2007-02-13

Chait and Sadr: Living in Separate Realities

The New Republic's Jonathan Chait in TNR Online (subscription), February 12, 2007:
There is something genuinely bizarre about those remaining supporters of President Bush's strategy in Iraq. It is not just that they are wrong--being wrong happens to all of us from time to time. It's that they are completely detached from reality.

Their arguments have nothing to do with what is actually happening in Iraq. They aren't claiming that Bush's critics have a wrong impression of what's happening in Iraq. They just seem to have no interest in the subject themselves. Their arguments take place almost entirely at the level of abstraction.

If you follow the news in Iraq, the story has become depressingly familiar. Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is a creature of hard-line Shiite sectarians, and his government has been deeply infiltrated by Shiite militias. Everything he has done in his job has been toward the end of giving the Shiites an upper hand over the Sunnis.

Shiite militias have infiltrated the Iraqi army. We're equipping and training the bad guys. The Shiite militia members who haven't joined the army lay low when our troops patrol Baghdad, so that we fight the Sunnis and leave them standing. As Tom Lasseter of McClatchy Newspapers reported a week and a half ago, "The U.S. military drive to train and equip Iraq's security forces has unwittingly strengthened anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army militia."

That's why Maliki supports the surge. To the extent it succeeds, the surge will do a faster and better job of driving Sunnis out of Baghdad.

ABC News, February 13, 2007:
While members of the U.S. House of Representatives take turns weighing in on President Bush's planned troop surge in Iraq, the focus in Iraq is not on the arrival of more U.S. troops, but the departure of one of the country's most powerful men, Moqtada al Sadr and members of his army.

According to senior military officials, al Sadr left Baghdad two to three weeks ago and fled to Tehran, Iran, where he has family.

Al Sadr commands the Mahdi army, one of the most formidable insurgent militias in Iraq, and his move coincides with the announced U.S. troop surge in Baghdad.

Sources believe al Sadr is worried about an increase of 20,000 U.S. troops in the Iraqi capital. One official told ABC News' Martha Raddatz, "He is scared he will get a JDAM [bomb] dropped on his house."