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Run For The Border?

Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007 3:35 AM

There are reports that prominent Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has fled Baghdad and crossed the border into Iran within the last couple of weeks.

Supposedly, al-Sadr is worried about the 'surge' of troops, or that he might get a bomb dropped on his house in the same manner Abu Musab al-Zarqawi did.

Ah, how quickly they forget the reports about the al-Maliki government suggesting al-Sadr should 'cool it' for a bit, whilst the Americans came in and routed the insurgents. Who, if al-Sadr took his toys and went home, would be largely from the Sunni minority.

I'm waiting for someone in the administration, or perhaps in the midst of the debate on the Hill, to point at this and go, "Oooh! Oooh! You see, Iran is involved!"

First, if we're entertaining plans to drop bombs on al-Sadr, we're idiots. That wouldn't solve anything, but it might just destroy the nascent government we claim to be supporting.

Second, Moqtada al-Sadr is a prominent Shiite cleric. The only other Shiite-majority country in the region is ��Iran. It's not like this guy would be popping over for tea with the al-Sauds over in Riyadh. Al-Sadr also has family in Iran.

Third, al-Sadr is riding high. He's a major power broker, and his endorsement is essential to anyone looking to secure office. We're to expect he's going to pack up his tent and leave because we're making scary noises?

Fourth, this isn't the first surge we've had. We've kept our forces in-country by extending tour durations and putting our troops up for their third and fourth deployments. Given that we still don't know what the mission is, and that we aren't changing tactics ��there's no reason for al-Sadr to be afraid of the 'surge'.

Unless, of course, someone inside the al-Maliki government is currying favor with a key religious leader and power broker by sharing classified information with them ��and thus pointing out that it's more than an influx of troops, but a true escalation in every sense of the word.

It is a mistake, however, to construe al-Sadr's departure as 'running scared' or further indicative of Iran's involvement in Iraq.

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