Al-Hayat’s Mushriq 'Abbas penned an excellent report explaining the balance of power in the Iraqi south, and detailing the current power struggle between the Sadrist Current and the pro-Iranian Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC- formerly SCIRI).Okay, but which Mahdi army are we talking about? From Bill Roggio's August 21 report:
'Abbas’ report comes in the backdrop of several events: multiple clashes have erupted between the Sadrists (and their Mahdi Army) and the SIIC (along with its militia: the Badr Brigade) throughout Southern cities in the last months, in several of these confrontations, the US Army intervened along with units of the Iraqi Army – usually on the side of the SIIC. [...]
'Abbas summed up the political equation in the South as follows: “the street for the Sadrists and the local governments for Hakeem.” Seven out of nine southern provinces are controlled by the SIIC, 'Abbas wrote, while the Sadrist Current seems to have the upper hand in terms of popular mobilization.
The murder of the two governors and the clashes between the government and Mahdi Army fighters highlights the splits within the Shia community, which, like the Sunni community, is often portrayed as a single political entity. While Sadr portrays himself and his movement as nationalists, his involvement with Iran's Qods Force and Hezbollah, and the Mahdi Army's attacks on government forces and Iraqi civilians, have tarnished this image.But -- but, Hakeem's SIIC also receives support from Iran! And why should the US support the SIIC against the Sadr's forces when -- let's go back to Amer's summary:
The Mahdi Army has split into factions described as the "noble Mahdi Army," which has cooperated with government and Multinational Forces Iraq Security Forces, and the "rogue Mahdi Army," which receives support from Iran.
A “strategic policy” of Hakeem, 'Abbas wrote, lies in the creation of a “Southern Region,” along the lines of the autonomous Kurdistan government. Consolidating the SIIC control over the administration of southern provinces is an important first step, but the Sadrist challenge is making the task harder for Hakeem. The Sadr Current is not enthusiastic to the idea of southern autonomy [...]Okay, but the Americans are supposedly against southern autonomy. So why are we supporting the SIIC? Even if they're shooting at Qaeda? The Madhi army is also shooting at Qaeda, right? So shouldn't we stop playing two sides of the fence? Maybe the answer is that there is no fence, just constantly shifting alliances.
Another point that's clear as mud is that by supporting the SIIC, we must be working at some level with Iran, which doesn't make sense. Maybe it only makes sense if we assume that all the Shia factions in the south are allied with Iran -- although Mookie's involvement with Iran is very perplexing.
Just a few weeks ago Sadr publicly denounced Iran, saying in essence that Iran was working with al Qaeda in Iraq. If I recall he made the accusation during a sermon at a mosque, or at least at some other public venue in Iraq. Yet shortly afterward he reportedly returned to Iran.
Another point of confusion is whether there are competing factions in Iran supporting competing factions in Iraq's south. Is there a split between the Pasdaran and Iran's regular military on how to deal with Iraq?
1) Mookie has not denied his involvement with Hezbollah; he's just denied that he gave an interview with the Independent. See Bill's report linked above.