What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 18, 2008

Jack Kelly Sunday

In this week's column, Jack Kelly revisits Moqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army.

It's been only about a month and a half since his most recent column about "Mookie" and the Army (and here's my deconstruction of it).

He does his usual spin and his point, I would imagine - seeing as it's in the headline, is to point out:
  1. How relatively unimportant Moqtada al-Sadr is and
  2. How the media isn't saying that.
Indeed, here's his first sentence:
Few foreign leaders have received as favorable news coverage in the United States as has Moqtada al-Sadr, with less factual basis for it.
So let's see what the experts have to say about al-Sadr. At the Council on Foreign Relations, there's a slightly different story. While pointing out some downward trends in the numbers of the militia and the inconsistent revenue stream funding it, the Mahdi army is described (at a page updated only two days ago on May 16, 2008) this way:
Vali R. Nasr, a CFR adjunct senior fellow and expert in Shiite politics, says that by 2008 Muqtada had expanded his movement from being essentially a Baghdad street force into "a major Shiite movement, with parliamentary presence, political presence, as well as now a very large military presence on the street." Nasr says Sadr "now represents one of the two most important Shia blocs in the country." Yet Sadr is not alone in vying for the popular support of Iraqi Shiites. His chief rivals—including the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party—command support from the country's more conservative middle class. Some experts say clashes between Mahdi fighters, Iraqi forces, and ISCI's Badr Brigade are essentially a class struggle.
They also point out that estimates of Sadr's support base range from 3 million to 5 million.

In the course of his column, Jack also quotes Nibras Kazimi of the New York Sun. Not the first time he's used Kazimi as a source. Also not the first time he's described Kazimi with just:
a resident scholar at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.
Not the first time he's omitted Kazimi's connection to the Iraqi National Congress (as listed in his bio at the Hudson Institute):
Nibras Kazimi is a visiting scholar at the Hudson Institute. He also writes a weekly column on the Middle East for the New York Sun. Previously, he directed the Research Bureau of the Iraqi National Congress in Washington DC and Baghdad, and was a pro-bono advisor for the Higher National Commission for De-Ba'athification, which he helped establish and staff.
Do I need to point out again how much good research came out of the Iraqi National Congress in the run up to dubya's war? Or what a good idea the de-Ba'athification of Iraq was?

A good example of Kelly's spinning happens here:

The sporadic fighting has gone badly for the Mahdi Army, which has lost nearly 600 men in Sadr City. This is why Mookie agreed to a conditional surrender on May 10. The Mahdi Army will cease all attacks. Iraqi government forces can enter Sadr City to serve arrest warrants and seize medium and heavy weapons, though the Sadrists may keep their small arms.

If the terms are lived up to, the Mahdi Army will have lost its last stronghold in Iraq. But in an amazing reprise of the bogus Basra narrative, some journalists described this conditional surrender as a victory for Mookie.

"Al-Sadr wins another round," said Mark Kukis of Time Magazine. Mookie "is still controlling the agenda tactically and politically," he said.

Here's Kukis' article from Time. Kukis writes about another hastily drawn up ceasefire and adds:
Details of the cease-fire remain largely unclear beyond an immediate end to the battles that have displaced thousands of residents from the Mahdi Army stronghold of Sadr City, a vast slum home to more than 2 million people.

In announcing the deal, al-Sadr aide Sheik Salah al-Obeidi said the agreement, "stipulates that the Mahdi Army will stop fighting in Sadr City and will stop displaying arms in public. In return, the government will stop random raids against al-Sadr followers and open all closed roads that lead to Sadr City."

Al-Obeidi, who issued a statement from the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, added: "This document does not call for disbanding al-Mahdi Army or laying down their arms."

The fact that a leading figure in al-Sadr's ranks announced the deal and pointedly rejected the Iraqi government's key demand to disarm suggests that the cleric is still controlling the agenda tactically and politically despite the most serious challenge his power the Iraqi government could muster.

Which is somewhat different from what Jack wrote.

But that's our Jack.


Anonymous said...

I quit reading Jack.

ExecPrivilege.com said...

We should all quit reading Jack.