While an outspoken critic of both the logic and conduct of the Iraq War, I’m always happy to flag good news when it arrives. And the steady reduction in violence in Iraq, while fragile, is obviously good news. I’m just never convinced by the arguments of causality used to explain it by advocates of the war.
On the other hand, if Moqtada al-Sadr’s decision to disarm his militia plays out the way this Guardian article (also via today’s WPR Media Roundup) is reporting it, it is not only very good news. It is the most positive outcome to date that can be unequivocally traced to the Surge. Sadr declared his truce in the months before the deployment of the Surge brigades, and there’s little doubt that he did so to keep a low profile while American forces were reinforced. Now there’s an argument to be made that perhaps his decision to formally disarm is a consequence of the gathering consensus, both in Iraq and Washington, for a withdrawal timeline. But the initial step towards silencing the guns came in the context of the Surge.
There are still some caveats that come to mind, besides the very obvious question of whether or not it actually goes down. Will rogue elements of the Mahdi militia fragment off into even more atomized insurgencies? Is it a ploy to contest the upcoming municipal elections, from which any party with an official militia is prohibited? We’ll see. But for now, it’s good news.