More bad news from Iraq

Iraqi Civil Defense Force troops reportedly fired on US troops in Sadr City. Bad sign. Why Sadr’s revolt gives Ali Sistani the whip hand.

I’m not sure who it was that first said that the US simply doesn’t have the experience of the UK in the “dominion over palm and pine” business. It’s just never how we saw ourselves.

But I’m sure Tony Blair could tell George W. Bush than when the indigenous troops you recruit to do the dirty work start firing on your troops instead of on the locals, it’s not a good sign.

As far as I can tell, there’s only one source for this so far, a story from Agence France Press printed in the Sydney Morning Herald. (I picked it up from Atrios, who had it from Billmon,who had it from Unfair Witness.) Can anyone confirm or disconfirm?

Also breaking news: the CPA suddenly found in a lower desk drawer a murder warrant issued months ago against Moqtada al-Sadr. (Why Don Senor bothered to tell that transparent lie about “lack of resources” instead of saying frankly that the warrant had been issued on good evidentiary grounds but not served on good political grounds I really don’t know; perhaps the habit of lying is so ingrained that the truth is eschewed even when it’s serviceable.)

A big unknown is how popular Sadr really is. He’s clearly gambled that staking out a strongly anti-American position will help his political position vis-a-vis local rivals and vis-a-vis Ali Sistani, who has been playing the moderate. Sistani has so far called for “restraint and calm” without actually denouncing Sadr.

Notice that, unless Sadr managed to displace him, Sistani is the big winner from all this. Our hold on Shia Iraq now depends crucially on his support, and he’s in a position to drive a very hard bargain.

Whether this turns out to be the right moment for a punitive expedition against Fallujah remains to be seen.

Update A contrary, and apparently better-informed view, here: perhaps the CPA deliberately forced the confrontation with Sadr so as to be able to take him out before his power had reached its zenith. I hope that’s right.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: