Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Top Down Reconciliation
With all the emphasis on political reconciliation as a litmus test of progress in Iraq, it's surprising that the pact reached this weekend by Moqtada al-Sadr and Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, heads of the rival Mahdi Army and Badr Brigades, has largely flown under the radar in the American press. You'll recall that these are the two militias whose battle for control of Shiite Iraq has accounted for the greater part of the intra-sectarian violence that country has experienced in the past four years. So the fact that they've agreed to a truce and are planning to cooperate on guaranteeing security seems like a major development, and much better news from a structural perspective than the drop in casualty numbers registered last month.
The deal is inherently unstable due to the litany of policy and personal disputes between the two men and their followers. But as the article does a good job of explaining, there are a lot of circumstantial factors that make it a win-win scenario for both of them. Not least of which was the need to forcefully reject the Senate's recent non-binding resolution endorsing a partition for Iraq's ethno-sectarian regions.
Oddly enough, I found myself musing just yesterday that it seemed as if Moqtada al-Sadr's long run of resurrecting himself just when it looked like you could count him out had finally come to an end. I guess not. He's found a way to buy himself a bit more time, admittedly as the junior partner in an unstable coalition. But that seems to be his specialty.
Meanwhile, Moqtada's fate seems to be curiously bound to President Bush's, for better and for worse. His latest move will undoubtedly buy more time for the Bush-Petraeus plan, while at the same time strengthening Iran's hand in Iraqi affairs. Not necessarily a good combination, that. But that's the dilemma of Bush's quagmire: We can't leave Iraq until good things happen. But the good things we need to happen are not necessarily good for our post-Iraq interests.