- Nov 22, 2003
- Reaction score
Seems on the money analysis to me:
March 17, 2007
Sadr Goes All In
Moqtada al-Sadr has played his hole card in his high-stakes game against the US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad. Sadr skipped town as the Coalition gathered its strength for the new surge stratgey to secure Baghdad, taking a powder east to Iran to consult with his sponsors. His whereabouts still unknown, he ended his silence by issuing a statement to fuel an anti-American rally in Sadr City:
Residents of the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City on Friday showed signs of growing resentment toward the presence of U.S. troops in the area, chanting "No occupation!" and "No America!" in a march demanding the removal of a U.S. base there.
The protest came as U.S. military officials cited Sadr City, stronghold of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr, as a success story in a month-old effort to improve security in Baghdad. It also coincided with an announcement that the Pentagon is speeding up the deployment of 2,600 soldiers in a combat aviation brigade. Commanders, who need support troops for the military buildup here, had requested the early deployment. ...
The Sadr City protest followed Friday prayers, which featured a statement from Sadr calling on followers to "raise your voices in unity" against "America, the grand devil." The statement, read by a prominent cleric close to Sadr, marked a toughening of his rhetoric as the U.S. touts its foothold in Sadr City.
The relationship between the United States and Sadr has become increasingly complex since the new security crackdown. Sadr frequently has called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. But in recent weeks he has become an indirect but crucial ally of U.S. military officials. He pulled his Al Mahdi militia off the streets when the plan was launched, reportedly as a favor to Iraq's Shiite Muslim prime minister, Nouri Maliki.
That accommodation has helped U.S. forces carry out their operations. But analysts have been suggesting that Sadr risks losing his credibility as a voice of resistance if he is perceived as helping the U.S. cause. Concern over that possibility could explain his statement Friday.
His credibility is certainly at issue, but not just in the way the Times reports. Sadr finds himself in a box now, and the one weapon he has has proven ineffective in the past. He has not beaten the US in a street fight yet, and now he has allowed us to gain a foothold in his home turf.
This might explain why Sadr still hasn't poked his head above ground, another point against his credibility. It's fine to rabble rouse from a distance, but it doesn't carry all that much weight on the street. While Sadr hides out elsewhere, the US continues to gain more traction in Sadr City. The more that continues, the less relevant Sadr becomes.
At some point, Sadr either has to give up the Mahdi Army or try his hand against the US in increasingly worse position. However, if he tries and fails to raise enough force to eject the US from Baghdad, Sadr's career as a militia general will come crashing to an end. He has been smart enough to avoid the ultimate challenge so far, although he came close in Najaf -- when his credibility suffered as a result. If he can't inspire a successful challenge to the US and Iraqi forces clearing out Baghdad, he will probably not get another chance to do so.