The reports coming from Iraq suggest that Moqtada al-Sadr is more popular than al Maliki. He could well replace al Maliki in the next election. We've got to ask why al Maliki decided to attack now.
Bush and the Republicans seen an American election coming in November, and al Maliki is their boy. So in spite of not being consulted in advance of the battle, the American troops are now fighting for al Maliki. Here is the report from today's Washington Post:
BAGHDAD, March 27 -- U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in Sadr City, the vast Shiite stronghold in eastern Baghdad, as an offensive to quell party-backed militias entered its third day. Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the area as American troops took the lead in the fighting. [Snip]So although Americans were not consulted in advance, they are now carrying the battle to the Mahdi Army while al Maliki's militia sits on the sidelines.
Maliki decided to launch the offensive without consulting his U.S. allies, according to administration officials. With little U.S. presence in the south, and British forces in Basra confined to an air base outside the city, one administration official said that "we can't quite decipher" what is going on. It's a question, he said, of "who's got the best conspiracy" theory about why Maliki decided to act now.
In Basra, three rival Shiite groups have been trying to position themselves, sometimes through force of arms, to dominate recently approved provincial elections.
The U.S. officials, who were not authorized to speak on the record, said that they believe Iran has provided assistance in the past to all three groups -- the Mahdi Army; the Badr Organization of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Iraq's largest Shiite party; and forces loyal to the Fadhila Party, which holds the Basra governor's seat. But the officials see the current conflict as a purely internal Iraqi dispute.
Some officials have concluded that Maliki himself is firing "the first salvo in upcoming elections," the administration official said.
"His dog in that fight is that he is basically allied with the Badr Corps" against forces loyal to Sadr, the official said. "It's not a pretty picture."
It appears that al Maliki also has his eyes on the next American Presidential election, as well as on his own next election. By attacking the Mahdi Army now, he might be able to weaken Mudktada's support in the upcoming Iraqi elections, and at the sem time the American troops have to support his attack because Bush is President. Would a Democratic President support such an attack?
The Presidential campaign rhetoric would suggest that the answer is a lot less certain. So if al Maliki wants to be sure of American military support for his side in the civil war between the Shia militias, he had to move now, and do it without asking for military cooperation in advance.
This is a direct result of the idiocy of invading Iraq in the first place, followed by Jerry Bremer's compounding of the idiocy when he disbanded the Iraqi government and military forces. Removing Saddam might have been a reasonable goal (although the cost of the invasion certainly was not justified by that one goal) but Bremer's idea that Baathists were the same as Nazis after WW II and that he was going to deBaathify Iraq the way the allied occupiers of Germany did that country was a fantasy. The occupation of Iraq was not planned and without such an occupation, the destruction of the local government and military was simply the creation of the chaos that is Iraq today.
What used to be the nation of Iraq has been shattered and destroyed, and American troops are now fighting on one side of an Iraqi civil war in which we have no real interest beyond the protection of the prestige of George Bush and the Republican Party prior to the November 2008 Presidential election.
American troops are also in the unenviable position of protecting the Sunni militias and tribes in Anbar Province from the Shiite government of al Maliki, as well as protecting the Kurds in the North from the Shiite government.
So, having destroyed Iraq as a nation, the American military is currently preventing two civil wars from occurring and actively being sucked into taking sides in the third between the two major Shia factions.
For what? Weapons of mass destruction that did not exist and apparently an effort to display to other Middle Eastern nations that America's military was so powerful that if American didn't like how your dictator behaved, they would replace him. In other words, pure stupidity.
Stupidity that McCain wants to carry forward for some unknown reason, perhaps the honor of not retreating from a fight.
So far, 4001 Americans dead in this botched idiocy, Severely wounded over ten times as many, a nation destroyed with uncountable dead, injured and 15% of the population as either internal or external refugees. America's ground forces are of no value anywhere else in the world now, and America's reputation is in tatters.
Welcome to the Bush legacy.