Bringing the militias to heel is no easy task, considering that it's not clear that the supposed leaders can even control their own fighters. On Wednesday a spokesman announced that Sadr was freezing his militia for six months to bring rogue elements under control. It's difficult to imagine that Sadr would willingly neutralize the militia that aided his rise to prominence in 2004 and has been an important asset in his difficult and often violent relationship with the government and other Shi'ite factions. More likely he is responding to the bad publicity resulting from the scuttling of the commemoration in Karbala. He responded in similar fashion to this year's U.S. troop surge, pledging his full cooperation. As Americans in Shi'ite areas of Iraq can attest, the gap between Sadr's rhetoric and the actions of his militia is often vast.
Sadr's cagey response to the violence underscores that the armed groups battling in Karbala and other Shi'ite areas aren't simply external forces the government must bring under control - they are, in essence, the government. SIIC and the Sadrists dominate Maliki's increasingly tenuous parliamentary majority. And, while the militias had more than enough fighters on hand in Karbala to spark serious violence, the central government had to bring in reinforcements from outside the area to reassert control.
Meanwhile, the continuing American and British policy is to draw down, not increase, their military presence in southern Iraq. The British are in the midst of pulling out of the port city of Basra. The long-standing American policy has been to defer to Shi'ite religious sensibilities and keep as low a profile as possible in holy cities like Karbala and Najaf.
In what one senior American military official called a "schizophrenic" policy, Iran offers support both to the Mahdi Army and to SIIC, even as they fight each other. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added insult to injury this week by observing that the Americans were leaving a power vacuum in Iraq that Iran and other nations would be glad to fill. The Iranian strategy of playing both sides may not be tenable in the long-term, but for now it gives Iran influence in southern Iraq that must be the envy of both the Americans and Iraqi politicians in Baghdad. " Time
"A schizophrenic policy?" What a joke! The Iranians must find us really laughable.
They are playing all these groups against each other in order to have the deciding influence with all of them. Surely that is not hard to understand.
At the same time they are providing a certain amount of aid to the Sunni based groups just to have a "say" in the game there as well.
Compared to these people, we are children. pl