Time reporter in Baghdad: Every Iraqi I know is praying for a McCain victory

Well, every Iraqi willing to talk politics, anyway. I’d like to call this “good news” but the context is grim, albeit obvious to everyone but the left:

For Sunnis, al-Sadr’s continued clout is a warning and a provocation. In the district of Adhamiyah, a Sahwa [i.e. Awakening] fighter named Mahmoud (like his Mahdi Army counterpart, he gave only his first name) tells me there can be no reconciliation between the sects “as long as Muqtada is alive.” Then he makes a grim prediction: “Right now, the Americans want us to fight against al-Qaeda, and that’s fine. But we know the real fight will be in the future, with the Mahdi Army. We are getting ready for it.” Fattah, in Sadr City, is preparing for the same fight. “The Americans protect the [Sahwa] for the moment, but we know who they are; we have lists,” he says. “When the time comes, we will know what to do with them.”

The Baghdadis caught between these extremes know that the only thing standing in the way of another sectarian conflagration is the U.S. military. This may explain why every Iraqi who offers me a view on American politics seems to be praying for a McCain victory. A 100-year American military presence, of which McCain once spoke, may seem a bit much; I suspect most Iraqis would be happy with five.

In other words, they’re worried that the Democratic pullout plan will lead to a round of ethnic cleansing, a scenario Her Majesty has already duly vetted and made peace with. Curiously, McCain was the only candidate without support among the Iraqi Army in CNN’s anecdotal segment, although given the sectarian elements within the force, maybe that’s less contradictory than it seems. But do follow the link and read the Time piece in full, as there is bona fide good news for the moment: “Driving into Baghdad from the airport, I see other changes. In commercial districts, more shops and businesses are open than there were a year ago. Shoppers are taking the time to haggle with vegetable vendors–a contrast to the furtive, hurried transactions I remember. There are no queues at the gas stations. Baghdad even sounds different. In my first two days, I hear no explosions or gunfire.” You may hear that passage quoted a time or two by Republican senators this week when Petraeus comes before Congress.

Speaking of which, the Times of London reports this morning that U.S. commanders believe the Quds Force was on the ground with the JAM in Basra, helping to direct operations. Iran wouldn’t really get involved in a hot war on behalf of its proxies, though, would it? Perish the thought.