August 28, 2004


End to Najaf fighting leaves something for all (JIM KRANE, 8/28/04, Chicago Sun-Times)

If the agreement brokered Thursday by al-Sistani holds, Allawi could be the biggest winner.

The government not only gains sovereignty over Najaf, it stands to receive a boost in legitimacy among Iraqi Shiites for working with al-Sistani, the most senior Shiite cleric in Iraq and one of the most respected people in the country.

It was a shrewd move by Allawi, who introduced the idea that al-Sistani and the Iraqi government were working toward a common objective, said a Bush administration official in Washington.

But the resolution also points to the power of al-Sistani, who -- even ailing after heart treatment in London -- could resolve a crisis that government negotiators and troops could not.

The outcome for the U.S. military was less impressive. But it's hard to see how the Americans could have ended the Najaf standoff on a better note.

The only potential losers are al-Sadr and the rest who proved afraid of martyrdom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 28, 2004 12:21 PM

Mr. Judd;

The outcome for the US military was less impressive? Krane should tell that to Sadr's recently deceased followers.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at August 28, 2004 12:31 PM

Considering that an assault on the Shrine of Ali, whether by Iraqi or American troops, would have been a political catastrophe even though we'd have certainly annihilated the remnants of the Mehdi Army, I think the U.S. actually came off very well from this, and Sadr's reputation is a wreck. That's -twice- in a row he's completely failed to detonate a general Shi'ite uprising, and this time he's gotten good and properly spanked by the Grand Ayatollah, _whose_ reputation is at an all-time zenith (one commenter on another blog pointed out that the language that Sistani's people used to announce the agreement was deliberately phrased so as to point up just how unimportant Moqtada is, and how far he's gone past his proper station - in fact, it's been said that Moqtada isn't even properly a senior cleric at all, he gave himself that title instead of having it granted in the regular order by the Shi'ite hierarchy). I hope that heart surgery holds up, because we'll need him in the coming days.

Posted by: Joe at August 28, 2004 1:09 PM

AOG and Joe, you are both correct. This is a much better outcome for the US. But it is amazing how clueless the mainstream media is. They will no doubt paint this as a failure of military force, but a success for diplomacy. But it was the successful use of that military force to contain Al-Sadr's militia, slowly but surely reduce it to a remnant, and drive home the message that Al-Sadr's options were peace or annihilation, that made the negotiated peace possible.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 28, 2004 4:06 PM

Sadr seems to be claiming it as another step on the road to a mullocracy.

I cannot read it any other way.

Along this line, I think all you saber rattlers ought to be asking a military question: on what military principle was the battle fought where it was? Battles usually are fought on some ground chosen for military reasons. This was fought around a temple, with no military value.

Pretty bad news for democracy.

If I were Muqtadr, I wouldn't be too concerned about the longterm performance of my 401(k), but everybody here but me was freely predicting his death three weeks ago.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 28, 2004 6:53 PM

Mr. Eager;

Now you're being silly. Battles are not infrequently fought for politically, not militarily significant targets. What was the point of the Doolittle Raid, except political? Was that a bad sign for democracy as well?

But if you want a military reason for fighting were we did, it was because that's where the enemy was. A military goal of attrition is a fairly standard one and we certainly achieved that. It might well not decrease the number of people willing to fight, but I expect will decrease the number willing to fight for Al-Sadr, who has now thrown away his follower's lives twice for nothing.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at August 28, 2004 10:11 PM

Right. Methinks somebody (actually, a lot of somebodies) needs to re-read Sun Tzu.
The proper place to fight a battle is approximately "Wherever the enemy is." The whole point of teh military and fighting is to bend the enemy to your will.

Posted by: ray at August 28, 2004 10:29 PM

and Patton..

"No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country"

Posted by: Chris B at August 29, 2004 1:17 AM

Sadr's got to die.

I appreciate all the nuanced commentary here, but come on, do you seriously think that's what it'll look like to Iraq's floating population of illiterate gunmen, road-side bombers, rapists, kidnappers and would-be warlords?

They saw Sadr challenge the US and the Iraqi government, they saw the US and the Iraqi governments were afraid to kill him in the end. They aren't capable of any more complex analysis than that.

Sadr's survival is a win for anarchy and terror, his exellent adventure will be written up as a glorious victory against the infidel. These people don't think, they shriek and fire guns in the air and throw themselves in front of helecopter cannon expecting to have a sex-orgy in heaven with 70 virgins.

I admit this is a good development because Sadr is now out of the shrine and therefor killable, all I'm saying is THEY BETTER KILL HIM.

Posted by: Amos at August 29, 2004 6:19 AM


It was fought there because that's where Sadr was. Now he's not. We win.

Posted by: oj at August 29, 2004 3:34 PM

I'd put it a little more temperately than Amos, but yeah. We didn't bend Sadr to our will. Nor did Sistani.

At least, 3 weeks ago, I heard here that Sistani wanted him gone. He isn't gone.

Doolittle Raid is an inapt comparison. The place of attack was chosen for military reasons. In fact, the potential symbolic or political target -- the Imperial Palace -- was forbidden to be attacked.

You are mistaking strength of attack for point of attack.

The crucial factor here is that the Mahdi chose to defend a temple. This is not a war about democracy but about religion.

It was between two mullahs, and guess what, a mullah won.

The democrats (I use the term loosely), in Baghdad, weren't even a factor.

I have been trying to think of a comparison to what Sadr probably is becoming to the mass of Iraqis. It isn't easy to find an exact parallel.

Perhaps Garibaldi, if we make the ayatollahs stand for the King of Savoy.

Or William Tell.

At some point -- rapidly approaching, I suspect -- it wouldn't even matter whether Sadr is killed. There'll be a tipping point where the movement sustains itself, with as much help from Iran as it needs.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 29, 2004 7:26 PM


Sadr left. Sistani entered. The democrats won.

Posted by: oj at August 29, 2004 7:46 PM

This time.

Posted by: Ken at August 30, 2004 12:55 PM