CAFFERTY: No matter how the battle ends in Najaf, many other insurgents are fighting across Iraq like there is no tomorrow, or at least if there's no plan for tomorrow. Read the headlines. It looks like they're more committed to blowing thing up, than building something new in that country. But each insurgent group really does have a vision for tomorrow's Iraq and the visions problem is, don't match up, not at all in some cases.
To help us understand what the insurgents want, we're joined by Jonathan Schanzer, who's a research fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. His book "Al Qaeda's Armies" is due out early next month. Jonathan, nice to have you with us. Let's begin with Muqtada al Sadr who has been in the news almost daily, hourly, minute by minute for the last couple of weeks. What does this guy want? It seems he's been offered everything from immediate annihilation to a role in the new government and he doesn't like any of the options. What's this guy after?
JONATHAN SCHANZER, WASH. INST. FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: This guy wants to bring the Iraqi government down. This is a man who is completely opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq, doesn't like the interim government, doesn't like the way things have been going, wants to create more of a Shia policy throughout Iraq and wants to play a leading role in that, but not through the rules that have already been created.
WASTLER: Jonathan, OK, he's the latest one grabbing the headlines right now, but there are other insurgents groups out there. Can you give us just a very brief overview of the major ones and how big a threat they are?
SCHANZER: Sure. I would say number one, the other one that's making a lot of headlines... is the one that's headed up by Abu Musab Zarqawi, al Qaeda associate that's been operating in northern Iraq and in the center of Iraq. This is an al Qaeda-affiliated group that is hell bent on essentially destroying the U.S. presence inside Iraq and to help create an Islamic caliphate. This is a group that is not going to negotiate with anyone under any circumstances and they're really interested in creating spectacular attacks that are going to make the United States look like they're suffering a mortal blow inside Iraq.
Then you have what I would just call the Shia -- or the Sunni insurgency, rather and this is just an insurgency of former Ba'athists, as well as Sunni fundamentalists inside the Sunni triangle that are very unhappy with the fact that on the eve of the war they were the decision makers inside Iraq. Overnight, it seems, they lost power and they want that power back. They want the United States out of Iraq. This group, however, I think is a little less dogmatic and would actually be able to work with the U.S. government, if given the proper conditions.
ROMANS: It's interesting because all of these groups have two goals in common, to get rid of the United States and to have power. They all can't have power. Beyond that, you have some that are secular, some that are -- want a pure Islamist state. After whenever, we are out of the picture, do these groups just degrade into civil war?
SCHANZER: Well, this is the fear. I mean in other words, one of the things that we're seeing right now is what these groups are able to do is work together because of their common anger at the U.S. presence, but it's quite possible. Analysts have continually talked about the possibility of civil war after, you know, after the U.S. leaves. You know, the only thing that I think, you know, we can say for sure is that the Shia aren't interested in a civil war at all. In other words, what they're looking for is power and they believe that if they're able to keep it together long enough, they will have power. I think the Sunnis in general are the ones that could be more interested in sparking a civil war. These are the people that have less to lose and the people that I think we need to worry about the most.
CAFFERTY: Let's go back to Muqtada al Sadr. Based on what you just got through saying, the senior Muslim Shiite clerics have no use for this guy. He arguable represents a very small band of people. The Shia were the bulk of the population, but they were subjugated and oppressed by the Sunnis, who were the guys under Saddam Hussein who ran the country. The coalition has come in, taken the Sunnis from power, kind of opened the thing up, but Muqtada al Sadr is answerable at some point to the senior clerics, the senior Shiite clerics who have already said publicly, this is not the future of our country. So let me get back to what you do about this guy. Obviously, the coalition possesses the military tools necessary to eliminate him, if that's the decision it's comes to, but it seems like he is just being allowed to fester on the stage here and continue to be problematic. What is the answer to this man?
SCHANZER: Well, I think the answer is what we're doing right now. You're watching Allawi trying to present options to al Sadr to perhaps be able to bring him into the fold. That's the first step. If it doesn't work out after that, I really see this guy as really being cannon fodder. I think his days are numbered and it's not going to be that difficult to get in there. What he's banking on though is the fact that perhaps he might be able to spark an Arab outrage. In other words, the Arab world may be watching and saying, hey, I can't believe the United States is going into the Imam Ali mosque and desecrating one of the holiest sites in Islam. The thing that's different here...
ROMANS: He's not desecrating it, though? That's what is so ironic, talk about booby trapping it, people are concerned that he could blow it up.
SCHANZER: Well, you know, he is an Arab. He is a Muslim and therefore he has the right to do that. Having a foreign power go in is something very different entirely. But I think the difference here is that, if this was happening at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem or if it was happening at the grand mosque in Mecca, you would see an absolute outrage, but the fact that we're dealing with the Shia population which doesn't really speak to the Sunni Islamic fundamentalist population in the Arab world, that's the -- I think the main reason why you're not seeing that kind of outrage and why the United States may have an easier time getting a handle on the situation.
CAFFERTY: Jonathan, we got to leave it there. Thank you very much for your insight. I appreciate it. Jonathan Schanzer, research fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of "Al Qaeda's Armies."