MOQTADALouaiBeshara:AFP:Getty

Joel Wing studies the game of chess being played in Iraq:

Iraq is still probably weeks and even months away from forming a new government. Sadr’s decision to come out for Maliki was one of the first major changes in the stalemate that has been going on since the March 2010 election. Tehran had a leading role in Sadr’s choice organizing Syria, Hezbollah, and Ayatollah Haeri to all lobby him. That shows Iran’s ability to shape events in the country. This set off a chain reaction both within and ... [outside] Iraq. The U.S. is now alarmed that the anti-American Sadr will have a leading role in any new government, while Maliki is on a regional tour to drum up support. That just increases Sadr’s influence, since he can rightly believe that all this activity is due to his actions.

He’s likely to get most of what he wants in a new government, since not only did he drag out talks with other parties to maximize his position, he also has a political movement and a militia that can exert his will after all the talks are over. It’s just the latest example of Sadr being a political survivor after many had discounted him when his movement fractured, Maliki went after his followers in 2008, he disbanded the Mahdi Army, and then his candidates didn’t fare as well as expected in the 2009 provincial vote. At the same time, he was in almost the exact same spot in 2006 when he put Maliki into office the first time. That relationship didn’t last, so it’s wrong to think that Moqtada has suddenly reached a new apex. Iraq’s politics are like a soap opera with drawn out relationships, backstabbing, and plenty of drama, so what’s happening now, can always change dramatically in the future.

(Photo:LouaiBeshara/AFP/Getty)

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