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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

4/06/2004

Mistakes

Steve den Beste writes a short piece on the errors the insurgents have made in Falluja and, I believe more importantly, the radical Shi'ites have made by rising now.

I say more importantly because the murderers at Falluja are a beaten bunch whose fearless leader is not coming home anytime soon. As a political incident the lynching at Falluja will likely have more impact in the United States than it does in Iraq. And that political impact will be a five day wonder. Especially now that Teddy Kennedy has made it official and called Iraq "Bush's Vietnam". (A fact which only came clear since, well, his appearence with Katie Couric on the Today Show on the 15th of January 2004 where he said Kennedy admitted that "clearly the Iraqi people are safer, and that is a testament to the skill of our armed forces.")

The radical Shi'ites, as den Beste points out, were hoping to establish an Iran style theocracy and, to date, have not been doing too well. There luck is now changing, they are now going to start doing very badly indeed. Their militia is not going to have much chance against an attacking American force. And that is potentially hugely significant for Iraq.

As den Beste puts it:
But now al-Sadr and his supporters have risen in open rebellion. And that means we no longer have to put up with them. It means more hard fighting, and more casualties. The next couple of months will see the worst fighting in Iraq since the invasion. Once it's over, the situation overall will be immeasurably better.
den beste
Here the mistake is twofold, first to rise in rebellion when there is an occupying force which can take you out without any serious difficulty, second, timing.

Had al-Sadr waited for the June 30th turnover he and his faction would have had the capacity to run a terror campaign against the Iraqi provisional government. A government which, while it will still have access to American troops, will be reluctant to use them against any group of Iraqis. The great balancing act for the putative provisional government will be to prevent the Shi'ites from using their majority to overwhelm the various minorities in Iraq. Sending in the Americans to take out al-Sadr is the last thing a provisional government struggling to establish its legitimacy could afford to do.

Had al-Sadr simply been patient he might well have continued to push the moderate Shi'ite leadership away from compromise; but as den Beste makes clear, his rebellion clears the way for the moderates to call for peace while praying the Americans will rid them of this troublesome priest. And his militia.