THEORIES….More from Marc Lynch. After quoting a Saudi Arabian editorial suggesting that Iran has abandoned Muqtada al-Sadr because it now has more useful allies in Baghdad, he summarizes the various guesses floating around about what’s really going on in Iraq right now:

So you can add the [1] “Iran is liquidating its no longer useful proxies” theory (which would fit this general line of speculation about Iran’s doubts about Sadr and preference for the simultaneously-US backed ISCI) to the generally most prevalent (in the Iraqi and Arab, not just Western, media) [2] “Maliki and ISCI are liquidating their more popular rivals ahead of the provincial elections” theory; the optimistic [3] “Sadr has lost power and now’s the time to take him out” theory (thus far not borne out by the course of the fighting, but who knows — it’s early); Maliki’s own [4] “it’s time to establish state sovereignty over a ‘lost’ province” theory (which Bush, of course, has embraced, and is supported by the reporting that the Iraqi Army began its preparations for the attack months ago; but then why isn’t he taking on the other militias and warlords? and why would he start now, and in Basra?); and Reidar Visser’s [5] “Maliki is trying to build a power base in the Iraqi Army” theory.

All numbering added by me for handy future reference.

UPDATE: More here on the general situation in Basra and what it means.

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