“Iraqi Forces vs. The Extremists”

9_jungle_team When Joe Lieberman corrected McCain’s "senior moment" in Jordan, he had McCain say that the Iranians were training "extremists," not "alkaydah" (sic).  The two of them and Graham had just come from Iraq, so I guess Joe had gotten the word there that the baddies (Jeish al-mahdi) were going to be referred to as "extremists."   McCain just couldn’t keep it straight.  Hmmm.  The enemy is who?  Say it again…

It is clear that US policy is to back Maliki/Dawa/ISCI/Badr Corps (Iraqi Forces) against Moqtada al-Sadr and his "army" of "shirtless ones."  Fine.  Why not?  I guess the US has no choice but to back someone.

I suppose that the powers that be will shift the Main Supply Route (MSR) to the west (Nasiriyah) if the Basra area becomes too obstructed.

My problem with the present course of events is the ruthlessness of the propaganda campaign being successfully waged by the Bush Administration.   The president has succeeded in "framing" the discussion in such a way that Maliki and his assembly of Badr Corps militias are represented as being the equivalent of George Washington suppressing the Whiskey Rebellion.  The noble Maliki is portrayed as motivated by a selfless desire for "national" unity.  The MSM has re-transmitted that idea without serious question.

In fact he is merely acting on behalf of an emerging alignment of pro-Iranian forces in Iraq that have successfully pulled the wool over American eyes.

You may have noticed that no Kurdish units of the "Iraqi Forces" have been brought down from the north for this "fandango."  You may also have noticed that our Concerned Local Citizens/Sons of Iraq (read Sunni tribal Arab auxiliaries) are not involved.  Show me some engaged units in this that are not Shia.

They don’t seem to fight so well, these "Iraqi Forces " at Basra.  We have spent a lot of time and money on these people.  They are not making much progress at Basra.  I used to know Montagnard Special Commando Unit troops who fought better than this, but, then, they were well led by some wonderful Special Forces sergeants and junior officers.

That brings up the inevitability of heavy US involvement in this suppression of the "Whiskey Rebellion."  It’s just a matter of time.

McCain must fear that terribly.  pl


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34 Responses to “Iraqi Forces vs. The Extremists”

  1. b says:

    Who started this?
    Various theories:
    1. Cheney
    2. Ahmadinejad
    3. Maliki
    I believe in 3. Maliki needs chaos in the South to prevent the election he would lose.
    He is using the U.S. troops as his tool to achieve this.
    The U.S. should beware – the situation in Lebanon was a bit similar and there the U.S. payed dearly for taking sides in a civil war.

  2. Paul says:

    If, and it may be a big If, the U.S. military still uses the 5 paragraph order scheme, I’d love to see the content of Paragraph 1 (Situation) that support the current activity in Basra.

  3. Andy says:

    That brings up the inevitability of heavy US involvement in this suppression of the “Whiskey Rebellion.” It’s just a matter of time.
    It’s already happening, though for the time being it appears confined to airstrikes and Apache support.

  4. The Whiskey rebellion analogy (on spin) is delicious, even if al-Maliki is ‘no George Washington’. Alternately, it might get spun as a law enforcement operation.
    My opinion is that al-Maliki wants provincial elections on his terms. If he wanted to prevent them from happening, wouldn’t it make more sense to attack the Mahdi militias right before the elections take place?
    How does fighting Sadr now, over the sweep of both strongholds, enclaves, and locales where his ideology and tribal affiliations are “sticky,” help al-Maliki?
    The intention can’t be to lop off enough potential purple fingers to make a difference. Or ???
    Yes, Pat, were Americans to be surveyed on their knowledge of Islam and Iraq, the results would be scary. I’m sure tonight the cable pundits will be playing clips of various shills talking about Shi’a terrorists and al-Qaeda.

  5. M. Hoppe says:

    “It is clear that US policy is to back Maliki/Dawa/ISCI/Badr Corps (Iraqi Forces) against Moqtada al-Sadr and his “army” of “shirtless ones.” Fine. Why not? I guess the US has no choice but to back someone.”
    Could someone please explain to me why the U.S.does not back what seems to be the only shia nationalist movement that is relatively free of Iranian influence, Sadr, over the (Iranian) bought and paid for militias of Maliki and company?

  6. Montag says:

    A radio report this morning said that U.S. ground forces are the spearhead in the Sadr City fighting, with the “Iraqi Army” er, holding their coats for them. In the South a report of Iraqi Army soldiers surrendering to the “extremists” instead of fighting them. Some video yesterday of “extremists” riding around in captured IA humvees.
    What gets me is Bush’s blind assertion that this latest fighting proves that the Surge is working, because it demonstrates the determination of the Maliki Government to “protect” the people of Iraq–from themselves? I guess if he had eggs for breakfast, that too would prove that the Surge is working.

  7. Cold War Zoomie says:

    I can hear the pundits now…”Absolutely no one could have ever predicted this:”
    Wash Post: US Appears to Take Lead in Fighting

  8. turcopolier says:

    “Dear Pat,
    Ah, to be a George Washington is a tall order. Your skepticism is fully justified. But had I been asked by Maliki, this is what I would have told
    him: get Basra back from the militias, ALL of them, or lose Iraq. Your keen observation that the Kurds and the Awakening are not involved is very important, and it could be interpreted either way: either this is indeed a Badr-Da’wa war against the Mahdi to prevent a Sadrist victory in the provincial elections; or: Maliki and Petraeus are careful not to turn this into a Sunni-Shi’i or Kurdish-Shi’i conflict again, thus re-igniting the Sunni-Shi’i civil war. Shi’i-on-Shi’i is less combustible. It could even be both. One explanation does not exclude the other. In the meantime, two US fighters joined the fray bombing two Mahdi targets in Basra. I hope Petraeus knows what he is doing, and that he secured clear commitment from Maliki that all militias will be disarmed.
    Yes, pat, you are most welcome to post my first comment and, if it adds anything, this one too.
    Amatzia Baram”

  9. turcopolier says:

    “Dear Pat,
    As I see it, if Maliki is successful against the Mahdi in Basra-which looks progressively less likely-this must serve as first step of disarming all militias there: religious as well as tribal. Anything else will indeed be just another turf battle between Shi’i factions and even, as you suggested, support for Iranian agents. If US soldiers are involved in any way, complete disarmament must be the pre-condition. Will Maliki be ready for this? Who knows. In a positive way, a few days ago Maliki issued an order that 14,000 of the (Sunni tribal) Awakening Councils’ militiamen be absorbed by the Iraqi armed forces. This was brave. He was immediately severely criticized by the (Shi’i) Minister of the Interior and, surprise surprise, also by the (Sunni Muslim Brother) Minister of Defense. So: is it that Maliki is becoming a true national leader-or is it all a ruse?
    Amatzia Baram”

  10. Mo says:

    Strykers going into Sadr city where Iraqi “security” has all but disappeared.
    For those asking who started this and why. Again, elections coming up, Sadr no longer allied to Maliki and therefore a serious threat. Its that simple. Without removing Sadr, the local elections and then national elections (esp. if they involve a Sadr-Sunni alliance) would see Maliki booted out of office and an anti-Occupation coalittion in power.
    Its gone from won’t happen to can’t happen to musn’t happen. And American troops are going to be at risk if Sadr isn’t defeated and renounces the ceasefire.
    Whoever authorised this has taken a big roll on the dice. The outcome will be the end of the beginning.

  11. Mo says:

    “Could someone please explain to me why the U.S.does not back what seems to be the only shia nationalist movement that is relatively free of Iranian influence”
    Because the first thing Sadr would do if he got into power is politely ask the US to leave.

  12. chimneyswift says:

    The thing that gets me about this is how likely it looks that this will be a loss for “our side.”
    How many times can we commit forces to situations where we face tactical and strategic disadvantages? If we keep this up, sooner or later we will achieve a truly failed occupation.

  13. Ormolov says:

    “I suppose that the powers that be will shift the Main Supply Route (MSR) to the west (Nasiriyah) if the Basra area becomes too obstructed.”
    This just in:
    “A Reuters witness said Mehdi Army gunmen had seized control of the southern city of Nassiriya. Mehdi Army fighters have also held territory or fought with authorities in Kut, Hilla, Amara, Kerbala, Diwaniya and other towns throughout the Shi’ite south over the past several days.”
    I know, we can move the Main Supply Route west to Najaf. Wait. Najaf isn’t safe? Okay. Karbala. What? Not Karbala? The Mehdi Army controls Karbala too? Okay. Wait a minute… Um… How about Baghdad? Yeah! We can move our supply route straight into Baghdad. Just come in from the west and… oh. What’s that? Sadr City is to the west.
    Okay. WAIT. I know! Very simple. Let’s bring them in from the EAST. Yes. What’s over there? Oh, yeah. Iran.

  14. jeff roby says:

    “Because the first thing Sadr would do if he got into power is politely ask the US to leave.”
    And that would be a bad thing why?

  15. Color-coded Wonder says:

    Col. Lang:
    I wonder if you could comment on the following. Some people say that the Supply Lines up from Kuwait are the Americans’ Achilles heel in any possible war with Iran. To what extent could this operation in Basra be seen as an American attempt to secure their supply lines in view of a forthcoming attack on Iran? I realize that this does not jive with the narrative of the pro-Iranian ‘government’ forces against the ‘anti-Iranian’ Mahdi forces, but I’m not convinced that these labels are so cut and dried that in the event of a conflict with Iran they would necessarily apply. In this context, further, I wonder if the esteemed Professor Baram’s call for American pressure to disarm all the militias is not somewhat unrealistic.
    With respect–
    Color-coded Wonder

  16. This could be end game! Basra has importance well beyond the US. Wasn’t this the area the Brits held for us after the invasion? Crucial shipping outlet for a lot of Iraqi oil is it not? Guess the Brits left everything for the US to take over as “Stabilized.”

  17. Walter Lang says:

    There are millions of Shia in the south and we have a relative handful of troops available. Are you serious? pl

  18. Walter Lang says:

    Ah. More ignorant lefty crap about the ARVN. pl

  19. Color-coded Wonder says:

    Dear Col. Lang:
    Well, yes, serious. But perhaps wrong. What you seem to be saying is that it would be a very unrealistic move on the part of the Americans to secure their Supply Lines in this way. Could be. That’s why I asked.
    With respect,
    Color-coded Wonder

  20. David W. says:

    Is it time for Operation Linebacker?

  21. Mike says:

    “I hope Petraeus knows what he is doing, and that he secured clear commitment from Maliki that all militias will be disarmed.” -Turcopolier
    But surely it is the constitutional right of all citizens in a democracy to bear arms.

  22. Walrus says:

    I think we now know why Fallon resigned. He must have known that there was going to be an attempt to eliminate Sadr as a political force, thus opening the way for AMerica to maintain a permanent presence in Iraq, and thus control of Iraqi oil reserves.
    It is obvious that this attempt to neutralise Sadr is not about Iraqi “security” at all. It is a plain grab for political “security” for Maliki and energy “security” for America.
    The irony of America being complicit in the destruction of an enemy of Saaddam Hussien is overwhelming.

  23. Montag says:

    According to a newspaper report Maliki has vaingloriously dubbed his gamble, “Operation Saulat al-Fursan,” or Charge of The Knights. I couldn’t help but think of the battle of Mansurah in 1250, where the French knights were destroyed in the narrow streets of the town.

  24. Martin K says:

    Might actually be Petraeus cleaning the last of house, testing the IA before the final assessment of how long the forces have to stay in strength. Question is if the crusaders will enter Basra in force again. What happens when the IA is repulsed? How does the Mahdi army respond? It seems like the closing of the Anbar front will lead to an opening of a southern.
    BTW, colonel, see http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/03/27/kagan/index.html for Freddie Kaplan declaring the civil war in Iraq for over a few days ago. Lol.

  25. jon says:

    This is the entirely predictably outcome of the time allotted to the ‘Surge’ not being used effectively and successfully to establish political progress and unity. Maliki couldn’t deliver on what Sadr demanded to be part of the government. Sadr has to do something to keep his militia intact, prevent defections, and be seen by the populace as honoring his own principles.
    The irony is that to suppress Sadr, the US must rely even more on ISCI, who are the tool of the Iranians, and to the overall benefit of Iran. Tactics are now trumping strategy.
    Without the US to support the government, the Iraqi government must flee, seek shelter in their core provinces, or risk abduction and assassination.
    Is the US willing to turn Baghdad and Basra – and a lot of other places – into Fallujah in order to put down this uprising? Do we want to make a little Chechnya of our own that badly? In trying to break the back of the Mahdi Army, the US may make it impossible for it to stay in Iraq for more than another year or so.
    Sadr isn’t foolish enough to disarm his forces when the Badr Brigades, Awakening forces and Peshmerga all operate with impunity. He may be aiming to become the new Muslim (or at least the Shia version) liberator that Osama plays at. He may be content with the idea to join his father as a martyr. It’s certainly no coincidence that stories have recently circulated about his studying (purifying and perfecting himself) to become an ayatollah. He’s likely in Najaf or Karbala, where things are fairly quiet, or he could be in Iran, safe and sound.
    The trained Iraqi police and army units are not proving reliable, able or willing to stand up to the Mahdi units. As they dissolve, those forces are abandoning their uniforms and are seeking shelter within their religious and tribal affiliations. They’ve been equipped and training for this for about three years now. The Iraqi nation may not survive the operation and die on the table.

  26. jon says:

    Ormolov – point well taken. The main southern supply lines are at substantial risk, and devoting sufficient resources to defend them will remove forces needed desperately elsewhere.
    I’m sure the Iranian’s would be happy to undertake the resupply needs from the East – on their terms. Syria is probably not the best bet either. We do make use of supply routes via Turkey, but it’s a very long route, and the PKK might make that sticky. We could also supply via Jordan and the lately pacified Anbar, but that would require bringing materiel through either Lebanon or Israel, and both of those countries bring their own issues to bear, reducing the likelihood.
    However, on my map Sadr City is to the East of the center of Baghdad. Bahgram airport and still largely Sunni neighborhoods are clustered in the west.
    How’s the Air Force been keeping up with maintenance and repair? We may need to start air dropping more than ordnance.

  27. Homer says:

    pl: In fact he is merely acting on behalf of an emerging alignment of pro-Iranian forces in Iraq that have successfully pulled the wool over American eyes.
    And as a consequence, the US is (and has been) dying a death of a thousand cuts in Iraq.
    As you know, Messers Maliki, Hakim, Jabr, et al are not `our guys in Bagdhad’.
    The MSM has **failed** to let Americans know who exactly these men are, what groups they belong to, and what they were doing during the twenty plus years prior to the deposing of SH in 2003.
    Compare the coverage of al-Dawa from the past with what has been written today.
    a) KUWAIT ROUNDS UP BOMBING SUSPECTS. Chicago Tribune. Jul 13, 1985.
    The outlawed Iraqi Al-Daawa Party, which professes allegiance to Iranian
    leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was blamed for bomb attacks on the
    U.S. and French Embassies and on four economic targets in Kuwait in December, 1983. Five people were killed and 86 injured.
    HIJACK ATTEMPT. Seattle Times. Dec 26, 1986. [snip]
    Another caller, saying he represented the Islamic Jihad terrorist group, said his group worked with the pro-Iranian outlawed Iraqi Al Daawa Party in staging the airplane hijacking.
    The mysterious Islamic Jihad holds at least two French and two American hostages in Lebanon. Al Daawa seeks to overthrow the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, which has been at war with Iran for six years.
    c) ‘Walk Free’ Prediction Gets Puzzled Reaction. San Francisco Chronicle.
    Jul 15, 1987.
    State Department officials indicated yesterday they were perplexed by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North’s assertion that 17 men convicted in Kuwait of bomb attacks on the U.S. and French embassies will eventually “walk free.” …. The 17 are mainly Iraqi Shiites identified as members of the underground Al-Daawa Party, which is pro-Iranian.
    d) Warships in Gulf Convoy. LAT, Oct 1, 1987.
    Three pro-Iranian Shia Muslim organizations in Lebanon warned Tunisia against executing seven fundamentalists convicted earlier this week of
    trying to overthrow the government of President Habib Bourguiba. The
    groups-Hezbollah (Party of God), the umbrella organization for those
    holding Western hostages in Lebanon; the Daawa Party, a Hezbollah ally, and the Islamic Coalition-warned of a confrontation and a “sweeping storm” if the “unjust death sentences” are carried out.
    e) Kuwait to free 2 Shiites; U.S. hostage link? Chicago Sun – Times, Nov 29, 1988. [snip]
    The 17 have been held in Kuwait since being convicted in bombings there against the U.S. and French embassies and Kuwaiti installations that killed at least five people and injured more than 60. They include 10 Iraqis from the outlawed opposition Daawa party, at least two Lebanese,
    a Kuwaiti, some Bahrainis and a stateless Bedouin.
    f) Rebel Leaders Appeal for Aid in Iraqi Uprising Brooks. Wall Street Journal. March 19, 1991 [snip]
    Also at the news conference, Jawad alMaliki of the radical Islamic group, alDawa, made a “brotherly appeal” for the release of “innocent
    hostages” still being held in Lebanon. Al-Dawa has close ties to Iran. The result of the hostage-taking, said Mr. al-Maliki, has only been to “create international tension.”

  28. Charles I says:

    The al-Malaki government is not the government that will govern Iraq. Only 54 MPs out of 275 made it into the seat of Iraqi sovereignty yesterday – inside the fortified Green Zone – for a parliamentary session because it was under mortar and rocket bombardment. The politicians that will govern obviously have some wars to fight. Surely they grow impatient with American obtuseness and al-Malaki’s feckless governance.
    And Jon has called it w/r/t to the irony that the U.S.’s current tool in the intra-Shia civil war is the more Iranian-connected one while the avowed and popular anti-Iranian nationalist is denied provincial elections lest his party win. The perversest allies, the perversest choices and a soupcon of fate a Bizzarro world make.

  29. Homer-
    Twenty years may as well be a millennium here in the States!
    Tactics are now trumping strategy.
    Now? I would have said As usual…

  30. TomB says:

    Doesn’t it seem that regardless of why exactly this Basra thing is taking place, or why it is taking place now or etc., etc., that all it shows in the end is the fundamental and maybe even total incoherence of our effort over there?
    I mean … okay, maybe something had to be done about Basra now because the Brits had basically pulled out and the factions were looting the hell out of everything including the oil there and we pushed Maliki to do this now before any unsurging is done (or maybe to justify unsurging) and etc., etc.
    But, regardless of all that, look at what we’re doing: Above all we probably want to minimize Iranian influence, right? And yet here we’re taking sides with the Shiite faction there that’s the *most* pro-Iranian. And who are we siding against? The Sadrists which seem to have the most ability to turn the country and certainly Baghdad into a shooting gallery and bringing everything back to chaos again. (And with the Sadrists also perhaps being the biggest single political bloc in the democratic country we’re trying to build, as shown by the fact that the President, Maliki, got to be President because he had the Sadrists backing in the first place.) And yet we are siding *against* them?
    I.e., no matter which way we turn we just can’t seem to trip over ourselves, can we? Indeed, may just be the absolute stigmata of a fundamentally incoherent enterprise.

  31. elkern says:

    This may sound treasonous, but I’m an American, and I consider Sadr an ally. I view him as the only leader with a chance to unite Iraq within a decade.
    Sadr wants us out; I want us out. The sooner we leave, the sooner we will begin to heal – financially, militarily, and spiritually. But we shouldn’t leave until some other force can maintain order there, and hopefully do a better job than we have. Who can do that?
    Blue hats? Maybe, but who would volunteer their sons, fathers & husbands (OK, children, parents & spouses) to bail the US out of this mess?
    The current Iraqi government? Hahahahahaha, oooh, that hurts… Hell, most of them would be glad to see “Iraq” chopped up, as long as they get oil.
    Any other forces, inside or outside the country? I’d love to hear any suggestions…
    If we want to see a unified, sovereign Iraq, Sadr may be the only one who can do it anytime soon.
    On the other hand, there’s been plenty of talk about partitioning Iraq. I don’t see how that would be good for the US, though it might be good for Israel. Attacking Sadr now looks like an attempt to seal the deal in favor of “federalism”, the constitutional euphemism for partition. Or is it just arm-twisting, part of the negotiation process? Other readers here might be able to evaluate this better than I.
    What a shame, too… Petraeus’ deal with Sadr was one of the most successful aspects of the “Surge” (not counting the domestic political goals – postponing admission of defeat until Democrats gain the presidency, etc). I fear for the lives of more US soldiers now.
    So, am I being way too naive about this Sadr guy? Or just too squeemish about killing foreigners for oil?
    [note to BlogMeister Lang – I think I screwed up my email address in an earlier post on a different thread]

  32. jon says:

    Zoomie – fair enough.
    I’d been hoping against hope that the ‘Surge’ might manifest some actual rapproachment and enhanced Iraqi government operations. Sometimes, the hail Mary pass does get caught. Not this time.
    There was no reason for these factions to put aside their differences, and they haven’t. Each has simply been positioning for their next move. And why not?
    And, as impressed as I have been by Sadr’s political maneuvers, he’s no Boys Scout, much less a Washington or Bolivar. For all he talks about keeping the country together, it seems clear that he’d like to govern the Sunnis like the Baath governed the Shiites. Sadr has reached out to the Sunis, but the Mahdi Army has almost certainly held its own in the rampant abduction torture and murder that preceded the Surge – as did practically every other faction, most certainly including the Badr Brigade.
    I think these skirmishes now are over a matter of opinion between Sadr and ISCI: whether it’s possible for the Shiites to govern a united Iraq, or whether governance can only be fashioned on a religious, tribal or ethnic basis. So, maybe Sadr is Tito in my formulation.
    The US, following supposed Israeli doctrine, seems quite content with a highly Balkanized Iraq, where no group or territory is especially strong or capable. Divide and conquer, playing one side against the others, and so forth.

  33. JBV says:

    Sadr over Badr any day – at least Sadr lays claim to being “loyal iraqi” – what sunni would look at Badr corp members as anything else but perpetrators of high treason? There will never be national reconciliation with badr corp at the helm.
    Blech on this horrible mess, the suffering of the slum dwellers in basra must be immense.
    if you listen closely you can hear the laughing all the way over from tehran.

  34. Jay C says:

    “Could someone please explain to me why the U.S.does not back what seems to be the only shia nationalist movement that is relatively free of Iranian influence, Sadr, over the (Iranian) bought and paid for militias of Maliki and company?”
    To expand on Mo’s comment @ 12:43, I think it’s an application of FDR’s old “our son-of-a-bitch” principle. While both the ISCI/Dawa (Maliki) and the Sadr-led bloc are “influenced” one way or another by Iran, the main difference, seemingly, is that the Sadrists, from Young Mookie on down, have been uncompromisingly opposed to the American Occupation. Maliki’s faction have been more -err, “accommodating”. Unsurprisingly, since we seem to be willing to use OUR force to help quash their rivals.
    The whole thing, IMO, is not about the current state of Iraq, but the future: the Bush regime wants to have a permanent military presence in-country in perpetuity to serve as his “legacy to history”, and to handcuff any future Administration. They are not going risk all that by having ANY anti-Occupation leader (still less some mere Iraqi cleric) come to power and upset their neo-imperial applecart. Hence the “Charge of the Knights”. Guess Nuri al-Maliki never read about Agincourt….

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