how mookie won the war

I’ve written several Posts on the evolving Iraqi political scene, HERE, HERE, and HERE, that focus on the relationship with the Maliki administration and the populist movement of (“mookie”) Muqtada al-Sadr. My contention in these posts is that there has been a long going, and presently, a converging interest between these two parties that may or not finally reveal itself when the dust settles from the recent elections there. This can either be construed as a conspiracy theory of sorts, or more likely, a logical repetition of converging of interests at key moments in the larger picture of the Iraqi political landscape.

The recent elections in Iraq have seemingly brought to head many of the dynamics that have plagued the country since the original invasion, and in its unresolved aftermath there are many speculations as to how the final government will be construed. If we look at the the primary interests in Iraq we might see that there are five different spheres of interest, which would roughly be the three different ethnic and/or sectarian interests of Kurd, Sunni, and Shiite, with the fourth and fifth interest being  the wild card effects of Takfiri/al-Qaeda and the geo-political interests of the U.S. occupation force itself. From the big picture perspective, the last seven years of U.S. occupation has been  a push and pull of these forces in an effort to materialize some sort of political predominance. And seeing that all the other forces at work are outgunned by the American military, the other forces at work have always been  in some active, and apparently, subservient relationship with the occupation itself.

In a nutshell, the evolution of power in Iraq has gone through a number of evolutions, beginning with the insertion of the Iran based SCIRI/Badr faction, which were allowed to fill the governmental vacuum left by the Baathist regime of Saddam, which itself materialized formally in the Bush appointed regime of Iliad Allawi under the sponsorship of the CPA. At about the same time there erupted a two pronged anti-occupation insurgency that included both Sunni and Shiite a faction led by Muqtada al-Sadr (who were also anti Badr). The minority Sunni faction soon came to include foreign takfiri fighters, which prevented the merging of both Sunni and Shiite factions from forming a united front against the occupation, since the takfiri impetus was anti-Shiite, and thought that by inciting an internal civil war that  both its of objectives of a caliphate and Sunni predominance could be served simultaneously. This of course led to, with many, many things left out, to the emergence of outright civil war following the bombing of the al-Askari mosque in 2007. If we remember back to this time we see that it was also when the recently elected al-Jaffari failed to form a new government, largely because he was against the formation of sectarian militias, and Maliki won the premiership with the helping hand of the U.S. despised Muqtada al-Sadr (along with his militia), and his deepening influence in formal politics.

What happens next is pivotal. Because the new Maliki administration was faced with the prospect of of outright civil war, and because he came to power with the aid of the most powerful militia, Sadr’s Mahdi army – he and the U.S. policymakers saw an opening, if not a silver lining, to the impending chaos of civil war. What we saw in the summer of 2007 was Iraq spinning out of control, largely in Baghdad with what became known as the ethnic cleansing, neighborhood by neighborhood  of that city. This is usually seen as the result of the Mahdi army’s actions, but what is largely forgotten in this period is that tandem to the ethnic cleansing, was the joint effort by Maliki and the U.S. to stop the violence. This was operation Forward Together. Which in the summer of 2007  ran in tandem to whatever the Mahdi army was doing, and reached the absolute pinnacle of civilian deaths in Baghdad, and eventually subsided with the ethnic restructuring of Baghdad into a Shiite majority city.

This of course, was the watershed development (of the war), that broke the back of the Sunni led insurgency, by cleansing its civilian support apparat, most of whom left the country as (2 million) refugees. This then  set the table for  the much ballyhooed U.S. strategy of the “surge”, whereby the remaining Sunni insurgency would enter into a deal with the U.S./ Maliki government to eliminate the takfiri element within their insurgency that had been  agitating for civil war and fighting the occupation. But just as importantly, the Shiite insurgency led by Sadr also entered into an arrangement with the Maliki government to cease its military operations. And while there are a lot of circumstantial reasons why Sadr chose at this particular moment to stop his insurgency, and eventually disband the Mahdi army itself, suffice it to say that this development (coupled with the Sunni Awakening) had the multiplying effect of drastically reducing the overall climate of violence – that greatly enhanced the Maliki administration’s nationalists credentials by appearing to work as an anti-militia impartial arbitrator of the waring factions – that in itself, gave Maliki the political clout to negotiate a very favorable SOFA agreement (with the U.S.) that would satisfy both broadly expressed anti-occupation sentiments, and especially the central demand of the Sadr Trend, that  put into writing, a definite time line for the end of occupation – that also had the effect of disarming the occupations main reason for continuing the occupation (like all occupations), as the final arbitrator of stability and security . From this perspective, we see a thread of reciprocal cooperation at all the critical watershed events, between the Iraqi government under Maliki and the growing influence and demands of the populist/nationalist movement of Muqtada al-Sadr.

It is an interesting fact that throughout this period the Sadr movement has continued to grow exponentially both in popular and political power against all predictions to the contrary in the Western press. And in all probability was the defining power in defeating the Sunni insurgency, and by the subsequent disbandment of his own militia, that ironically, gave the Maliki administration the power to end the war, by diplomatic as opposed to military, means.

more later…

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