There’s some good news and some bad news, with the good news first:
When I met Tom Ricks a few weeks ago, he relayed to me an interesting anecdote from his new book about the surge called The Gamble. “Sadr’s people entered into secret negotiations with the United States in, I think, 2007, about whether or not to have negotiations,” he said. “They said before we begin any talks, we have to have a date certain when you will withdraw from Iraq. The American policy said we can’t do that. So the Sadrists said well, then we can’t have talks. Then the Americans said, well, just out of curiosity, what was the [withdrawal] date you had in mind? The Sadrists said 2013. Which put them on the right-wing of the U.S. Congress.”
If the Sadrists, two years ago, wanted the United States out of Iraq after six years, of course they’re privately happy now that the United States has agreed to be out in three.
“Iran supports violent groups,” Hajji Jasim, the JAM guy, said. “But they are small and scared. They aren’t scared of you or the Iraqi Army. They’re afraid of the Iraqi people. I was in Sadr City today. People were happy. The situation is very calm there. We want safety, for your people and ours.”
“Hopefully you and your people can start doing more and we can do less,” Captain Heil said….
…Maybe General Nasser is right, and maybe he isn’t. I heard a different answer earlier from an American military officer who asked not to be quoted by name. “Iran has been restrained,” he said. “Tehran doesn’t want to trigger an open war with the United States. They can turn up the violence if they want to, but if they do, we might be forced to do something about it. So they don’t want to.”
“If the U.S. solves three problems,” the general said, “American-Arab relations will be very good. First, resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Second, promote democracy in the Arab world. Third, destroy the Wahhabis. If you solve these problems, all will be well.”