Monday, February 19, 2007

Sadr Probably in Iraq, Not Iran

The Bush Administration is not shy about looking for scapegoats for its own incompetence. I fully expect that any day now Bush will claim that Iran tricked him into starting a war in Iraq. In the meantime, Bush is increasingly pointing fingers at Iran to explain away four long years of White House blunders in Iraq. The Bush Administration now appears to be blaming Iran for harboring Muqtada Sadr, the troublesome Shiite cleric who has launched reprisals against Sunnis who have been attacking Shiites.

Middle East expert Juan Cole of Informed Comment points out that Sadr is probably still in Iraq:
Muqtada al-Sadr is *highly* unlikely to be in Iran.

1. The al-Sadrs, Muqtada and his father, made endless fun of the al-Hakims for fleeing Iraq to Iran under Saddam. Muqtada's claim to greater legitimacy would be undermined were he now to flee to Iran from the Americans.

2. Muqtada successfully hid out from Saddam in Kufa for 4 years. He can hide from the Americans. He has tunnels, safe houses, and trustworthy aides who won't inform on him. He also escaped this way from Najaf and the Marines in Aug. 2004.


6. Al-Hayat says he is hiding out in the southern Marshes, also plausible. The Marsh Arabs are now mostly Sadrists.

7. The story of his being in Iran has three sources: Gen. Caldwell of the US military, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, and Jalal Talabani. All have an interest in Muqtada being humiliated and undermined, and all have an interest in removing his Iraqi nationalist credentials by tying him to Iran. For al-Hakim and Talabani, both with strong Iran ties themselves, it levels the playing field. None is likely actually to know where Muqtada is.

It's worth a reminder that Sunnis have formed the backbone of the insurgency in Iraq for the last four years. Sadr is no innocent; on the other, it's ridiculous to believe the White House has any useful idea what sides to take in the Iraq civil war. In fact, the most dangerous people in Iraq could easily be the Iraqi politicians who tell Americans exactly what they want to hear. Ahmed Chalabi managed to bamboozle any number of neoconservatives with pie-in-the-sky stories about Iraq being a cake walk and Iraqis greeting us with flowers; Chalabi, who spends most of his time in London despite still having a hand in the Iraq government, has done financially very well by telling American right wingers fairy tales about turning Iraq into a secular democracy that would recognize Israel.

We really do need to get out of the mess Bush has made. And of course the McCain Doctrine is not helping matters. The real problem, of course, is that we cannot trust Bush's word or his competence and he has no business expanding the war.

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