Juan Cole translates an Al-Jazeera interview with the new kingmaker of Iraqi politics. In many ways, he’s just what the Bush Administration has been hoping for. He’s a Shi’ite but favors a broad government of national unity, reaching out to Sunni nationalists. He has an impeccable record of opposition to Saddam and isn’t compromised by any links to the occupation or to the interim Allawi regime. And while he’s previously called for an immediate pullout of US forces, he’s now prepared to accept a timetable for withdrawal.
He is, of course …
… Moqtada al Sadr, the theocratic demagogue whom the US forces twice tried to arrest or kill (dozens of US soldiers and hundreds of Iraqis, including many innocent bystanders were in fact killed in these campaigns, but al Sadr was only wounded). He now controls the largest bloc in the UIA government and effectively nominated Jaafari to continue as Prime Minister. So the Bushies will have to learn to love him, or at least get on with him.
Among other things, Sadr makes it clear that an attack on Iran would have dire consequences for US forces in Iraq. This ought to have been obvious in any case, but Sadr’s remarks, now issued from a position of power, drive home the point. Far from providing a base from which the US can exert power in the Middle East, the occupation of Iraq has strengthened the position of every anti-American government in the region. And in chasing Saddam’s fictional WMDs, the US has deprived itself of any practical option of using military force to stop Iran developing real nuclear weapons.
The kind of dance where enemies become allies, or at least bargaining partners, while former friends become enemies is a standard feature of power politics. But when tens of thousands of people are killed in the process, as has been the case in Iraq, all those involved in such manoeuvres are guilty of grave crimes against humanity.