We're gonna go after Muqtada al-Sadr.
I started coming around to this line of thinking when Cheney was summoned to Saudi Arabia and al-Sadr's chief Shia rival, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, was summoned to Washington for a White House visit. The extra troops are also a good hint, but Pete Schoomaker's quote in McClatchy seals it for me. From McClatchy:
A possible short-term surge of as many as 40,000 more American troops to try to secure Baghdad, along with a permanent increase in the size of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps, which are badly strained by deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Military commanders look warily at a surge, saying that even 20,000 more soldiers and Marines may not be available and wouldn't necessarily help reduce Iraq's violence.
"We would not surge without a purpose," Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, said Thursday. "And that purpose should be measurable."
Measurable, huh. I'd say. It will measurably bloody that's for sure. We're talking about street to street urban warfare the likes of which some warned about before the invasion, but never really materialized because Saddam's soldiers didn't have the loyalty that al-Sadr's do. And we're going to be going into their turf against fighters who have had several month's to hone their skills with unassociated others taking pot shots at us. I not saying we won't get al-Sadr, we probably will. It is just going to come at a heavy price.
It's no wonder Bush is waiting until after the holidays to announce his latest pony plan.
After the holiday's, you are going to here al-Sadr's name mentioned by every single White House operative in every single interview. That's the last signal.
And for what? So Iran's biggest Shia ally in Southern Iraq will now hold all the cards, which they will. Call it the mega-Iran strategy.
No, so George Bush can put another head on the wall. Just like with the deck of cards or Saddam or Saddam's kids, they measure progress with "gets" like some damn talk show booking agent. Right now, al-Sadr is their fucking Oprah. Why? Because he has the most recognizable name in America. That is how this administration measures progress, the big "gets."
Sure, al-Sadr is part of the problem, but he is part of the problem because we are there. And what are we going to do after we get him and nothing changes except that al-Hakim will rush in to fill the power void giving Iran greater sway in Iraq than they already have. We're hitching our wagon to the wrong horse and in the end nothing will have changed except for a respite in the sectarian violence while they turn their attention to us.
We should at least ask Iran to knock it off with the nukes in exchange for their new found bounty. Then at least some good could come out of it.
For the record, I think this is the wrong approach. Al-Sadr is the only man in southern Iraq keeping from basically turning into a protectorate of Iran. I still think a soft partition is the only way out and we're going to have to walk because all the ponies are dead.
Update: Maybe it has already started. From Iraqslogger via TPM Muckraker:
A mysterious psychological operations campaign is underway in Iraq, with Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army as its target. In recent days, Baghdad residents report receiving phone calls that caller ID show to be originating from outside Iraq. When the phone is answered, the listener hears a recorded message from an anonymous man speaking formal Arabic. He condemns the Mahdi Army and describes how it destroys Iraqi infrastructure, including electricity. Baghdad residents are afraid to discuss details of the message over phone lines, believing them to be monitored.
Hmm...Who could be making those Robo calls?