Leadership: Iraqi Troublemakers Wise Up

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October 14, 2007: Two prominent Iraqi Shia leaders have agreed to stop fighting each other, and go after the terrorists (both foreign and local Sunni and Shia radicals). Abdul Aziz al Hakim, who commands the Badr Brigade, and Muqtada al Sadr, who controls the Mahdi army, have made peace, for now. Both men have been using their militias to try and become the most powerful Shia leader. Neither has succeeded, The older Hakim has managed to stay on good terms with Iran, the Americans and the Iraqi government, while Sadr has made the mistake of fighting the Americans (and losing each time) and constantly feuding with the Iraqi government. Sadr has called for the U.S. troops to leave immediately, while Hakim wants them to stay for a while, to prevent the various militias (Shia, Sunni and Kurdish, not to mention intrusive neighbors like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) from tearing the country to pieces. Sadr is more of a populist, and has the loyalty of many poor and uneducated Shia. Sadr is also something of an Arab nationalist, meaning that Sadr backs Arabs against non-Arab Iran. Hakim appeals to the middle and upper classes, and actually has more armed men to call on. Hakim is all for Shia Islam taking over the world, under the leadership of Iran.

The Badr Brigade fighters are also more disciplined. Sadr’s Mahdi Army is splitting up into factions, some of them fighter each other, or not obeying Sadr’s orders. Hakim is the head of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Shia coalition that control parliament and the government. Sadr keeps threatening to withdraw the support of the 30 legislators he controls, but that still leaves the majority of the parliament answering to Hakim.

Both Hakim and Sadr want to establish a religious dictatorship, with themselves as the guy in charge. Most Iraqis oppose this, especially the Sunni Arabs, who have gone from 20 percent of the population in 2003, to about ten percent today. With the U.S. organizing Sunni Arab militias and tribal alliances to destroy al Qaeda in Iraq, the two Shia leaders see themselves losing much popularity if their militias concentrate on fighting each other, instead of crushing the hated al Qaeda, and other Sunni terrorists. Moreover, the fighting between the Badr Brigade and the Mahdi army was getting uglier, with assassinations and gun battles in the streets. These two radical Shia groups were losing popularity, and faced government efforts to disarm them. That would lead to a civil war that both Hakim and Sadr believed they would lose. So the bad behavior had to change, for a while, anyway. The two men agreed to a six month truce, and a combined effort against al Qaeda. The message here is that their civil war would resume when conditions were more appropriate.

 


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