Jed, it’s entirely possible that Sadr has something vicious and unconscionable up his sleeve. And it’s difficult to take calls for peace at face value from a guy who ran around killing Americans until it became more trouble than it was worth to him. But query whether al Sadr would rather have a chance at running the government of an Iraq whole and at peace or a guaranteed place at the top of a Shi’a army tasked with surviving a civil war. Query whether al Sadr aspires for purely religious reasons to be a permanent stepstool for Iranian overlordship.
I daresay al Sadr prefers to lead an intact Iraq — one in which Arab kills not Arab and the Kurds are not permitted to slip free of Baghdad. I suspect he is not kidding or faking it when he calls on joint Sunni/Shi’a prayer sessions. Moqtada has been keeping up the national-unity drumbeat since August, when everyone last expected Iraq to smash itself to smithereens. Back then I made the unruly prediction that al Sadr could become Iraq’s Ataturk, and though Talabani is doing heroic things he is not an Arab and what Iraq needs is an Arab Iraqi nationalist. Sadr may be a wooly scoundrel but as far as the missing piece in Iraqi leadership he may also be the leading, or the only, candidate. He has had several chances already to destroy the nation of Iraq and so far has passed all of them up — in favor of holding it together.
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