Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A view of Iraq's future?

NO doubt the Bushies will be spinning this as good news, though it's a thin reed they're clutching.

From the Washington Post:

BAGHDAD -- In front of a blue metal gate, women in black abayas clutch food ration cards and exhibit a confidence rarely felt in the Iraqi capital. They will feed their families tonight. Several yards away, men sit behind wooden desks poring over hundreds of colorful folders, one each for Shiite families forced to flee their homes. Every family will be given a new life.

This busy office in the heart of the vast Shiite slum of Sadr City is not an arm of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Nor is it a relief agency. It is the domain of the 33-year-old Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Here, Sadr doles out aid to his neediest followers, from cradle to grave, filling a void in a desperately uncertain country.

"We get no help from Maliki. Only Sayyid Moqtada helps us," said Saleh al-Ghathbawi, a tall, balding clerk in a blue tracksuit, using the honorific that signifies Sadr's descent from the prophet Muhammad.

Keep in mind that the US views al-Sadr as a terrorist and was long touted as a potential target of the surge.

But be that as it may, the surge must be working you say? Well sort of. From later in the same article:

Despite U.S. pressure, the Maliki government has not challenged Sadr's authority. The prime minister, who depends on Sadr for political support, has publicly chastised the U.S. military for staging raids into Sadr City. American troops patrol the streets now, but U.S. generals concede that they would not be able to do so without Sadr's cooperation.

In interviews across Sadr City, residents questioned the need for the presence of U.S. troops, saying they already felt safe. They also questioned why U.S. troops were raiding the homes of militia members.

"If it wasn't for the Mahdi Army, there would be a lot of problems here," said Abdul Sattar Ali, 70, silver-haired and unemployed, who has lived in Sadr City for four decades. [Emphasis mine-CK]

A well known axiom of anti-insurgency strategy is the battle for the "hearts and minds" of the local population.

It appears that, if anything, the US is only helping to win that battle for Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army.

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