At this point neither side is happy with the results and I think that both have made up their minds to go to war because each one thinks his side is closer to winning and has greater backing from the public than his rival. However, I believe that Sadr is making the mistake of thinking that what worked for previous battles would be equally effective in future ones. I strongly think that if a final battle is to take place, it will unfold with a bitter defeat for Sadr militarily and politically; the balance of power by far favors the state in spite of the difficulty of the situation.Today, of course, comes word that Sadr is desparately seeking a deal that will call off the dogs. If I'm reading between the lines properly, it looks like Sadr has suffered a huge military and political blow. This is dicey, because Maliki really needs Sadr in the UIA, but he needs a politically moderate, subdued Sadr. It seems like he might be on the verge of pulling this off. With that, plus the return of Sunni factions to the government, it starts to look like Iraq may be ready to engage in the sort of craven political wrangling that actually produces a modern state.
The Iraqi leadership represented by Maliki is standing before a historic opportunity to strengthen the foundations of the rule of law. This opportunity has been made available by the decision of the Shia to renounce and expel the extremists amongst them, a decision that was long avoided because of sectarian considerations that were proven wrong later.
Everyone has come to realize that allegiance to the country provides more security in the long run than sectarian entrenchment does, and in my opinion the awakening of the Iraqi west and the uprising against the perverted violent practices of co-religionists have provided an example for a similar awakening among the Shia — of course, with the main difference we outlined in an earlier post; that is, while in the west we had a tribal uprising against extremist religious powers, in the south the uprising is religious-on-religious, with the target highly identified with one particular group.
Despite the increased level of violence over the past two months, it's clear that major political consolidation is being attempted in Baghdad. There's always a way for things to fall apart when it comes to Iraqi politics but things are really starting to look good.