A Quasi-Serious SuggestionThe primary policy goal of the United States for Iraq going forward is to minimize the damage that we have inflicted against our national interests. How much damage limitation can we do is up for debate, but that should be the primary goal.
Moqutada Sadr and his movement of poor, urban Shi'ites are an interesting movement. Militant, nationalistic, centralizers (as they don't sit on top of any of the oil that the Badr Brigade aligned Shi'ite demographics do. The Sadrists are also willing to take up arms against anyone who works against their interests --- Badr, Sunni Arabs, the US, the UK. However they have also demonstrated some pretty significant tactical and political flexibility by forming alliances with Sunni Arabs during 2004, engaging the US in combat and then reaching a political settlement that seemed to have lasted for eighteen months but is unravelling now, shooting at Badr Brigade aligned governmental security units while being part of the government.
The Sadrists are flexing their muscle right now. They currently occupy Amarrah after kicking out the Badr aligned police force, and they recently have been fighting pretty hard against US and Badr units along the lower Euphrates Valley. So how about a plan to neutralize Sadr's public popularity and governmental power?
And what is this plan you ask? It is simple:
Have the United States funnel billions of dollars, and full fledged public support of our government towards Sadr and his movement.
That simple step should very quickly delegitimitze the Sadrist movement and render it incapable of acting effectively. I argue this because it has been demonstrated to work several times in the past with Ahmad Chalabi, Allawi, and now Maliki --- whomever the Americans support, their popularity goes down pretty damn quickly. It may even make sense for the US to support a Sadrist candidate for Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.
But the serious argument here is that if Iraq is going to be something that vaguely resembles a single unitary state, much in the same way that Bosnia-Herzogovinia (sic) resembles one, the leaders of that state have to have massive amounts of anti-US credibility. Sadr has both anti-US and anti-Baathist credibility as he and his family stayed in country, fought and died for their support base. Very few other Shi'ite political leaders can say that.