Sadr Takes His Marbles Home

Or maybe to Iran. This is good news, I think. “Iraqi Cleric’s Allies Quit Cabinet”:

Cabinet ministers loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr resigned on Monday to protest the prime minister’s refusal to set a timetable for an American withdrawal, raising the prospect that the Mahdi Army militia could return to the streets of Baghdad.

The AP claims that this departure “deals a significant blow to the U.S.-backed leader [Maliki],” but I think that’s dead wrong. Neither Maliki nor anyone else has taken seriously the idea that Sadr and his “army” are supportive of Iraq’s government. And the fact that Muqtada’s minions have been serving in Iraq’s government is constantly used as evidence that the government is hopelessly compromised, can’t possibly go after the militias effectively, etc. So I think it’s a good thing for those ministers to walk out. It may also help allay the fears of many Sunnis that the government, in which they will probably always be a minority, could be a creature of the Shia militias.
Then there’s the matter of the Mahdi Army “returning to the streets.” Wouldn’t that also be good? There is a reason why the Mahdi “Army’s” strategy when the surge started was to melt away and, in some cases, hide in Iran. I’d like to see them emerge from the shadows rather than try to wait us out, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.
Finally, there’s this:

One week ago, al-Sadr mobilized tens of thousands of Iraqis for a peaceful demonstration in two Shiite holy cities, on the fourth anniversary of Baghdad’s fall. At the rally, many participants called for a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
Al-Rubaie said the Sadrists’ withdrawal from the Cabinet was because the prime minister did not respond to demands made at last week’s demonstration.

So it’s official: al Sadr’s position on Iraq is the same as the Democrats’.
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