Call it a pattern of mischaracterizations. John McCain recently got the facts wrong on Iraq again when he tried to portray Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s disastrous attempt to take on Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr as a success. (You can learn more about Sadr here.) He said this on the campaign trail:
“Apparently it was Sadr who asked for the ceasefire, declared a ceasefire. It wasn’t Maliki. Very rarely do I see the winning side declare a ceasefire.”
That’s completely misleading. Not only did Sadr come out of the fighting just as strong as he was before (check out Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation), but his people were celebrating what they called a victory over the Prime Minister and, by extension, America:
At the Sadr Office in the centre of the massive slum in northeast Baghdad, home to 2.5 million impoverished Shias, the receptionists greeted visitors with sweets to mark their victory over Nouri al-Maliki, the increasingly isolated Iraqi Prime Minister, who directed the assault on Shia rogue militias in Basra, the lawless southern oil city. “This is for victory over Maliki,” one said with a grin. “The fighting ended on our terms.”
Certainly Mr al-Maliki’s huge gamble appeared to have failed yesterday. Having vowed to crush Shia militias with a 30,000-strong force in Basra, he ended up suing for peace with the people he had described as “worse than al-Qaeda.” Al-Mahdi Army kept its weapons and turf.
…Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish lawmaker, said that the latest spasm of violence merely showed Iran’s huge influence in Iraq, holding enormous sway over al-Mahdi Army and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the main Shia party in the Government, as well as its own militia, the Badr Brigades. “It’s a big victory for Iran over America and for Moqtada over Maliki,” he said. “Iran has the upper hand in Iraq. They are choosing the time to start trouble and they are choosing the time to end it.”
And just to be clear, contra John Mccain, Sadr got the ceasefire entirely on his terms. Iraqi lawmakers loyal to Maliki had to travel to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to talk peace with the head of Iran’s nasty Quds brigades. Only then did Sadr agree to have his militias stand down. This is not a good turn of events for Maliki:
The Qom discussions may or may not bring an end to the fighting but they almost certainly have undermined Maliki – who made repeated declarations that there would be no negotiations and that he would treat as outlaws those who did not turn in their weapons for cash. The blow to his own credibility was worsened by the fact that members of his own party had helped organize the Iran initiative.
McCain has credibility on the war with American voters. But that will (should?) end if he plays the role of an unfailing cheerleader instead of a honest observer.