However, most analysts — and certainly Sadr himself — believe that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was, in fact, targeting not just the Special Groups but the entire Mahdi Army. Why? Because he wanted to weaken Sadr's influence in the runup to elections in October, which Sadr was in a good position to win in the southern provinces surrounding Basra. Tom Ricks, liveblogging today from the congressional testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker, passes along the following after-action report from the Battle of Basra:
Later in his prepared statement, Crocker makes real news. In the wake of the Basra operation, he reveals, Moqtada al-Sadr's main militia, Jayash al-Mahdi, seems to have linked back up with the so-called "Special Groups," or splinter elements of the militia.In retrospect, this shouldn't be surprising. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, after all. Sadr might have been genuinely unhappy with the actions and independence of the Special Groups (and vice versa), but once both were attacked, it made sense for them to put aside their differences and get back together. A dangerous development indeed.
I hadn't seen that before. As Crocker says in his statement, that is "a dangerous development." But he goes on to say there are still signs of distinction between the groups, such as Sadr's disavowal of heavy weapons. I dunno — seems like grasping at straws to me.
At any rate, I take back my previous scoffing at Crocker's diplobabble. He was doing what journalists call "burying the lede."