But what about the new guy--Ammar Hakim?
Muqtada al Sadr is walking proof that the Iranians are involved in the Iraqi insurgency.
Paul Bremer wished that he had been successful in getting rid of al Sadr early on in the Iraqi occupation. The half-hearted way about which the attempt to do so was prosecuted caused al Sadr to gain an even greater following than he had before. He is still very well thought of among a large segment of the Shia population in Iraq. So it's not likely that he's up to much good when he asks for his Army to cease operations for six months. That can only mean trouble, especially when General David Petraeus is set to report on Operation Iraqi Freedom successes before congress next month.
The BBC says:
To some extent it may be merely a tactic aimed at distancing himself from the recent violence in Karbala.
It is certainly a tactic he has used before to distance himself from some of the worst excesses of the Mehdi Army.
But it is a puzzling and potentially risky move by the young Shia leader.
Puzzling because the very call for a re-organisation of the Mehdi army would seem to be an admission that he has lost control of it.
It's not that simple. One way or the other, the Mahdi Army will continue to fight. Now is the time for coalition forces and the Iraqi people to be most on their guard. Something is brewing.
Muqtada is all about power. He's all about himself. I wouldn't trust Muqtada al Sadr with a ten-foot Pole.
I'm not sure what to think of Ammar Hakim, another 30-something who is stepping into the limelight as leader of the Shia Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which got into fighting in Kerbala in the past few days with members of al Sadr's army. Hakim has been several times to Iran as well. But at least he talks a good talk:
"We are not agents of Iran," he said. He pointed out that it was his father who had encouraged Iran to open a dialogue with the United States about Iraq, and he said it was in Iraq's interests to maintain good relations with both countries.
He cautioned against a sudden drawdown of U.S. forces, saying it would be dangerous for Iraq. He said he supported a U.S.-sponsored bill to regulate the distribution of Iraq's massive oil wealth. And he expressed willingness to compromise with Sunni Arab politicians.
Based on his early hatred of Saddam (he was taught at age 4 to participate in the anti-Saddam forces) Hakim may see the light of what America is trying to help Iraq accomplish. Time will tell whether he contributes to peace and stability in Iraq. But we already know quite a lot about Muqtada al Sadr. So far, he hasn't. Do you suspect he's turning over a new leaf? Don't count on it.