29 September 2006
Sadr loses contol of his militia
Moktada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric, may have lost control of about a third of his Mahdi Army militia group, according to the New York Times.
What seems to have happened is that as al-Sadr has fallen for American blandishments and become more integrated into the puppet regime, his followers have started deserting him. As this blog argued almost a year ago, we live in a post-modern world and the older loyalties of family, tribe and religion are making a comeback. The cleric may wish to be a regime player, but if his former soldiers have given up on the idea of Iraq, then fractures like this are inevitable.
Two outcomes are possible:
The first is that the fracturing will continue. The Americans will find it easier to take on these small groups, if they can find them, but they will find it impossible to actually govern that part of the country where the former Sadrists operate. Low-level guerrilla war will continue, and the Americans have the only army that can contain these forces. Thus the Americans will have to stay in place, at least until the decision is made to abandon Iraq.
The second possible outcome is that al-Sadr will realise that the only thing holding his movement together is a loathing for the Americans. As John Robb argues, he could unleash his remaining followers on the American army, in the hope that his former supporters will unite behind that call. What happens after the Americans leave is anyone's guess, and it is unlikely that al-Sadr will give that too much thought. The important thing is unity now.
Either way, it doesn't look good for the Americans.