The Sadrists go for the Maysan governorship, combing their hair and acting respectable:

“We want to show the world we are a modern people, an intellectual people,” said Fathal Namaa, the group’s political director in Maysan. “We don’t want to be radical Islamists. I tell my supporters, don’t dress all in black or carry weapons.”

They are tracing a path mapped out by militant groups like Hezbollah or Hamas, which built popular support by augmenting their armed wings with social and political groups that ran schools and hospitals and handed out jobs.

They’ve got the network. What about the intimidation and the racketeering? This is one seriously shit-eating quote:

“We’re going to get everything,” said Nasser al-Rubaie, a leading Sadrist politician, as he emerged from Parliament one afternoon.

Imagine what will happen when the private-security-contractor army guarding U.S. diplomats in 2012 and beyond kill an Iraqi on a highway and the Sadrists are part of the government.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman