The above image is from State and is titled President Bush Meets with His Eminence Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim, Leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. They had a meeting, their second in fact, back in December of 2006. Dubyah described Hakim as "one of the distinguished leaders of a free Iraq (who is) involved with helping the new government succeed." PBS has an interview from December of 2003 with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim that is worth reading for insights into the man, his Badr Brigade, Iraq, etc.
Greg Bruno of the Council on Foreign Relations gets space in today's WaPO to explain why the fighting is at least in part a power struggle within the Shiite community in Iraq. He writes:
Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and associated militant wing, the Badr Brigade, have a history of clashes with Sadr's Mahdi Army. In a November 2007 report, the International Crisis Group assessed the rivalry as a class struggle between "the Shiite urban underclass," represented by Sadr, and wealthier Shiites in Baghdad and the holy cities, represented by ISCI. Washington has thrown its weight behind Hakim, who has close historic ties to Iran (including siding with Iran's mullahs during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War). Some observers see the recent violence as an attempt by Hakim to reshape the political landscape ahead of provincial elections (VOA) slated for October 2008, while Sadr's militia has returned to arms as a countermeasure.Close ties to Iran? I thought the Bu$h administration, certainly Dead Eye Dick, was freaking out about Iran. Strange bedfellows indeed.
I'm also struggling with the reporting of Steven Lee Myers in the NYT titled Bush Says Iraq Has Reached ‘Defining Moment’. The first line, with my emphasis supplied toward the end, reads, "President Bush strongly defended Iraq’s prime minister on Friday at what he called a “defining moment” for the Baghdad government, saying the United States supported its offensive against a Shiite militia and would provide any military assistance that was sought." The "a Shiite militia" might be revealing in that some are at least tolerated, even ones who have a history with Iran. Seems like nuance on top of nuance yet not so for Bu$hCo.
Also, I learned today that Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has given "Shiite extremists", certainly those in Basra and perhaps even elsewhere, until April 8th to lay down their weapons. Wonder if that delay has anything to do with General Petraeus appearing before Congress on that day and the next? Dan Rather's thoughts on this perhaps being the future of Iraq seem relevant as well. Sonni Effron of the LA Times is pointing out that last week the reduced violence was being hailed as progress and yet now the fighting is. And if in fact Maliki did roll into Basra without so much as a heads up then that hardly seems like he's working with Washington.
How complicated. How challenging. I can't imagine how Joe keep up. Can he be expected to understand any of this? I'm not sure if the mass media and other resources for information can explain this so that pretty much anyone could. Via "the internets" you can dig, seek context, ask questions, and the like. Yet that's not likely to be at the top of priorities for many Americans and certainly not for Joe Sixpack. John Gunn
UPDATE ~ Just after midnight on 29th of March, 2008 - Atrios says, "The message that low information voters need to hear is that Democrats want to get out of Iraq, and Huggy Bear and the Republicans want to stay there forever." I think some low information voters are lazy and/or stupid yet others are just too damn busy trying to make a living, take care of their family, ... to have to work so damn hard to get good information. Some are products of poor schools and/or sorry parents. "Ignorant" doesn't always reflect a "bad" person.
UPDATE #2 ~ Early morning og March 29, 2008 - Kevin Drum has a helpful summary of the folks involved in the lower part of Iraq.