IS MUQTADA AL-SADR DOOMED?….Rich Lowry passes along an email from a friend:
On the political front, Sadr now finds himself completely isolated. Key leaders of his own movement are now urging him to accept the Maliki government’s demands to disband the militia entirely.
Saturday, Iraq’s president and two vice-presidents, along with every other major political group in Iraq (except the Sadrists) joined in the condemnation of Sadr’s militia, and endorsed Prime Minister Maliki’s demand that the militia disarm. Sadr’s militia is now virtually the only militia left in Iraq that still maintains an outlaw posture, the only one that still challenges the authority of the Iraqi Security Forces or the Coalition. (Other major militias have disbanded, transforming into political organizations and joining — or becoming — legitimate security forces, which explains why you never hear about any other militia in the news.)
It would certainly be nice if this were all true, but I’m afraid you have to put a pretty big thumb on the scale to get there.
Are “key leaders of his own movement” urging Sadr to disband the Mahdi Army? Not that I’ve heard. This AP dispatch quotes the leader of the Sadrist bloc in parliament acknowledging that the Sadrists “are in a predicament” and complaining that some of Sadr’s close advisors “are radicals,” but this is a far cry from anyone urging him to disband the Mahdi Army. That would be tantamount to suicide, and it’s pretty unlikely that any of Sadr’s people are recommending that.
Has “every other major political group in Iraq” endorsed Maliki’s demand that the Mahdi Army disarm? Sure. As long they don’t have to disarm, everyone in Iraq is in favor of the other guys disarming.
And is it true that only the Mahdi Army retains an “outlaw posture”? Yes it is — but only because all the other militias have become either legally recognized (like the Kurdish peshmerga); have co-opted the official security forces (like the Iranian-backed Badr Organization); or are under the de facto protection of the American military (like the Sunni Sahwa councils). That doesn’t mean these other militias no longer exist, only that Maliki has decided to let them be. Under those circumstances, Sadr is unlikely to agree to a unilateral disarmament.
There’s a lot going on in Iraq right now, and I won’t pretend to know what’s really happening beneath the surface. But take this stuff with a big shaker of salt. It sounds a lot more like spin than substance.