Just for fun, check out what Michael Ledeen, hugely influential (close ties to the White House, resident scholar at AEI, contributing editor to National Review, etc etc) neoconservative foreign policy expert (er, “expert”) had to say exactly a week ago about the situation in Iraq:
A lot of the coverage revolves around the colorful figure of Moqtada al Sadr, as if he were calling some of the shots in Baghdad and Basra, but those stories are anachronistic. Mookie is no longer a major player in these events. . . . Today, on the most reliable accounts, most Iraqi Shi’ites (and Sunnis, for that matter) despise the Iranian regime, blame it for most of the violence, and are fighting Iranians and their proxies throughout the land. . . . Democracy works its magic, even in the Middle East, and Maliki wants to keep his job. Right now, that requires him to fight the Iranian-sponsored militias.
This is all — all! — absolutely and thoroughly ridiculous, and reflects such a contradictory, dumbass understanding of the realities in Iraq that I wondered if it was an early April Fools joke. Any sentient observer of Iraq would know all those statements are wrong, but the piece is particularly notable because it was disproved virtually in its entirety just days after being posted last week.
First of all, and most importantly, the militia that keeps Maliki in power, the Badr Corps, is the single most Iran-connected organization in Iraq. Iran trained and funded Badr, an Iranian-based expat group, for years while Saddam was in power; by contrast, Sadr has a relatively tenuous relationship with Iran because he and his family stuck around in Iraq throughout Saddam’s reign and because he’s more of an Iraqi nationalist than Iran would like. The idea that Maliki is going around fighting Iranian influence is simply ludicrous.
Further, despite Ledeen’s confident predictions of a Sadrist wipeout, Maliki and the Iraqi Army (if that’s what we want to call essentially a bunch of deputized and uniformed Badr members) basically lost the battles in Basra and Baghdad, both from tactical and PR perspectives. And who brokered the truce that ended the fighting? Iran! The same nation Ledeen claimed was fomenting the violence. This is a guy with huge influence and a significant readership/following, and his position in the world would be hilarious if the effects weren’t, y’know, the deaths of thousands and thousands and thousands of people.