Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Uncertain Path

Sadr claims his militia will stand down for a short period:

The aide, Sheik Hazim al-Araji, said on Iraqi state television that the goal was to "rehabilitate" the organization, which has reportedly broken into factions, some of which the U.S. maintains are trained and supplied by Iran.

"We declare the freezing of the Mahdi Army without exception in order to rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image within a maximum period of six months starting from the day this statement is issued," al-Araji said, reading from a statement by al-Sadr.

What is going on here? Sadr has been vacationing a lot in Iran since the surge started. And his militia has fragmented with some being trained and perhaps controlled directly by Iran. Others are drifting away, uncomfortable with death squad activities and fearful of American and Iraqi army attention. And Sadr's reputation among Shias has been tarnished by his ties to Iran.

Is this a ploy to get his guys off the streets while American and Iraq government forces kill and capture rival rogue elements and those controlled by Iran?

Is Sadr regrouping prior to an al Tet offensive next month?

Has the Iraqi government managed to strike a deal with Sadr to give up armed resistance and work purely within the democratic process?

The first may mean he is waiting to see which way the wind blows before deciding on the second or third course. The second means he is going for broke. The third means he is giving up.

I have no idea what this means.

But this information is probably related.

Boy, I can't wait until the mullahs have nukes!

I'm sure that when they have nuclear missiles Iran's mullahs will be far more reasonable and peaceful, secure in the defense provided by atomic weapons.

Not that the reality-based community will accept this information.

UPDATE: This is a useful breakdown of what is refered to as the Mahdi Army:

The Mahdi Loyalists: These are Muqtada al Sadr's true believers. They receive support from Iran.

Iranian-back Mahdi Army: These groups are what Multinational Forces Iraq describes as the "rogue" Mahdi Army. As Sadr lost operational control, Iran's Qods Force stepped in and took over direct control. The rogue Mahdi Army (along with the special groups, who are often one in the same) receive funding, weapons, training, and operational guidance from Qods Force, and in some cases cells are led by Iranians. The rogue Mahdi Army and special groups are essentially Iraqi Hezbollah.

Mahdi Criminal Elements: These are criminal gangs that fight under the guise of the Mahdi Army. This provides the criminal gangs with political cover, and provides with Sadr the ability to inflate his ranks and wield more power.

Mahdi Nationalists: These are the nationalist, anti-Iranian elements of the Mahdi Army which largely support Sadr due to loyalty to his father. The Nationalist elements form the "Noble Mahdi Army," which has agreed to work with the Iraqi government and Coalition forces.

Allied Shia: These are Shia groups that allied with the Mahdi Army as they feared violence from al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents. These groups turned to the Mahdi Army for protection due to a distrust of the Iraqi Security Forces or a lack of a security presence. Some of these allied groups have been pressed into service by the Mahdi Army. Elements of the Allied Shia are part of the "Noble Mahdi Army."

Some we must kill and defeat. Some we can flip to our side. And some are just criminals or opportunists who will run when there are no longer advantages to calling themselves "Mahdi Army."

These guys are a threat, but don't paint them as ten feet tall. We can take them down as we've taken down every other threat to the Iraqi government.