and provid(ing) security from internal enemies," while providing premier social services for its constituency. What's unclear is how this JAMmie understands Hezbollah: part of an Iranian crescent of influence? Or as an authentic voice of nationalistic Shiism? If Rahimi is correct, the differences in this interpretation will form the fault line within the Sadrist movement.
--Spencer Ackerman
Oh Spence...

"Petraeus, on whom so much now rests, served two previous tours in Iraq. As the American commander in Mosul in 2003 and 2004, he earned adulatory press coverage—including a Newsweek cover story captioned "Can This Man Save Iraq?"—for taming the Sunni-majority city. Petraeus ignored warnings from America's Kurdish allies that he was appointing the wrong people to key positions in Mosul's local government and police. A few months after he left the city, the Petraeus-appointed local police commander defected to the insurgency while the Sunni Arab police handed their weapons and uniforms over en masse to the insurgents. Neither this episode nor the evident failure of the training programs for the Iraqi army and police which he ran in his next assignment seemed to have damaged the general's reputation."
Blogger P. Galbraith | 10:24 PM