Washington continues to insist that everything is going as planned in Iraq. I continue to be skeptical of that optimism. While it is important to recognize the continuing progress in Iraq (and there is continuing progress there), it is equally important to acknowledge the serious problems looming on Iraq’s horizons—both near and far.
In particular, Moktada al-Sadr’s sudden return to Iraq this month—and the dismissal of the warrant for his arrest for the death of ‘Abd al-Majid al-Khoi—strikes me as far more pernicious than the administration has suggested. It is a mistake to dismiss it, as some senior administration officials have, as a positive sign that all of Iraq’s former warlords are now taking part in the political process. Moreover, the administration’s rather blasé reaction to this development is itself adding fuel to the fire.
First off, it is important to understand why Moktada returned at this moment. It was not a coincidence. It was not that he had simply finished his studies in Tehran and now was off to seek his fame and fortune back in Iraq. He came back because changes in Iraqi politics, and particularly the composition of the new Iraqi government, made it possible and propitious for him to do so.
ISIS is also keen to target Italy now because it’s one of the few major European countries it hasn’t yet struck. They’re hoping to inspire violence there so that they can say, in effect, 'we’ve already attacked your capitals in London, in Paris, and in Barcelona, and now we’ve attacked Rome. There’s nowhere we can’t reach.'