Thursday, May 1, 2008
The Moqtada Paradox
For the past month, the Bush administration has been furiously rolling out the Iran-Sadr connection. Now Moqtada al-Sadr has begun to push back with the Iran-America connection:
Al Sadr Bloc spokesman in Najaf City Sheikh Salah Al Ubaidi accused Iran of working with the United Sates to share powers in Iraq.
That strikes me as a pretty smart play on al-Sadr's part, since it's looking more and more like he's the odd man out in Baghdad, Washington and Tehran. It also strikes me as the most accurate reading of what's going on, since at this point that's the only scenario that could possibly result in a stable Iraq.
Al-Sadr always seems to be most dangerous (or perhaps most agile) when everyone's busy counting him out, and something tells me this time's no different. Because if he's the odd man out, he's got no choice but to fight or strike a deal. And the idea that he's going to somehow settle for a deal with Maliki and SCII seems farfetched, since he already tried that and it didn't pan out so well for him.
The irony is that al-Sadr's vision for Iraq is by far the most compatible with our own, and in some alternate reality where we were watching this conflict from the sidelines or where we were not so heavily invested in taking him out, we would almost certainly be taking his side right now. In fact the only thing that kept us from doing so in the first place was our pipedream of a secular Iraqi democracy, and his mildly irritating habit of calling on his followers to drive out the infidel occupier, by which, curiously enough, he meant us.
We've obviously gotten over the Jeffersonian democracy kick, and in the case of the Sunnis we've managed to make nice with guys who initially weren't too keen on us sticking around. So I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't end up recognizing some of Moqtada's more lovable qualities before this whole thing is over. The question, though, is whether he'll learn to love us back.