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No - not yet.
But I believe this article is the most accurate, fact-based, and level headed assessment of the situation - both current and historical - in Iraq as I've ever read.
As far as predictions for the future, few sane people would make them without acknowledging a degree of fallibility. But given the current course of actions these seem reasonably optimistic - though chaos theory along with the sum total experience of human history indicate some surprises await. And while the author's depiction of Sadr is debatable* the remainder of the brief is cold hard fact.
Well worth the read.
*He spent 5 weeks embedded with Sadr forces in 2005 - whether this experience left him with an excessively favorable disposition towards the cleric is anyone's guess. His report on that trip is subscriber only.
(Hat tip: Instapundit)
Added thoughts: The conventional wisdom here on the ground is that Sadr's "ceasefire" is a reality - explanations for that vary. It should be remembered that a similar proclamation was issued by the cleric earlier this year - at the beginning of the surge. Arguments were made (and still can be advanced) that his tactic would simply be to wait out the surge and then unleash his troops. Others speculate that Sadr's control over said troops is limited at best - that assumption can be supported by the general lack of cease-fire over the intervening months.
Cease-fire or no, we are continuing to pursue members of the Jaish al Mahdi (Sadr's Mahdi Army, commonly referred to as JAM, pronounced just like the stuff you spread on bread) and the battle against whatever is left of al Qaeda in Iraq goes on - we are very much still at war. But indirect fire attacks (mortars and rockets fired over the walls by small teams that vanish before impact - the preferred method to "confront" US troops) have dropped, and beyond that American casualties are down even as more soldiers spend more time in the streets. (Coincidence?)
It's likely that an increasing percentage of the "opposition" brought in (or buried) as we increase neighborhood patrols and operations will be the local trouble makers referenced in the linked report above. Barring our withdrawal, at some inevitable point they will get the majority of our combat focus in Iraq. (The day that majority becomes sufficiently overwhelming might also be called VI Day - you figure it out...) Alignment of groups and individuals throughout Iraq is ambiguous, shifting, and exceptionally difficult to determine by Iraqis, let alone US forces. So the possibility exists that that point at which local thugs with no larger alignment - ideological or otherwise - become the predominant "foe" in Iraq may pass without our immediate knowledge. But as al Qaeda crumbles, other local and regional Sunni and Shia groups join the "concerned citizens" effort, and the Sadr faction takes long overdue consideration of a political future the possibility of passing that point grows with each day.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not declaring victory. I am saying that the race to a tipping point - something we've discussed here throughout this year - may have been won. (Caveat: runners can always be tripped up near the finish line...)
I'll close, however, with a repeat of what I said yesterday: ...Lailat ul-Qadr - the "Night of Power" - the key point in Ramadan commemorating Allah's revelation of the Koran to Mohammed, is still to come. If we pass that point without anything "newsworthy" happening - then we can talk.
Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 10/04/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.
On Sadr, I think that he is pulling a very savvy move allowing us to "purge" his ranks of the "Iranian" influence for him.
Way back in 2004 when he was in Najaf, one of the things that I noticed was a split between his advisors: the ones from Iraq v. the ones from Iran.
the Iraqi advisors kept issuing statements saying they were considering negotiations and withdrawal. The Iranian hardliners would issue a statement right after that saying that those announcements were false. His movement was schizophrenic even then.
It was a problem he had because he was trying to develop a nationalist movement but made a big mistake of letting the Iranians in (he did it, they didn't "infiltrate; he invited). I think this did tick off a portion of his nationalist folks here were both ticked off because they didn't like the Iranians from the 1980's and because these were the people who stayed in Iraq to fight, unlike the SCIRI and DAWA who ran to Iran.
Since the Iranian "Quds" related forces are getting blamed for bringing more powerful bombs in and doing most of the killing now, he needs to distance himself from that to keep his stance as a purely nationalist movement.
Second issue was the firefight in Karbala. That was definitely an ugly event and put him in a bad light. Now he can claim that it wasn't really "his men" who did it, but some bad guys and its the bad guys the US is taking down, not really effecting his movement at all (not that its true, but he does get a two for one out of the deal).
We are playing along with this I think because we do want to keep this yahoo doing "politics" and not "war" even if his politics are currently at the point of a gun. At the same time, we send a message to him: those who continue to fight will die and eventually have no say in Iraqi politics. And Sadr is all about getting some of his own back on the political front.
Like I said, the Sadrites under his father stood in Iraq and fought the regime both quietly and outright. His dad paid the price. I think he thinks he deserves a little something for all that work that got thrown under the bus as soon as the US invaded. He wants to stay relevant.Posted by kat-missouri at October 4, 2007 06:29 PM
Thanks for posting this article. I do agree it is the most accurate, fact based and level headed. I do believe that we are reaching a tipping point. The funny thing though the majority of Americans aren't going to realize when that happens. It's basically going to be anti-climatic. The surge is working and we are barely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The only thing I might disagree with General Patreaus is withdrawing anytime soon. If I was President Bush I think overkill would be the word of the day. (Pun intended). If Patreaus wanted 30,000 troops I'd give him 60,000 if possible. If he says that he wants to bring troop levels down starting in December. I'd let the people that have finished their 15 month go home, but maintain the troop level til June. I'd be like a overzealous firefighter. If the I saw the smallest ember I'd STOMP IT out!! We have come so far that any lamebrains latecomers that think they can spoil the party will be obliterated. I think this is when we have to be at our most vigilant.Posted by Pete Dawg at October 4, 2007 07:04 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(3) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)