Gateway Pundit notes that Moqtada al-Sadr’s big anti-US rally was largely a bust as only a few thousand people showed up rather than the tens of thousands that had been claimed. Omar from Iraq the Model confirms that the “tens of thousands” figure was much higher than the actual turnout.
Al-Sadr’s recent heated rhetoric is the equivalent of him throwing his cards down on the table. He knows quite well that the Iraqi people aren’t exactly happy with his sectarian warfare, and by trying to change the subject to the American “occupation” he’s trying to shed the image of being an Iranian-backed troublemaker. The problem is that his strategy is failing — if he can’t push the Americans out (which doesn’t seem likely with the current Administration in charge) then his bluff will have been called. He has to produce results or he loses faith with what few followers he has left.
Overall, the “surge” seems to be showing some positive effects — but it’s still a long and difficult process that will take months to accomplish. The fact that al-Sadr has made the change in course that he has is one sign that the political situation in Iraq is changing. Years of sectarian warfare haven’t advanced anyone’s interests, and the Shi’ites are starting to realize that the only way that they’ll be successful is to integrate themselves or they’ll be crushed between Iran’s hegemonic interests and al-Qaeda in Iraq’s Sunni terrorism.
Progress in Iraq will always be a story of fits and starts, but reading between the headlines seems to make it clear that Moqtada al-Sadr’s big show of force has failed. He couldn’t rally more than 10,000 protesters to his Najaf rally, despite busing in partisans from as far away as Baghdad and Basra. If that’s the best he can do, his base of power is in serious jeopardy. Given that al-Sadr himself is probably still in Iran, running away from US and Iraqi forces, his political and military strength seem to both be on the wane.