The host makes them sound like nothing more than hired American mercenaries, a notion which Yon is quick to disabuse him of. It’s the other Michael who provides the mind-blowing soundbite, though: Fully one quarter now of the “awakening” citizen militias across Iraq are either Shiite or mixed, suggesting growing popular opposition to the Shiite fundie mega-militias. No wonder Sadr’s going around whacking renegade lieutenants. The more they piss off the locals, the more likely it is that another neighborhood militia will spring up to deal with them.

Or is there more to it? Ware notes that some of those renegades aren’t Sadrists at all anymore. They work for Iran now, which puts Sadr in the precarious position of having to triangulate (quadrangulate?) between the U.S., his rivals in SCIRI, the Iranians who are cannibalizing parts of his army, and segments of the Shiite population that are getting tired of his mafia crap. Ware thinks it’s that precariousness that explains his surprising agreeableness towards the U.S. of late. I’ve given up on trying to piece out his relationship to Iran since at times it sounds like they’re skipping down the primrose path towards an Islamic paradise together and other times, like here, it sounds like they’re almost at war. I don’t know what to tell you about SCIRI either, since they’ve traditionally been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iran but lately have gravitated towards the U.S. Hopefully Roggio will take this subject on. In the meantime, assume that everyone’s playing everyone else against each other.

Another reason why it’s good to see these groups springing up: The Brits won’t be around to help in the south for much longer.