That's what we used to say back in school then when we became dentists and doctors we changed that to 'diagnosis is half the treatment', and it looks that's where we're standing right now.
Everyone now seems to agree that any plan to fix the situation in Iraq has to have a military component along with a political one. The latter, as I understood, is supposed to bring together or facilitate a set of compromises and mutual concessions among the political powers in Iraq in order to achieve an acceptable level of stability and allow for sustained progress…
But why has it been that difficult to advance this political path despite all the time and effort spent in this direction?
There's a problem we should address and do something about if we want a political solution to see the light and that is that some of the key political players in Iraq who are interested in finding a solution cannot move in that direction because they have their hands tied by former deals or affiliations with current-or former-extremist allies of the same sect as theirs and those extremist have taken the entire political process in Iraq hostage.
What I'm trying to say here is that the military component we need at this particular stage should be different from the routine military operations that US and Iraqi military had been conducting so far.
The new military component should be designed to create a friendly climate where politicians can strike deals and reach compromise without coercion from radical extremists.
And so if more boots are to be added on the ground then the mission will have to include freeing politicians and parties such as Maliki and al-Hashimi (the Dawa and the Islamic party respectively) from the ropes that bind them to Sadr and harmful elements in the Sunni political scene.
Right now is a good time, perhaps the best time we have to launch this effort since there's already a large front forming from the parties that are willing to talk against the extremists' camp.
If the way forward requires maintaining the basic course of the political process and empowering (and cleaning) the current government and its head then the only way to do this is to relief Maliki, his party and the rest of the Shia alliance from the dominance and influence of Sadr and there are two ways to accomplish this:
Either persuade Maliki and his team and promise them great support and protection from Sadr's reach.
Deal a lethal blow to Sadr and his militia in order to render him unable to inflict harm on Maliki and other members of the UIA.
Now really, it shouldn't be that difficult to figure out that the first way isn't working out right, what's needed now is to take the decision to try the second way and deal with the biggest threat to stability in Iraq in the way we should.
If claims that the militia is fragmented and not entirely under Sadr's control are true (and it's actually hard to believe that one man can control a militia of dozens of thousands spread over 11 provinces) then this must be an advantage for us because if that's the case there would be little reason to believe those renegade units would fight for Sadr since many have reached financial independence from the center leadership and let's not forget that money and fear are the main weapons militia leaders use to expand their power and maintain control over the militia members and the population.
The members were recruited by either fear or persuasion and these bonds that still keep some units highly loyal will fall apart once the head is taken…ideological fighters constitute a minority in my opinion and those, along with presumed IRGC and Hezbollah fighters who are assisting Sadr will represent the bulk of the remaining actual force that US and Iraqi troops would have to fight and eliminate. Those are highly organized but they are not invincible.
Together we succeeded in reducing the threat posed by al-Qaeda when it was identified as the biggest threat to Iraq's stability and security and now together we can do the same with Sadr and other thugs—we understand the question and we have a diagnosis that seems sound; it's time to proceed with the treatment.