I was very busy finishing up the project in Boston last week, and on Friday I flew to London to see my parents and some relatives for a much needed break. On Saturday I saw my uncle, who is married to a relative of Abdul Aziz al Hakim. In addition to telling some very funny jokes, my father and uncle discussed the current situation in Iraq. My uncle believes that Maliki's attack on the Mehdi army was a good thing. “They need to take on the militias” he said. My father disagreed - he believes that Hakim and his supporters were trying to marginalize the Sadrists before the provincial elections. I already knew what my father thought, having discussed it with him earlier in the day, and although he's never liked Muqtada al Sadr, he told me that the ordinary Iraqis who follow Sadr are very poor, usually nationalistic, and in general are more Iraqi than Hakim and his Badr Brigade. My personal view is that both groups are influenced by Iran and both are led by Islamists who would like to impose Sharia law on all Iraqis. The fighting between seems to have achieved nothing other than to kill innocent Iraqis. After disagreeing with each other, my father and uncle returned to telling jokes and laughing.
Now I'm in Switzerland visiting Iraqi friends, a Shia family who managed to escape Iraq in the late 1990s. All of them agree that most members of the current Iraqi government are ineffective in governing and are more concerned with religion and making themselves rich than helping the Iraqi people. Some believe that Iraq will need decades to evolve into a secular society. Others believe that next year's elections will show that Iraqis are tired of the Islamists. I'm hoping for the latter.