In the Arena

Today in Iraq

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The New York Times reports a Ramadan-inspired peace accord betweeen the two leading Shi’ite families in Iraq, the Sadrs and Hakims…but the Washington Post has an excellent piece that puts the deal into perspective and raises the appropriate doubts about its sustainability. Note that that the local police in Karbala are actually members of the Badr (Hakim family) militia; this is true of many of the Iraqi Security Forces in the south as well.

The relationship between the Sadr and Hakim families may be the most important question in Iraq right now–at least, when it comes to the future of the Maliki government. How and whether the U.S. should choose sides–against Sadr, most likely–is a long-running dispute in the U.S. military command. I would guess that the Sadrists have entered into this deal with the Hakim family to discourage a US move against the Mahdi Army; I’d also guess that since the Sadrists have the lion’s share of public support in the Shi’ite areas, they’re going to wait for the US departure (however long that takes) before resuming the battle against the Hakims. But who knows? “Anyone who thinks they know what’s going on with the Shi’ites,” an intelligence officer told me a few months ago. “Doesn’t know the Shi’ites.”