People are asking me the significance of the fighting going on in Basra and elsewhere. My reading is that the US faced a dilemma in Iraq. It needed to have new provincial elections in an attempt to mollify the Sunni Arabs, especially in Sunni-majority provinces like Diyala, which has nevertheless been ruled by the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. But if they have provincial elections, their chief ally, the Islamic Supreme Council, might well lose southern provinces to the Sadr Movement. In turn, the Sadrists are demanding a timetable for US withdrawal, whereas ISCI wants US troops to remain. So the setting of October, 2008, as the date for provincial elections provoked this crisis. I think Cheney probably told ISCI and Prime Minister al-Maliki that the way to fix this problem and forestall the Sadrists coming to power in Iraq, was to destroy the Mahdi Army, the Sadrists' paramilitary. Without that coercive power, the Sadrists might not remain so important, is probably their thinking. I believe them to be wrong, and suspect that if the elections are fair, the Sadrists will sweep to power and may even get a sympathy vote. It is admittedly a big 'if.'
Perhaps this is what Cheney was hashing out when he visited Iraq recently. On the other hand, there has been some dissent from this theory, and I think it is possible that this was Maliki's idea, not the Rasputin of the White House. Nevertheless, think idea that this violence is supposed to help ISCI and Da'wa in the coming elections is most likely true.
Abu Muqawama is an veteran of this war, and has this to say.
If Abu Muqawama was leading one of those U.S. units into Sadr City past a bunch of Iraqi Army soldiers hanging out on the outskirts, he would not be happy. He would be asking himself a) why is he the one establishing the authority of the Iraqi state and not the Iraqi Army and b) why is he duking it out with a militia with broad popular support so that another Iran-backed political party can win a bigger share of the vote in the fall?
This seems to get to the heart of it. When the idea of pull-out from Iraq is raised, hawks insist that such a thing would lead to civil war (probably true). Yet, civil war is already unfolding in Iraq and the US is fighting proxy for Iranian puppets. From Econospeak:
Of course the part of this that is a big lie has been the claim that the Sadrists are allies of Iran rather than al-Maliki and his ally, al-Hakim. In fact, it is al-Hakim, leader of Iraq's largest party, whose Badr Corps militia has reputedly been the largest recipient of Iranian military aid, and who spent most of the Saddam years in Tehran, whereas al-Sadr, the nationalist, never was in Tehran ever. But, he opposes US troops being in Iraq. So, the US must have lots of troops in Iraq so that we can help defeat those who do not want us to have troops in Iraq, and so that the truly close allies of Iran can remain in control, especially of all the oil revenues from the exports out of Basra.
It can hardly be comprehended how crazy our Iraq strategy is.