Today's Blogs

Muq Ta Ta

Bloggers react to reports that Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr has fled to Iran. They’re split on the new de-escalation deal with North Korea, and are indifferent about the Edwards bloggers who quit under conservative religious pressure.

Muq ta ta: According to Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, fierce Shiite cleric and Mahdi Army head Muqtada Sadr left Iraq for Iran two weeks ago. Reports of Sadr’s exodus, which his aides have denied, come amid speculation that Iran is supplying the Iraqi insurgency with its deadliest weapons. Conservatives see Sadr’s departure as a sign that the “surge” may be working after all. Liberals, not so much.

Middle East guru Juan Cole, at Informed Comment thinks it’s unlikely that Sadr is in Iran: “He and his family have endlessly made fun of the al-Hakim clerical leaders for fleeing to Iran to escape persecution by Saddam Hussein. … Muqtada’s father was killed in 1999 by Saddam’s agents because he stayed and gave defiant sermons. So it would be a lot of crow to eat for Muqtada to go to Iran to escape the Americans.”

Conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters takes the news at face value and concludes optimistically: “[T]he Iranians surely have to be thumping their foreheads over his bug-out. The US had just demonstrated that the Iranians had backed the insurgencies, which the Iranians disputed, and the chief of the Shi’ite militias announces that he’s going to become a remote-control general from their turf. It’s going to be very difficult for anyone to pretend that Iran has not actively fueled the insurgencies while Moqtada directs his armies by long-distance telephone calls.”

Righty Wretchard at The Belmont Club says: “Of course … he must eventually find a way to return to Iraq on his own terms, either reconciling with the US or driving them or waiting them out. That he chose to go suggests he cannot drive them out. … At least not without the assistance of the Ayatollahs. Can he wait them out? That depends, but not so much on Sadr as upon American domestic politics.”

John in D.C. at liberal AMERICAblog doesn’t buy the Sadr skedaddle: “Perhaps al-Sadr really is in Iran, and perhaps the Bush administration is telling us the truth. But considering that Bush and the Pentagon anonymous briefers have yet to tell us the truth about much of anything to do with Iraq or Iran, I’m going to wager that we’re being lied to, yet again.”  And lefty Michael J.W. Stickings at The Reaction points out: “Of course, all it would take for Sadr to disprove the U.S. claim would be for him to appear in public, or on TV, in Iraq, preferably in his own Baghdad neighbourhood. And that may yet happen.”

Read more about Muqtada’s alleged Iran run.

Pyongyang makes a deal: Baited by the unfreezing of some of its international bank accounts and the promise of imported fuel, North Korea has agreed to temporarily shut down its Yongbyon nuclear facility. All of the regime’s anxious neighbors—including China—have signed on, and thus the agreement is being heralded as an improvement over the Clinton administration’s Agreed Framework brokered in 1994. Critics say the White House has betrayed its tough idealism.

Classical liberal Dean Esmay at Dean’s World rolls his eyes: “[Kim Jong-il’s] mad dictatorship has broken every single agreement and promise it’s ever made. … It’s probably the most insane, murderous regime on the planet. I suppose the one thing you can say is that maybe the negotiations have the effect of slowing down what they do behind doors a little. With the hope that maybe the regime will finally collapse while negotiating. Or something. Color me unimpressed.”

Gordo at The Liberal Avenger has little love for the Bush administration but gives credit where it’s due: “You might recall that North Korea recently attempted to test a long-range missile and a nuclear warhead. Those tests fizzled, leaving Kim in a very weak position. Recognizing his vulnerability, Rice presented a stingy aid package and ended a longstanding nuclear crisis in the space of a couple of months. This was Condoleeza Rice showing she’s still the tough, shrewd negotiator who helped broker the German reunification.”

Lefty Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report echoesSlate’s Fred Kaplan in suggesting that Bush has finally found his “inner Clinton”: “[T]his is a deal Bush could have had five years ago. This has been on the table all along, but the president didn’t want to ‘negotiate with evil’ In the end, Bush’s negotiations led us right back to where we were before, except now North Korea has a nuclear arsenal. Bush’s strategy hasn’t improved our position at all; it’s only made the world more dangerous by allowing North Korea to become a nuclear state while finally accepting a five-year-old deal.”

Read more about the North Korea deal. Read Fred Kaplan’s take in Slate.

And, they’re out: Both Amanda Marcotte (of Pandagon) and Melissa McEwan (of Shakespeare’s Sister) have resigned from the John Edwards presidential campaign after a weekslong controversy surrounding comments the women made on their personal blogs about Christianity and evangelicals.

Kate Phillips at the New York Times election blog The Caucus writes: “The epilogue to this? I’m not sure. Some will indeed claim victory; some will counsel that political campaigns have to vet and vet and vet any staff; others will feel doomed in defeat of what was seen as an arm around new — especially rare female — voices in the blogosphere by politicians.”

Brian at the conservative Iowa Voice, who’s been covering the affair tirelessly, is happy with the outcome: “I know this is pure speculation, but I’m getting the impression that perhaps this was the plan as soon as the you-know-what hit the fan. That Edwards said ‘Ok, I won’t fire them … but they have to go, sooner rather than later.’ Thus, they were allowed to save face and stay on, but it was understood that their time with the Edwards campaign was at an end.”

Read more about the Edwards bloggers’ resignations.