In case this is unclear to anyone, I think Muqtada al-Sadr was the big winner from last week's battling:
"The Iraqi government looks silly in the face of their ardent statements," said Joost Hiltermann, the deputy program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a private group that studies international conflicts. He said the outcome shows "the Iraqi military doesn't have the ability to do much of anything."
Sadr, who was in Iran during the offensive, came out of the confrontation stronger, Hiltermann said.
"He remained undefeated and he looks like the moderate," he said. "He was the one that called for his forces, who were attacked, to stand down."
That said, unless you just stipulate that American interests require us to locate an Iraqi leader who'll consent to America staying in Iraq for 100 or 10,000 years then I'm not sure that Sadr strengthening his position is such a terrible thing. It's bad for the Bush/McCain vision of perpetual war for perpetual occupation, but if you think the U.S. should be getting out of Iraq, then a Sadr-led Iraq is no worse than a Maliki-led Iraq. Neither has a stellar human rights record, of course, but given the practical alternatives available, Sadr seems about as good as anyone else.