Thursday, September 28, 2006

Used to be One of The Rotten Ones, and They Liked You For That*

You know it's bad in Iraq when entire factions of armed Iraqi Shiites feel the need to part ways with Moqtada al-Sadr because he is not radical enough. I kid you not. Moqtada is losing his street cred - increasingly being viewed as a sell-out.

The violence also came amid reports from a number of senior coalition military officials that a large and powerful militia run by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has been breaking apart into freelance death squads and gangs — some of which are being influenced by Iran.[...]

“There are fractures politically inside Sadr’s movement, many of whom don’t find him to be sufficiently radical now that he has taken a political course of action,” said a senior coalition intelligence official who spoke to reporters in Baghdad on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak publicly on intelligence issues.

The official added that “there have been elements. I can think of about at least six major players who have left his organization because he has been perhaps too accommodating to the coalition.”

That Sadr's rather extreme position is viewed as the new normal just can't be a positive development. As a manifestation of just how bad the situation has become, check this out:

A quarter of a million Iraqis have fled sectarian violence and registered as refugees in the past seven months, data released on Thursday showed, amid an upsurge in attacks that has accompanied the Ramadan holy month.

As staggering as that 250,000 number is (that would be akin to 2.75 million American civilian refugees in proportional terms), consider that this tally is only for the last seven months. And even then, as the article notes:

The figures do not include an uncounted number of Iraqis who have moved home without claiming aid.

Keep in mind that the more that moderate and middle class citizens leave Iraq, the more that the population left behind becomes a self-selecting group of combatants and other zealots (though considerable numbers of hapless civilians will still remain caught in the cross fire). That type of distillation process does not bode well for the cessation of hostilities.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, many opposed to the war predicted a refugee crisis. Because none ensued in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, this better-than-anticipated outcome has been cited by war supporters as proof that both sides were wrong in their assumptions. In general, this was a shaky bit of argumentation considering the overall tally of the comparative track records, and the number of far more important things that each camp got right and wrong, respectively.

But now we might even be forced to add the creation of a refugee crisis to the ledger of the opponents to the war. Well, war supporters still have the non-torched oil fields to point to. Those silly war opponents. Torched oil fields. Pshaw.

(* 1,000 TIA points for the musical reference here, no google cheating though)

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