I hate to go against the great blogs of our side of the war or even speak in pessimistic tones while all are hopeful that the first signs of the successes of the "final battle" are apparent in these two items at Captain's Quarters, but I must respectfully disagree with the analysis.
First, Moqtada Sadr in Iran. The Captain wrote:
And as for Sadr, this will destroy him and his Mahdi Army. ABC reports that Sadr wants to try to run the Mahdis from Teheran, but his credibility as a jihadi just tanked. Who's going to fight for someone who won't stand up for himself?
This is not the first time that Moqtada has gone off to Iran. If you've been Iraq watching, he's gone to Tehran and Qom rather frequently. It's not even the first time a large number of the Sadr leadership has gone with him, whatever the "leadership" that is with him means. It could mean advisors, etc.
It does not mean that Sadr will not be back or even that the return is a long time off. His party has thirty seats in the parliament. It seems like a bad move when he still has a lot of power to protect him, to just up and run, even if Maliki has publically gave the go ahead to dismantle the militias. Sadr has been far too wily in the last few years to simply throw that away on an unsubstantiated fear that he will get "JDAM"d in his house.
I doubt we were even thinking that considering the power within the Shia organization that he has and the serious disturbance it would cause in our "peace" efforts.
Second, I think many have forgotten that the leadership of the Iraq Shia have routinely taken refuge in Iran. Particularly, during Saddam Hussein's reign. There they were able to get money and political support that translated directly into political support in Iraq. That is why so many groups like SCIRI or DAWA were able to return post-Saddam, spin up a political structure and take power during the elections so quickly.
As for the comment:
"but his credibility as a jihadi just tanked. Who's going to fight for someone who won't stand up for himself?"
That totally disregards the Shia history and religious concepts of Jihad. Even before Saddam, the Shia were forced to be survivors in an Islamic world of Sunnis. While they may venerate Imam Hussein's martyrdom (not Saddam, we're talking 630 AD) at the hands of the Sunni, for centuries they survived by being true practitioners of the word "taqiya" or deception. After Hussein's death and long afterwards during many internecine battles of the Sunni/Shia conflict, Shia practitioners would disavow their Shi'ite beliefs in the face of an overwhelming Sunni presence in order to survive. If they hadn't, they would not exist today as a belief system within Islam.
They truly believe in "running away to live and fight another day." I doubt seriously that Sadr's departure for Tehran will be seen as a desertion of his followers. If he remains gone for any length of time, the Shia mosques will spin up a tale of the absent Imamah (Sadr) that will return to lead his people to power.
You really have to understand the culture to get that a leader in exile has even more mystical power than the presence of an ineffectual leader in the midst.
Finally, his death squads might "melt away", but it doesn't mean they won't be active. They will simply go even further underground. Even his politicos in parliament will not desert him since he will be bringing in money and support from Iran. At most, the Shia organizations that formed an alliance with him in order to insure Shia power in Parliament may feel a little less constrained by his demands. But, they will still need his party's votes if they hope to gain the necessary 2/3 votes to pass any laws or take any action.
This game is not over by a long shot.
Osama bin Laden has been called "dead" so many times, it seems ludicrous to even claim it, as much as one might desire it. However, the main point of the Captain's comments revolved around Zawahiri's latest statements that directed the "faithful" to follow Mullah Omar in Afghanistan.
This hardly denotes the lack of a "leader" (ie, Osama bin Laden). In previous speeches, Zawahiri has directed followers to get behind Al Qaeda in Iraq. Osama bin Laden told the "faithful" to join with the Iraqi Ba'athists and Sunni brethern (in Sept 2002, on the premonition that the US would attack Iraq; thus providing the back bone for Hussein's Fedeyeen) even though he was sure that the Ba'ath's time was over.
Frankly, Michael Yon and several others have been predicting a bloody Spring 2007. The tell-tale signs include the number of workers who have left the poppy-fields. In past history of Afghanistan, this is usually a gathering of the warriors to go a-jihad. With the poppy fields bursting as never before, it's fed a lot of money into the pockets of the Taliban and Al Qaeda that might eschew drugs as satan's work, but aren't adverse to selling it.
All I see from Zawahiri is a blatant call to arms. No hidden message regarding Osama or his status.
Most tend to see Zawahiri as the "second in command", but there is a rather large group of people that see him as more than the "spiritual advisor" and political master. In fact, some arguments tend to see him as the "king maker" behind the throne with all the power and OBL as simply the young and energetic man with money.
Whatever Zawahiri's personal status amongst Terror Inc, he has certainly put out his own messages routinely with Osama popping up every once in awhile like a bad Elvis impersonator every time there is a strong rumor he is dead. Last noted appearance was around election time 2004 and I expect him to show up this time as well.
However, however I disagree with the Captain's take on the rudderless Zawahiri, spreading rumors of OBL's demise is a good thing because he usually can't help but pop out and then we get another chance to pop him.
So....OBL is dead, short lives to all those that succeed him!
Cross referenced at the Castle