DanegeldThe deal struck to return the shrine in Najaf to civil control through the good offices of Ayatollah Sistani is merciful but, in all likliehood, represents a significant setback for the prospects of a civil and secular state in Iraq.
The essential trade off was al-Sadr's (and his remaining militia)freedom in exchange for a peaceful transfer of the shrine. While this spares any number of young Shi'tes a quick martyrdom, it sets a horrible precedent. al-Sadr has now beaten the outstanding charge of murder which is what this entire matter was about. In effect, the deal negates the civil authority's capacity to apprehend and try any alleged criminal in Iraq.
It leaves al-Sadr free to organize politically and it leaves his milita in the position of having stared down the US Marines.
al-Sadr and the people in Iraq and Iran who support him have learned a dangerous lesson: there are deals to be done with the United States even when you are surrounded, outgunned and unpopular.
Ian Welsh has, on a number of occassions, from a different perspective, suggested that the Americans are lousy colonialists. I don't for an instant agree that the American aim in Iraq is colonization; but, pro tem, the Americans have been put into the position of being a colonial government. The events in Najaf suggest they have not got the toughness and the inflexibility required for that mission.
Sadly for the Iraqi people if the Americans do not have that essential, core, toughness it is time for them to leave. Quickly. Because the events in Najaf will embolden the holdouts, the Islamic terrorists and the little, fat cleric who used the religious shield to such effect.
I wrote this post without going over to Ian's - I now have and leave the subject with a quote,
In the crowd the remaining Mehdi army fighters will slip away, and neither Allawi nor the Americans will be seen by Iraqis as having broken the Mehdi fighters (a hopeless brave fight against great odds is not something to be ashamed of, it is a rallying cry. Remember the Alamo?)
tilting at windmills