Austin Bay on Darth Sadr

Whittling Away at Sadr

The Iraqi government’s strategy has been to bring former insurgents into the political process. Since interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi articulated that goal in mid-2004, the central government’s complex array of enemies has sought to thwart that program.

Saddam’s old cohorts managed to convince themselves that if they spread enough money around, killed enough people and hammered the U.S. electorate with bloody headlines the United States would leave and the Iraqi government would eventually collapse — and they would return to power. Saddam’s capture, trial and execution has all but snuffed out the old-line Baathists. Recall Maliki stoutly defended his decision to carry out the court’s sentence of capital punishment. He bet with Saddam dead the tyrant’s cult of personality would wither. It has.

Al-Qaida pursued the same strategy of blood for headlines. Al-Qaida in Iraq tried to ignite a sectarian war — its now-dead emir, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, made that goal explicit in February 2004. Al-Qaida massacred en masse, to the point that U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D for Defeatist) declared the war in Iraq lost. Then, the Sunni tribes in Anbar turned on al-Qaida. Sunni political integration is by no means complete, but al-Qaida has failed.

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