In recent weeks, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has repeatedly bumbled the details of the outcome of intra-Shiite violence in Basra, falsely claiming Muqtada al-Sadr was defeated by Prime Minister Maliki’s forces. “Very rarely do I see the winning side declare a ceasefire,” he said on March 31. “I don’t think Sadr would have declared the ceasefire if he thought he was winning,” he again said this Sunday.
The phrase has become a frequent claim from the right wing. Now, surge architect Fred Kagan is jumping to McCain’s defense. Yesterday, on the PBS News Hour, Kagan claimed Sadr simply “stood his forces down, adding that “McCain rightly said” that Maliki did not declare the cease-fire:
KAGAN: And it’s not the way — as Senator McCain rightly said, the side that’s winning a conflict like this doesn’t generally call a timeout and say, “Hey, you know, we’ve had enough. Thank you very much.” And it’s not the way it’s playing on the Iraqi street.
Armchair general Kagan’s “street” analysis is grossly oversimplified. Maliki’s government in fact traveled to Iran to “win the support of the commander of Iran’s Qods brigades” for a cease-fire (revealing his dependence on Iran), to which Sadr agreed. Maliki’s government then issued a statement praising Sadr, after the PM insisted days earlier there would be “no negotiation.”
Earlier in the segment, Lt. Gen. William Odom (ret.) of Yale University explained the possible outcome of the fighting — that the future government in Iraq will not be “one of our allies”:
ODOM: It showed how impossible it is to expect anything productive out of the Maliki government. Let me make a key point about this government: When this is all over, the people in the Green Zone now and the Maliki government will not be in charge. The future successful government in Iraq is not one of our allies. It will be somebody who wins the civil war. And we’re trying to ally with all sides to prevent it.
Today, the press is reporting that Sadr has threatened to end the cease-fire he imposed on his militia last year, “raising the prospect of worsening violence.” Of course, Kagan probably sees this as characteristics of a defeated Sadr.
Huffington Post observes that Gen. Petraeus has also bought the rosy spin, reportedly offering “a dramatically different interpretation of the recent violent unrest in Basra” than he did the day before.