The Shi'ite Gamble
April 21, 2008
It is becoming clearer and clearer that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s offensive in Basra is more of a power struggle with Sadr than an effort to deal with security, “militias,” and “criminals.” What is far less clear is how this power struggle will play out, and what its implication will be for the US and Iraq as a whole.
There are three options and none of them have a predictable outcome: First, Maliki can win, defeat Sadr’s militia—the Mahdi Army, or Jaish al Mahdi (JAM)—and marginalize the Sadr movement. Second, Maliki can provoke Sadr into open violence and a new form of insurgency. Or, both sides become locked in a lingering intra-Shi’ite power struggle that mixes violence with political power plays.