Glorious victory to Maliki apparently.
Well we have Muqtada calling off the dogs after successfully playing defence for a number of days; successfully enough to get sucked into a situation where his people were bumping directly against US forces. Also, you have pipeline bombings, highways interdicted, police stations and suchlike seized all across Southern Iraq: all the pressure points pressed and without central command and control, as far as we can tell. Local units appeared to know what to do, which is a contrast from the JAM’s debut back in 04, when the gameplan consisted of a) piling into the shrine of Imam Ali and b) getting martyred, with Muqtada wandering around dressed in his own shroud going wooo, just by way of encouragement.
Now Sadr 3 is doing one of those youthful entrepreneur things: “Well, Sir Alan, I mobilized a mass return of the repressed while doing my Ayatollah a-levels. Having said that, I don’t intend to be anyone’s apprentice.” According to Muqtada’s conciliation statement, any of his people who fail to withdraw will no longer be considered as being members of his forces – no martyrs funeral for them or death benefits for their families. But the point here seems to be that he had to rein his people in, that the initiative had passed from ISCI/Iraq army to the Sadrists, who also get to keep their weapons.
One of the things that Patrick Cockburn told me about the Mahdi army was that most of its members are unpaid; they volunteer out of religious obligation and, presumably, because all the other neighbourhood kids are doing it. What they do have are guns, which then turn into their means of earning a living. So what the Sadrists have had to try and do is turn a flaky melange of saintly protection racketeers, charitable death squad members, pious ethnic cleansers and all round pesky kids into something a bit more Hezbollah-like. Beta testing seems to show progress.
Meanwhile, says Abu M:
Do we have a dog in such a fight? Alas, we do. That dog's name is ISCI. As the same friend mentioned above has noted, historians studying Iraq decades from now will wonder why the United States allied itself with the Iran-backed ISCI instead of the popularly-supported Sadr movement. (Hint to those historians: it's because they dress well and speak English. This is what happens when you send smart but young Republican loyalists -- who only speak English -- to help run the CPA in Baghdad.) Once again, we have backed the loser.
Yeah, I’m just about old enough to remember that trope about "allied to the wrong Vietnamese”. The problem, then as now, is that it's always the wrong Vietnamese who want to do business.