I left Iraq with the impression that Sistani's plan for handling Sadr would be a
python-like squeeze only an Iraqi insider would fully understand.
the January 2005 election, Sadr joined Iraq's political process (though I
noticed his militia kept its weapons). After parliamentary elections, Sadr
gained control of nearly three-dozen seats and positioned himself as a
But that status appears to be short-lived. One indicator is the
March 26 attack by Iraqi commandos on a Mahdi militia facility in Baghdad. The
predictable media outrage lasted less than a week -- and Iraq's Interior
Ministry pointed out it had acted to stop sectarian vigilantes. Sadr lost
"street face" to the Interior Ministry -- and it appears Sadr's political
position has subsequently deteriorated.
Outsiders -- including U.S.
government officials -- can bewail the Iraqi parliament's lack of progress in
forming a government, but since the middle of March I strongly suspect the
hidden story has been the Interior Ministry and the Iraqi nationalists' war on
Sadr. It's a quiet police and political war waged with the blessing of Ayatollah
Sistani. Creating a strong and stable Iraqi government (the so-called "national
rescue front") is the goal. Sistani has advised Shia leaders to make concessions
to Sunnis in order to establish a "unity government." That's an action anathema
Has Sistani's python begun its final squeeze?
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