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Sir Moqtada bravely ran away

For the most part, I've tried to avoid discussing the day-to-day, finer points of the war in Iraq. My reasons are simple: for one, I don't feel even remotely qualified to discuss the minutiae of the struggle. For another, the situation is so fluid that making predictions on single events is risky at best. For yet another, this -- as Bush said from the outset -- is a very long-term project, and it will most likely be years before we can gain a proper perspective on the outcome.

Rather, I've focused on the big picture, the arguments about whether or not the fighting is still in our national interests -- and there I remain still convinced it is.

But now a development has occurred that has me wanting to break my self-imposed rules, because I think that this event -- if it should hold up -- is a major event.

Radical cleric Moqtada Al Sadr has apparently fled Iraq for Iran, along with key elements of his leadership. This is apparently in response to the United States' "surge" in Iraq, along with the Iraqi government's beginning (finally) to crack down on those who have been helping the insurgents.

I'm no Middle East scholar, but it seems to me that terrorist leaders have fallen into two classifications: "warriors" and "sages." Image is all-important; you either have to be seen as the mighty fighter who inspires others to follow your example, or the wise scholar who inspires others to follow your words.

The problem is that Al Sadr is too young to fulfill the "sage" model, so he's stuck trying to be the "warrior." So he's talked a tough game, arranged for some rather nasty physical attacks against his enemies, and in general played up the physical versus the intellectual/spiritual leadership role.

Well, it looks like his mouth's written a couple checks his ass can't cash, and he's decided to skip on martyrdom.

If we're very, very lucky, this will put a huge hurting on the Mahdi Army. they are deprived of much of their key leadership, as the erstwhile heads now spout "we must fight them to the death!" from the safe (for now) side of the border. "You be a martyr, we're too important" is lousy inspirational rhetoric. More than a few of his followers have to be asking themselves "why the hell should I put my life on the line when he and his crowd cut and ran?"

No, I don't think it will kill off the Mahdi Army, nor does it signify a major blow to the insurgency. But it's a damned good sign -- both for our overall success, and Bush's "surge" plan.

If, of course, the story holds true.


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Comments (29)

There are already some folk... (Below threshold)
cirby:

There are already some folks trying to pretend he's still in Iraq, but it's a lot of "I saw him last week and he's fine" stuff.

Meanwhile, buried in an AP story, we get: "An official in al-Sadr's main office in Najaf also said the cleric had decided not to appear publicly during the current month of Muharam, one of four holy months in the Islamic calendar."

Yeah, he's not appearing for holy reasons and stuff.

"Warriors and Sages": I pre... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

"Warriors and Sages": I prefer Halo and ESPN 2K5! On topic: where did you hear the "old" prerequesite for being a "sage"? Age 30 is the demarcation of full status to be considered an elder. It's been that way since Biblical times, i.e. Jesus took apostles at age 30. Anyway, take the good news, ignore the bad, keep yourself "safe".

They should have killed him... (Below threshold)
drjohn:

They should have killed him two years ago.

So the person most responsi... (Below threshold)
BarneyG2000:

So the person most responsible for the escalation of sectarian killings, the person that is responsible for killing hundreds of US soldiers, is just allowed to leave Iraq to continue his mission of spread anarchy through Iraq?

Another brilliant tactical move by the Bush administration.

A likely hiding place would... (Below threshold)
Old Coot:

A likely hiding place would be under a bridge with his friends, the Wizbang trolls.

Or in a 30 percenter's base... (Below threshold)
troll:

Or in a 30 percenter's basement, Old Coot, where the Cheetos and Mountain Dew rations would allow them to hold out for months. Plus they'd have years' worth of Guns & Ammo and Juggs magazines to keep them occupied.

...is just allowed... (Below threshold)
Old Coot:
...is just allowed to leave Iraq to continue his mission of spread anarchy through Iraq?

Barney, I try hard to ignore your drivel, but the comment above epitomizes your typical mendacity.

Are you telling us that it would have been cool with you if we'd have dropped a big one on his lair and probably killed a number of women and children in the process? Perhaps you would rather have sacrificed a score of Americans in an attempt to extract him and bring him to trial, defended by ACLU types like you?

It is so obvious that you would scorn whatever Mr. Bush does. Your illness is an advanced case of Bush Derangement Syndrome and I urge you to resume taking your meds.

Didn't take long for the ko... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

Didn't take long for the kos kiddies rejects to show their true colors did it Old Coot? Whine, moan, lie. make excuses, bash Bush, bash the USA and show their cowardly ass.

The funny thing is going to... (Below threshold)
cirby:

The funny thing is going to be how folks like BG try to reconcile the "we let him get away" theory as above, versus the "he didn't run" theory as seen in most leftist hangouts.

If he shows up again, it's going to be after someone in Iran tells him to show his face, or find out just how well one of those shaped-charge IEDs works when it's crammed up his ass. "We need an Iraqi face on our side of the war, and you're it, buddy, so suck it up and get back over there. Stop crying, the American version of torture is a walk in the park compared to what we're going to do to you if you don't get back on camera and rally your troops..."


"it looks like his mouth's ... (Below threshold)
Mike:

"it looks like his mouth's written a couple checks his ass can't cash"

Heh. That's pretty good, Jay. Is it original?

Personally, I question the timing. After all, this has got to be very inconvenient for the Nutroots crowd after they have just spent a week accusing the Bush Administration of completely fabricating the evidence of Iranian influence in Iraq.

Open door, hit self in face. Repeat as often as necessary.

Gee I wonder were Mookie go... (Below threshold)
BarneyG2000:

Gee I wonder were Mookie got the idea to launch attacks while living in a safe/protected country? O-Yea, Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.

He Ought to Know [Jame... (Below threshold)
macofromoc:

He Ought to Know [James S. Robbins]


So Moqtada al Sadr has fled to Iran. Seems like he has a lot more faith in the effectiveness of the new Coalition strategy in Iraq than many members of Congress. If al Sadr thinks it's working, doesn't that tell us something? Something like, it's working?
02/14 10:19 AM


Sorry - courtesy of National Review Online's the Corner


Gee I wonder were Mookie... (Below threshold)
cirby:

Gee I wonder were Mookie got the idea to launch attacks while living in a safe/protected country? O-Yea, Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.

That would be bin Laden and AFGHANISTAN.

Or bin Laden and Iran (where he got most of his real support - they were the folks who put him in business during the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s, along with a few nutcase Saudis).

Try to find a real "attack" by bin Laden's folks, under his active direction, since about 2003. He's either dead or a basket case right now. Nobody's even seen him on videotape for over three years.

Mookie figured that part out, too, and obviously doesn't want to follow that particular example. When his protection ran out in Iraq, he ran out, too.


I would not be too surprise... (Below threshold)
stan25:

I would not be too surprise if there is information tying al Sadar to the bombing of that mosque about a year ago and the authorities want to question him about it. Hmm does that mean that things in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq will be settling down in the near future? That does not bode too well for the Democrats and their butt buddies in the Drive by Media, if that happens.

...because I think that ... (Below threshold)

...because I think that this event -- if it should hold up -- is a major event.

Uhhhhh Jay...

You seem not to have noticed that other Iraqi politicians Iyad Allawi and Adnan Pachachi fled Iraq a long time ago. It's not unusual for leading Iraqi politicians to spend considerable amounts of time outside the country. They've wisely chosen to avoid the carnage and chaos in their country and extend their lifespan by spending considerable time outside of it. What's remarkable is that Sadr hasn't spent more time outside of the country.

You also seem not to have noticed that Sadr has traveled abroad in the past. He always came back before and I think he'll come back again. The danger to him at this point in time comes not from US forces who refuse to touch him. It comes from Al Qaeda and the Sunni insurgents who are a more deadly threat given that the Mahdi Army has been forced temporarily underground.

I'll admit there is one other possibility: that Sadr has completely lost control of the Mahdi Army and fears for his life from rogue elements in that Army. A Mahdi Army without an identifiable leader could be more of a threat than a Mahdi Army with Sadr as its head. After all, Sadr has recently pushed his people to avoid clashing with the US at all costs.

Gee....I wish I could find ... (Below threshold)
VagaBond:

Gee....I wish I could find Juggs mags. Haven't seen one in years.

Back from a week and 1/2 of... (Below threshold)
Mitchell:

Back from a week and 1/2 of vacation, and it is a pleasure to see that Al Sadr, Johnny Edwards, Al Gore are all having a really bad week.

As are the trolls here.

jhow, you are right on point, as usual.

**heavy sigh**So t... (Below threshold)

**heavy sigh**

So this is another "turning point" eh Mitchell? Like the capture of Saddam, the killing of Zarqawi, the turnover of sovereignty, the Constitution, the election, etc., etc...

Maybe if you war advocates wouldn't keep trumpeting these minor events as turning points the American people wouldn't be so dispirited with the lack of progress in Iraq. We're going to be slugging it out in Iraq for at least a decade, and people like you are just raising false hopes by implying that events like these have any long run significance (esp. since he'll most likely return eventually).

If you want to measure progress in Iraq you'll look at two things: 1) coalition casualties and 2) number of US forces committed. If those numbers are going up things are getting worse; if they are going down things are getting better.

Barney, quick, call General... (Below threshold)

Barney, quick, call General Petraeus! I'm sure he'd love to hear your proof of where Osama is. Your point would be ... I think you just like to see your name in type after such insightful commentary. And you yourself are dispensing information, advice and such profound philosophy from where?

Running to Syria in the middle of the Israel/Hizballah war hurt Nasrallah's image and this will hurt Mookie's image too. The question is only, "How much?" Running has hurt the image of those Iraqi politicians, as well, to differing degrees. As much as they talk tough, running when it gets tough is not looked kindly upon by a society that puts so much value on even foolish bravery.

BryanD: While age 30 may be "the demarcation of full status to be considered an elder", it's not the only requisite to being a intellectual/spiritual elder. As Jay clearly said, "he's talked a tough game, arranged for some rather nasty physical attacks against his enemies, and in general played up the physical versus the intellectual/spiritual leadership role." Mookie has certainly not projected that sort of image. Had Zarqawi not met his demise, it would be somewhat like him suddenly trying to project the role of sage. Hell, even bin Laden has a spiritual advisor.

Bret Stephens gives us some... (Below threshold)
George:

Bret Stephens gives us some more good news from Iraq. During the last years of bloody violence in Iraq, the Iraqis have become more committed to secular democracy. The minority who favored a theocratic dictatorship has shrunk. If the polls are any indication, in spite of Iran's meddling, theocracy has no chance in Iraq. The only good idea with a chance in Iraq is democracy. If Democrats don't sabotage the opportunity, we actually could see good results in Iraq.
Can There Be a Liberal Iraq?

"Barney, quick, call Genera... (Below threshold)
BarneyG2000:

"Barney, quick, call General Petraeus! I'm sure he'd love to hear your proof of where Osama is. " Oyster

Why? Petraeus is commander of the Multi National Forces in Iraq. NATO assumed operational command in Afghanistan last Oct, but I am sure you knew that.

Was that profound enough for you?

"Barney, quick, call Genera... (Below threshold)
BarneyG2000:

"Barney, quick, call General Petraeus! I'm sure he'd love to hear your proof of where Osama is. " Oyster

Why? Petraeus is commander of the Multi National Forces in Iraq. NATO assumed operational command in Afghanistan last Oct, but I am sure you knew that.

Was that profound enough for you?

What you may be missing is ... (Below threshold)
Rance:

What you may be missing is that he inherited his "sageness" from his father. Those who know realize that he is a light-weight theologically. But he is perceived to be a sage by his followers because they believe he is an extension of his father.

Good thing we would never let anything like that happen here.

Jay..ah..lets say it does n... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

Jay..ah..lets say it does not end up being true..will you post something like Edwards saying "I was wrong" based on phony intelligence?
Have we learned nothing from the "facts" we were fed prior to our shock and awe bombing and invasion of Iraq based on "intelligence"?
If you are in fact the "skeptic" you so often portray yourself as...why bite on this bait?

by the way..can anyone link... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

by the way..can anyone link to what that purple-finger democratically elected government has done recently? Yes Sadar and his militia are behind the deaths of some of our brave men and women serving over there...When the Prime Minister of Iraq arrests this terrorist and his fellow thugs..I will admit Iraq has a future... but hey.."don't ya dance with the one that brought you?"

Don't you just love the way... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

Don't you just love the way the kos kiddies rejects show their zeal for our country to win in Iraq? Man how they heap praise on the good things that happen.

Nogo, Using your st... (Below threshold)
LoveAmerica Immigrant:

Nogo,
Using your standard: what has the liberal left and the dems have done recently to protect America? (From what I have seen the liberals have been aiding the communists during the cold war and now the terrorists/their sponsors in this GWOT). We went to war with a despicable liberal left today. That 's a given.

Like the capture of Sad... (Below threshold)

Like the capture of Saddam, the killing of Zarqawi, the turnover of sovereignty, the Constitution, the election, etc., etc...

Hah. Larkin was nice enough to list all things Leftists like him were assuring us would never happen until they did, then calling them shams after they did. He'll be adding a new item to the list when the surge works ( sure looks like it is with alSadr hitting the road)and then call it a sham too. That's the way the 'reality based' Left works.

BullwinklePlease c... (Below threshold)
ChrisO:

Bullwinkle

Please cite your sources for the left saying we would never capture Saddam or kill Zarqawi, or for any of the other things you claim the left said would never happen.




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