In one corner, we have Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army.
In the other corner, we have Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and its private army, the Badr Brigade.
These people are all Shiites. Theoretically they believe the same things and support the same things, and they all claim to be patriotic Iraqis (although SCIRI is widely believed to be supported and funded from Iran). What's really going on?
A dynastic rivalry between their two families has existed for decades and has carried over into a personal and political rivalry between the men, and their militias have periodically clashed.Just as I said: Hatfields and McCoys, but with private armies, which we, I point out, obligingly armed. According to the article, the stability of the current Iraqi government depends on the "truce" between these two factions; and as far as I can tell, they'd all rather duke it out for old times' sake than act together for the good of the country. The current eruption began when a local police official (Badr Brigade; in case you wondered about the rumors that the Shiite militias have infiltrated the police? All true) was killed in a bombing, and the police arrested the brother of the head of the local Mahdi Army unit. The next thing anyone knew, the city of Amara was under siege.
"The split is very old, and it has caused a lot of tragedy," said Abd-Kareem al-Mahamedawy, one of Amara's most prominent political leaders and a moderate Shiite. "It's just a fight for power."
Why are we holding these guys' coats? (Apart from the fact that we started it by removing Saddam Hussein, who didn't take any crap from any of these yo-yos.) This isn't democracy and it never will be, as long as the place is ruled by the 21st century equivalent of the Montagues and the Capulets. The concept of turning a country that still practices the blood feud into a modern democracy is laughable (which goes for Serbia and Kosovo, too, I might add).
I remember thinking when we began this absurd incursion that what we'd end up with, after a "free" election, was a Shiite theocracy, because Shiites were 60% of the country. These developments actually convince me I may have been wrong; a Shiite theocracy would presumably enforce order. What we have here is total anarchy, where only the gun rules. We may have bigger guns; but there are 140,000 of our guys and 26 million Iraqis; and we have yet to see, anywhere, a standing army defeat an armed guerilla force on its own ground.
The sooner we bring our troops home and let the Iraqis fight this out among themselves, the better.