More on Basra, South Iraq and Iran

Mapkuwaitahwaz "..the damage has not only been to Britain’s military reputation. It has also led to the most profound split between Britain and America since relations froze during the Suez crisis 50 years ago.

Shamefully for Britain, the White House is now considering sending its own forces to sort the mess that the British have left behind. Last week, one White House official acidly remarked: "American blood is going to have to buy off the British failure in Basra."

Already at the Basra air base, I can reveal, the British subsidiary of U.S. construction giant KBR is building four huge dining facilities – known to the American army as DFACs. These are capable of feeding 4,000 men and suggest that the U.S. Army is contemplating a massive deployment to southern Iraq – including a major presence inside Basra itself. "  Daily Mail


Iran_road_map In the context of British withdrawal from south Iraq, I wrote a while back that the US would inevitably have to fill the vacuum so created with its own forces.  That time is fast approaching.  KBR is not building these facilities for the Iraqis.  It sounds like a reinforced brigade combat team will go in there plus USAF on the base.

In the interest of not making things worse with our cousins across the sea, I will restrict my comment on the Daily Mail article to making a request, on behalf of the uniformed services people, that we not encounter further condescension from the British on the subject of the superiority of their knowledge, sophistication, methods, etc. with regard to COIN.  Enough.

I do not believe that Iran wants to go to war with the United States either in the maritime regions of the gulf and Arabian Sea or in Iraq itself.  Whatever initial "benefits" Iran might experience would be far outweighed by the eventual devastation wrought on Iranian infrastructure by American air and sea power.  They know that.

It has been argued in these pages that the flow of crude and LPG could be obstructed as a major economic "weapons system."  That is merely true.  In fact, an obstruction of the flow of oil out of the Gulf would require Iranian action to create the obstruction.  The United States and especially this administration would be eager to see that as a casus belli.  The Iranians surely know that as well.  I have watched the US Navy at work in situations like this before.  Any obstruction would not last long.  The price per barrel?  There would be a sizable "spike" before the obstruction were cleared but it would be limited in duration and the resulting retaliatory action against Iran would be catastrophic for them.

A major non-SOF American ground effort against Iran?  This is an absurd idea for all the reasons given here before.  I will leave it for you all to thrash that out.

Many of the readers here are greatly underestimating the potential of a guerrilla campaign against the Kuwait-Baghdad supply line.  Yes, the roads can be held open, but at what cost in diverted assets?  pl

This entry was posted in Current Affairs, Politics, The Military Art. Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to More on Basra, South Iraq and Iran

  1. Jonathan House says:

    Col Lang, Today Juan Cole summarizes news of development in the south of Iraq under the headlines:
    Police Mutiny, Refuse to attack Sadrists;
    Clashes continue in Basra;
    Sadrists open New fronts throughout Shiite South
    His full account is below and at
    What is your take on what he reports and what is the significance for the plan to put in “a reinforced brigade combat team … plus USAF on the base”?
    The Times of Baghdad reports in Arabic that clashes continued on Friday between Iraqi government forces and the Mahdi Army in Baghdad and the provinces of the middle Euphrates and the south, causing hundreds of casualties, including among women, children and the elderly. The fighting also did damage to Iraq’s infrastructure, as well as to oil facilities and pipelines, damage that might run into the billions of dollars.
    The US got drawn into the fighting on Friday. US planes bombed alleged Mahdi Army positions both in Basra and in Sadr City in Baghdad (as well as in Kadhimiya). Kadhimiya is a major Shiite shrine neighborhood in northwest Baghdad, and the spectacle of the US bombing it is very unlikely to win Washington any friends among Iraqi Shiites.
    Despite the US intervention, government troops were unable to pierce Mahdi Army defenses or over-run their positions.
    Al-Zaman says that the police force in Basra suffered numerous mutinies and instances of insubordination, with policemen refusing to fire on the Mahdi Army. The government response was to undertake a widespread purge of disloyal elements.
    [Hmm. I wonder where fired policemen with combat training and guns could find another job . . . Maybe with the Mahdi Army?]
    The Mahdi Army opened a number of new fronts in the fighting, in Nasiriya, Karbala, Hilla, and Diwaniya, as a means of reducing the pressure on its fighters in the holy city of Karbala. Local medical officials reported 36 dead in the fighting in Nasiriya.
    The Mahdi Army used its position near Nasiriya to attack government troops attempting to go south to join the effort in Basra, and is said to have inflicted substantial casualties on them.
    In Baghdad, Mahdi Army fighters clashed with government forces in 31 districts.
    In the meantime, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for a decisive military victory and rejected calls by southern tribal sheikhs and a large number of Shiite ayatollahs for him to engage in dialogue and negotiation in order to reach a ceasefire and to save civilians who are threatened with a humanitarian catastrophe from shortages of water and food, as well as lack of medical care.
    At the same time, Al-Zaman maintains, the Sadrists stipulated that al-Maliki and his brother-in-law, who heads the emergency forces that have been sent down to Basra from Baghdad and Basra, must withdraw.
    The Iraqi minister of defense, Abdul Qadir Jasim, admitted in a news conference in Basra that the militiamen had taken the Iraqi security forces off guard. He added that the Iraqi government had expected this operation to be routine, but was surprised at the level of resistance, and was forced to change its plans and tactics.
    Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari said that the government intends to defeat the Sadrists, but said he did not know how long the endeavor would take.
    The attempt of parliament to meet and take up the issue of the battle with the Mahdi Army failed when the federal legislature could not muster a quorum. The session then turned into a mere discussion session. Al-Hayat, writing in Arabic, says that one reason that parliament could not get a quorum was that the Kurdistan Alliance and the United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite) support al-Maliki and boycotted the session.
    The tableau above is tragicomic. The Iraqi security forces haven’t even begun to take key Mahdi Army territory in Basra, and in fact have been rebuffed. The Mahdi Army claims to have captured heavy arms and even Iraqi soldiers from the government. The minister of defense admits that Baghdad was surprised at the level of resistance to the campaign. (After the spring of 2004? Why?) The British contingent of 4,000 troops out at the airport is not getting involved, raising questions as to what they are doing there.

  2. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Don’t know the probabilities but situation looks consistent with a prologue to exercising the “Wurmser Option” or a variation thereof.
    Maintaining Baghdad to Basra supply line? Hope Cheney and company study the tactics of Col. John Mosby before brushing such concerns aside and saying, once again, to the American people “So?”.
    Our best, perhaps only, hope is for those within the military tradition to come forward and tell the US people and world that the Wurmser option or a variation thereof is becoming a reality, if such is the case. Neither Congress nor the Executive branch will do “so”. Judicial branch does not have jurisdiction, at least not yet. MSM is an incarnation of Paddy’s Chayevsky’s film, Network. “So”, at this time in history, that leaves those in the military who believe in the US Constitution.

  3. Ael says:

    Supply lines matter only if you have an army to supply!
    Should Sadr gain legitimate power in Iraq, he will do so despite any American efforts. Thus, after gaining power, Sadr would likely ask the USA to leave. The USA would have to obey such a request. This would wreck ambitions for an “enduring presence”.
    Furthermore, Sadr is the most nationalistic of the Shia leaders. Should he gain power, he will no doubt want to bring the Sunni and Kurds under his thumb.
    These are are good reasons why the American leadership needs him out of the way. ( Preferably before the hot season).

  4. Dave of Maryland says:

    The puppet government in Baghdad doesn’t want the supply lines cut.
    Rich Kuwaiti merchants don’t want the supply lines cut.
    Bribes, kickbacks & payoffs will result in warlords who will keep them open.
    Presumably these factors have kept supply lines open for the past five years.
    The free market in action.

  5. LJ says:

    Not having a military background, what is a “non-SOF” ground effort? I looked up “SOF” and was quickly able to rule out “Soluble Organic Fraction” and “Special Olympics Florida”, but that left “Special Operations Forces” and “Strategic Offensive Forces”. Or is there another one not on the list?

  6. zanzibar says:

    Why did US/Maliki start this military drive to knock out Sadr and now?
    I was under the impression that a lot of the recent “tranquility” in Iraq was due to the fact that Sadr had a defacto cease fire.
    If this is about thwarting the “people’s will” in provincial elections aren’t there other approaches?
    If US combat forces have to go into Basra to whack Sadr’s militia how would that turnout in terms of the perception war in Iraq?

  7. arbogast says:

    I am not an expert on Middle East affairs (to put it mildly) and I am not telepathic, but I am certain, as certain as I am that the sun rises in the East, that the Iranians are treading so carefully that their footsteps cannot be heard a centimeter away to forestall any attack of any kind by the US prior to the end of the Bush Administration.
    There will be no casus belli if the Iranians can help it.
    I don’t know the expression in farsi, but in American it’s, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  8. VietnamVet says:

    It is a tactical necessity for American troops move south to protect the supply line for the John McCain’s 100 year war and to try to gain control of the oil fields for revenue for the Bagdad government.
    With leadership that loves wars, a flash point in the next year is inevitable with Iran that will escalate. Iran will be blamed for the debacle in Basra.
    The comments here previously all have valid reasons why a tired and worn Volunteer US Army cannot invade Iran. Shock and Awe is simply propaganda. The Air Force can tear apart formations out in the open. But, Vietnam and Southern Lebanon document that conventional airpower is helpless against infiltration and dug-in sophisticated determined enemies.
    Although never mentioned the Iranians would be incredibly stupid not use Hezbollah’s expertise to help build defenses in depth in every town near their border and their oil fields. Israel and the USA would be immediately stalemated and forced to escalate to atomic weapons.
    The only two outcomes of Bush’s never ending wars are either withdrawal or Armageddon.

  9. Montag says:

    The “Coalition of the Willing” is starting to look and smell like a well-aged slice of Swiss Cheese–more holes than cheese. Author Kurt Vonnegut had an interesting term, “granfalloon” to describe an artificial collection of people with no real ties to each other. Perhaps Bush should start calling it the Granfalloon of the Willing. Imagine Dear Leader having to say, “Granfalloon forces …”

  10. Jim Schmidt says:

    Andy, in a previous post, mentions Tet, but tactically, particularly for the Viet Cong, this operation led to massive loss. As you point out, the USM, in a similar manner, will quickly subdue any direct military response from Iran if they take the bait. However, the opportunity for mischief is great considering the vulnerability of infrastructure in the Basra region and the proximity of a mixed Shia population in the oil rich Saudi northeast. Attacks on logistics and oil facilities could cause ongoing, thorny problems. The need to control this area is obvious.
    What I find odd is the manner of Maliki’s direct involvement with Iraqi army operations. Seems this is an all or nothing gamble. “All in” is not a long-term winning strategy unless you know the cards. I doubt Maliki is that skilled or reckless so some other game is afoot.
    Another odd thing is occurring here in the US domestic political arena. In 2006, a 527 based group formed called the Vets For Freedom. They claim to be “non-partisan” but they are clearly a pro-war group associated with various conservative funding sources and public relation firms including Benador Associates and the Donatelli group (swift-boaters). Their national advisor board includes Joe Lieberman, Lindsey Graham and war apologist Max Boot. The money trail is obscure, but VFF’s original website announced that anyone signing up would be referred to the Republican party for future solicitation. Some web references are list below:
    VFF Website
    About VFF by SourceWatch
    by John Stauber
    SourceWatch on VFF website
    Benador Associates – check who they book as speakers
    Reporter Jerry Zremski published an investigative story on VFF and their ties to national pro-war groups in the Buffalo News in 2006 but an archive subscription is required.
    VFF, recently, launched an information campaign to sell the war called the National Hero’s Tour. The venue is to drive a bus around to arranged media events and have Iraq veterans testify to how good things are going in Iraq. Fair enough, but why now and why the vitriol recently experienced in Minnesota.
    They and their confederates did some real damage to ordinary people in Minnesota including Forest Lake Principal Steve Massey and Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman. Fox News and Fox contributor Michelle Malkin have also piled on. Community members who objected to the Vets for Freedom school appearance have received abusive treatment and posting of addresses, pictures and personal information on pro-war blogs. Charges of treason, communism, defamation, and other looney assertions are common.
    The current tactic is to conflate opposition to the war as disrespect for the veterans. Treason by another name. Bottom line, rational discussion is impossible and silence through intimidation is the (un)intentional result. This is brownshirt behavior
    Nick Coleman’s opinion column in the Star-Tribune
    Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersteb
    The group recently toured Des Moines and expressed disappointment that no protesters showed up so they appear to be looking for a fight.
    Des Moines Register story National Heroes Tour
    The VFF’s practice of camouflaging their mission and funding is a little creepy since they are recruiting veterans, the legion and sunshine patriot groups like the Freedom Riders as muscle.
    Question is, is the National Heroes Tour one small part of an enhanced domestic PR campaign to support whatever is coming next in Iraq?

  11. b says:

    Don’t know what to make of this:
    Russian News Agency RIA Novosti two days ago:
    Russian intelligence sees U.S. military buildup on Iran border

    Russian military intelligence services are reporting a flurry of activity by U.S. Armed Forces near Iran’s borders, a high-ranking security source said Tuesday.
    “The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran,” the official said, adding that the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched.
    He said the Pentagon is looking for a way to deliver a strike against Iran “that would enable the Americans to bring the country to its knees at minimal cost.”
    He also said the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

    Well …
    A ground attack on Iran, other than some special forces quick operations is unlikely due to lack of U.S. troops.
    The U.S. force in Baghdad can supply through Aqabar for a while. The Marines in Anbar are already using that line. But it will expensive and use even more resources.
    But how will the Iraqi people be supplied if the South is shut down?
    Where will medicine etc come from when U.S. trucks clog the roads to Jordan with hundred miles long convoys?
    Meanwhile the Turks are preparing a new intrusion into north Iraq. Maliki will not be able to call up Kurdish troops for his problems in the South.

  12. Charles I says:

    “Many of the readers here are greatly underestimating the potential of a guerrilla campaign against the Kuwait-Baghdad supply line. Yes, the roads can be held open, but at what cost in diverted assets?”
    That’s what confounds me. After all the evidence from Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan it should be clear to the U.S. that al-Malaki is worthless, their efforts to build security forces a failure after five years, and military force has a very limited ROI

  13. Meanwhile, relations between the U.S. and British armies are also very awkward…
    This is nothing new. Read any account of our relationship during WWII. We’re both proud peoples and butt heads because of it from time to time.
    Yes, the roads can be held open, but at what cost in diverted assets?
    This entire thing has been one big game of whack-a-mole from the start.
    PS: I like the new “Committee of Correspondence” tag line.

  14. ger says:

    “Russian News Agency RIA Novosti two days ago”
    That wasn’t 2 days ago, that was a year ago. Look at the date – 2007.

  15. Montag says:

    Meanwhile our quislings in Somalia are about through. One Congressman has even coined the term, “Badhdad-izing,” to describe the devolution to disaster. “Somalia’s Government Teeters on Collapse:”

  16. Bobo says:

    The Mahdi incursions into Basra and other cities will be put back into the bottle shortly, to resume another day. But there effect is dilution of our forces in country. Supply Line containment will also dilute our forces. How long can we keep our new friends the Sunni’s from entering the fray is my big question.
    As to going at it with Iran, seems to be only a Mad Mans aim in life at this time or even within the next year. God help us if he does.

  17. b says:

    @ger – 2:53 – you are right.
    Sorry I screwed up reading only day and month of the Novosti tagline.
    Please accept my apology for that.

  18. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Iran has stated that she is interested in building 20 nuclear power plants over the next 20 years.
    Assuming each to cost 3 billion dollars this will be 60 billion dollars. Throw in another 10 billion dollars for a state of the art uranium enrichment plant and we get 70 billion dollars. Add a few more goodies here and there and we get to the figure of 100 billion over 20 year period.
    My point is this: it is cheaper for US to give Iran all of the above to go to war with Iran.

  19. HH says:

    Col. Lang’s post is confusing. He seems to be upset about the British rightly deciding that this is not a winnable intervention, then bemoans the fact that America will have to continue fighting an unwinnable intervention.
    Military forces should not be deployed to perpetuate their own glory. When they are not the correct instrument of policy, they should be withdrawn. Bush and McCain have yet to grasp this principle. The British are acting according to a useful old maxim: “Sometimes the right thing to do is nothing.”

  20. Cujo359 says:

    LJ, I’m going to guess that he meant “non-Special Ops Forces”, since there already have been reports of American special forces working with insurgent forces in Iran. I had the same question on my mind, though.

  21. b says:

    Z-Bigs WaPo OpEd The Smart Way Out of a Foolish War will be big news in some European and ME quarters.
    He takes quite a lot from Pat Lang’s Concert of the Middle East
    Let’s hope he gets some traction …

  22. Walter Lang says:

    Neither the British nor American armed forces had any “say” in whether or not they would invade and occupy Iraq. This was a political decision made by civilian leadership. The decision to withdraw is going to be the same thing. In the event the American command had little effective input into the planning involved in OIF. You must know that. This situation still prevails in spite of all the PR praise heaped on Petraeus.
    The intervention could have succeeded in replacing Saddam with a more acceptible government if the operation had been informed by real knowledge of the country and people and a goal limited simply to regime change. It was not so informed.
    Yes. Non-special-ops. commandos can always be thrown away in little groups.
    These are not Sadrists “incursions” into Basra. They live there. pl

  23. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    From the Sunday Times (London):
    ““We have received a shipment of Strela antiaircraft rockets,” Abu Sajad boasted to a Sunday Times reporter.”
    “The SAS was in Basra alongside Iraqi commanders, calling in attacks from RAF and US aircraft on “enemy combatants” as the death toll from five days of fighting across Iraq rose above 300, with hundreds wounded.”
    “At stake in Basra was not just the prime minister’s reputation, his prospects for provincial elections this autumn and control of the Iraqi oil fields, but also an entire coalition strategy of reduced troop levels, steady withdrawal and the turning over of Iraqi security to local troops.”
    “Maliki did not consult the president, he did not consult the cabinet, he did not consult the parliament,” said a senior member of the government. “Nobody is happy with what’s happening.”
    “While some officials interpreted the offensive as Maliki’s “first salvo in upcoming elections”, others saw a simple power grab for oil. The intricate differences between rival Shi’ite groups in Basra and their presumed links to Iran were all minutely examined by intelligence officers. Yet on Friday one administration official admitted: “We can’t quite decipher what’s going on.”
    Does any SST reader have hard data on the so-called “criminal gangs” who are running black market oil ops?

  24. Montag says:

    Charles I,
    Yes, al-Maliki is a paper tiger in many ways, but he’s the best we could get for the money, so to speak. The Iraqi government has too many factions to be efficient. But here again the U.S. is caught between two stools. If al-Maliki truly was the Man on the White Horse that we’re supposedly looking for then he wouldn’t need a U.S. presence in the country. Machiavelli’s warning about Mercenary Captains is very apt about political puppets as well:
    “Mercenary captains either are or are not skillful soldiers. If they are, you cannot trust them, for they will always seek to gain power for themselves either by oppressing you, their master, or by oppressing others against your wishes. If, on the other hand, they are not skillful soldiers, they will still be your ruin in most cases.

  25. arbogast says:

    A very important point concerning nuclear energy for Iran.
    It is a matter of record, and I will attempt to find the exact government document, that France believes there is enough uranium left on earth to supply its nuclear power plants for 60 years. Sixty years. 60.
    Hence, I think it can be safely assumed that Iran, with a population greater than that of France (65 million to 55 million) is not thinking about nuclear development strictly for electricity.
    The question is: what do you do with that information?
    Or, as it is being framed here: what can you do about that information?

  26. Pale Rider says:

    The intervention could have succeeded in replacing Saddam with a more acceptible government if the operation had been informed by real knowledge of the country and people and a goal limited simply to regime change. It was not so informed.
    This reminds me of how often I have, in other “exchanges” with people, admitted that I was wrong to have thought that George HW Bush (1989-1993) was wrong not to have gone all the way to Baghdad.
    The US should NOT have “finished the job” in 1991 by following the escaping forces north. Our “highway of death” example has also never been fully understood to have been orchestrated to allow some of the better Iraqi units to escape and probably killed more civilians than will ever be known–many of them Palestinians who collaborated with the Iraqis.
    What was at work in the early 1990s, at least to some degree, was a more considered and nuanced “realpolitik” that deserves a lot of praise from both the left and the right. Foreign policy was all Bush I cared about–it was his undoing politically.
    To understand how significant it was to have Saddam in place as a counterweight to Iran we would have to look no farther than the rise of Sadr himself. Under Saddam’s regime, a Sadr or anyone like him would never have been permitted to raise a standing army that could occupy territory and defy the regime. There might have been regional forces throughout Iraq that would stand as local defense forces during the Saddam era, but these forces would never have been allowed to openly challenge a single regular Iraqi army unit.
    I’ve often found that you can deflate a “wingnut” who goes off half-cocked about how we had to take out Saddam by pointing out that a much wiser and more deliberate Dick Cheney did a far more complete and intellectually honest job of explaining why we had to leave Saddam in place when he was a private citizen in the mid-1990s and trying to hawk his book or elevate his status as a “statesman.”
    Cheney-1992:“I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today. We’d be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.
    And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. I don’t think you could have done all of that without significant additional U.S. casualties, and while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the (1991) conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn’t a cheap war. And the question in my mind is, how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is, not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the President made the decision that we’d achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.”

    That Cheney can never be reconciled with the current one, of course. But you can also deflate the rabid wingnut by pointing out that, at one time, Cheney was a man who stood up to Ronald Reagan on defense budget matters and cut hundreds of thousands of troops from the ranks, all while killing weapons programs and calling for budgetary austerity.

  27. Walter Lang says:

    “Andy,” whoever he is, sent this in.
    “Many of the readers here are greatly underestimating the potential of a guerrilla campaign against the Kuwait-Baghdad supply line. Yes, the roads can be held open, but at what cost in diverted assets? That’s certainly a key question. We can, perhaps, look at the Soviet experience in Afghanistan for a very rough comparison. A Soviet motor rifle battalion with approximately 400 men protected between 40 and 150 kilometers of road depending on the circumstances. The entire route to Baghdad is about 500km so that equates to approximately 1500-5000 troops for the whole route. Of course Soviet doctrine was different and the terrain is very, very different – much more favorable for the US actually. Personally, I think the greatest cost would not be the diversion of military resources but the psychological, political and other costs.”
    I deleted this comment and was not going to post it but on second thought…
    I was charge of Defense Intelligence for Afghanistan (among many other places) during that war. Soviet units in 40th Army (Afghanistan) were typically grossly undersupplied with food, ammunition, fuel, etc. because of a chronic inability to re-supply overland. This was caused by Mujahid interdiction of the roads. Andy’s implication with regard to Iraq is just wrong.
    The terrible logistical situation caused by this guerrilla interdiction was one of the major causes of the disintegration of morale in the 40th Army that led to defeat. pl

  28. Walter Lang says:

    Pale Rider
    I am not sure what your point is, but I was opposed to advancing North of Safwan in the aftermath of the Gulf War. That is a matter of record in many congressional hearings. The reason? Need one ask at this point? pl

  29. Jim Schmidt says:

    “It is a matter of record, and I will attempt to find the exact government document, that France believes there is enough uranium left on earth to supply its nuclear power plants for 60 years. Sixty years. 60.” …. arbogast
    Current thermal reactor technology only uses about 5% of available energy from a typical reactor load. Fast Neutron/sodium cooled reactors with fuel reprocessing could use the remaining 94% with 1% waste.
    Depleted uranium stored at reactor sites in the US alone, reprocessed, could fuel fast reactors for approximately 1000 years or longer of US consumption. Problem is, fast neutron reactors (breeders) for commercial power generation exist only at demonstration scales and some are now shut down. Scientific American, December 2005 has an article “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste” discussing this approach.
    Among other advantages, using existing spent fuel would eliminate any need to mine and enrich natural uranium. Would take some bucks, but, considering the cost of the Iraq conflict, a mere pittance. Just another angle to consider.

  30. LJ says:

    Thanks Cujo359. That was my guess as well upon more thought.

  31. Walrus says:

    Many readers here underestimate the stupidity of the Whitehouse.

  32. arbogast says:

    Colonel Lang,
    What do you make of this?
    Basra Force Ratios
    During the Second Battle of Fallujah, the US attacking forces were composed of a composite division as six battalions led the main attack, another battalion as a diversion force, and two battalions as local reserves. Additionally an Iraqi Army brigade was present as a mop-up/press release force. The defending forces would have been the equivlant of two or three battalions of light infantry and local insurgents/neighborhood militias. Fallujah was a city of roughly 300,00 residents before the assault. And this assualt was supported by theatre level artillery and air support. And despite this large armored and heavy infantry force with excellent air support, plenty of helicopter mobility and firepower, superior logistics, the defending force was able to inflict heavy absolute and proportional casualties — roughly 10% of the US force was wounded or killed, and many infantry companies saw 30% to 50% casualty levels.
    The Iraqi Army force in Basra is a single division of lightly supported infantry with some US/UK locally controlled air support, minimal artillery, minimal aviation support. Basra is a city of 2.6 million people (2003) and it is overwhelmingly Shi’ite. If one assumes that one half of one percent of the male population are available to be called up for Mahdi Army fighting units, the defenders have numerical parity with the attacking force. That is never a good thing, especially when the defenders are on their own grounds, fighting from prepared positions in dense urban networks and have higher morale and more firepower than the attackers.
    So again — why was this attacked launched with what looks to be massively insuffucient force levels on the part of the Iraqi Army? Was it pure staff stupidity/buying into your own propaganda that the JAM is a bunch of thugs with no popular support? Was it that the 14th Division was the only reliable division? Was it a hope that the introduction of a large force would destablize the local equilibriums of power and thus prompt local Badr and Fadillah militia attacks?

  33. Eric Dönges says:

    of course it would be cheaper to simply buy the Iranians off. But I think you are missing the obvious here – war with Iran would be very profitable for a select few Americans, regardless of the costs for the U.S. economy as a whole, just like Iraq is very profitable for the same select few Americans.

  34. Walter Lang says:

    I am in favor of using a hammer to kill a fly if the situation is going to involve actual fighting as opposed to a police situation. Most people who have actually fought would agree.
    In this case it is unclear to me what happened in the decision making process. Maliki may have started this on his own trying to strengthen his own hand for the Autumn elections. pl

  35. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Per hydrocarbons and logistics:
    1. from the Telegraph:
    “Most of the militia is observing the ceasefire declared last year by its spiritual leader, the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which has been helpful to the success of the US surge. However, a significant minority has ignored it – and it is they, says Mr Maliki, who are now in the sights of the Iraqi army.
    In Basra, he accuses them of being linked to the port city’s mafias and their oil-smuggling activities. But the problem, in Basra’s murky and fissiparous power structure, is telling who is who. Many local players are politicians and security commanders by day, mafiosi and militiamen by night.”
    2. Some open source data (2006) on the oil smuggling/black market ops:
    “But rather than just fund reconstruction, oil has become a primary commodity on the black market and a central component of the web of corruption, terror, and criminality in Iraq. Oil smuggling has led to a convergence of crime and terrorism that increasingly destabilizes the country.”
    “That the U.S. government did not use its postwar administration to lay an infrastructure which would facilitate accountability enabled the problem to fester. The Coalition Provisional Authority did not award oil industry contracts transparently.[15] In addition, its failure to install metering systems on oil flow facilitated corruption.[16] Absent such metering, the real amount of crude oil either exported or smuggled remains subject to speculation.”
    Corruption has also compromised Basra, Iraq’s second largest city and southern hub. Close to the Rumayla oil fields and linked by the Shatt al-Arab waterway to the Persian Gulf, it is a natural outlet for smuggling. A chief node in Saddam’s oil smuggling operations, oil smuggling in Basra has only grown more overt since his fall. One resident, Hussein as-Sabti, told a reporter that the brazenness of smugglers has “prompted the population of Basra to ask whether or not smuggling of petrol is an illegitimate act at all.”[28] Salim Hussein, director of Basra Oil Products, said, that “influential political people and parties are running these smuggling operations.”[29]
    “The rivalry among various Shi‘ite parties has compounded the problem. The Fadhila Party controls the governor’s office as well as the oil industry in Basra. When new prime minister Nuri al-Maliki decided not to give the oil ministry to the Fadhila party when he announced his new cabinet in May 2006, the party threatened to stop oil exports.[30] Had they not received benefits from their position, such drastic action would be unnecessary. A senior Iraqi oil official said that Fadhila sought kickbacks, and he blamed the unrest in Basra on the corruption and “power struggle between militias and mafias” within the ruling Shi‘ite coalition.[31] A Shi‘ite political source told a reporter, “He who owns Basra owns the oil reserves … It has a strategic position so why would anyone give it up?”[32]”
    and so on…
    So the new KBR housing is for the US combat brigade which will sort out the energy security situation? Isn’t there a naval aspect also?
    Will the KBR housing and the combat brigade be in place when Cheney goes into consulting for the oil services industry/Halliburton etc in retirement in 09?
    3. I have been in Basra and the surrounding areas down along the Shatt into the Fao as well as into the regional “countryside” as I am sure some SST readers have also been. I should think to anyone even slightly acquainted with the area first hand, Col Lang’s point on the trasportation/logistics security is very well taken.

  36. Rob says:

    This is all a game of bluffing and blustering talks between all sides, just to see how one side react to the other on anything, exploiting the opportunity to gain leverage with certain factions and sway them to a side that can give them something beneficial in return. The big players are doing this in the political level and the low-level players are only doing what the big players tell them what to do, while fighting out in the streets or stalling for time.
    That is exactly what’s going on in Basra right now.

  37. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Eric Dönges:
    Thank you for comments.
    I think also that people like war; specially people who think they will win.

  38. frank durkee says:

    Col. Two new issues with a question as to what they mean and where they come from. First Sadr’s Sunday request for a truce and negotiations. Is this a ruse, an acknowledgement that his forces are in trouble, or an attempt to rearm and restructure his positions on the ground. How much does the US entry add to this.
    Second Ignatius in the WaPO this morning reports that Sadr ‘informed’ the USA that he no longer controlled his militia in Baghdad, the Iranians did. Is that BS,spin, likely to be true, or a ruse?
    Any help would be appreciated.

  39. …at one time, Cheney was a man who stood up to Ronald Reagan on defense budget matters and cut hundreds of thousands of troops from the ranks,…
    I won’t dwell on this since it’s off topic, but it’s another example of our inability as a people to remember anything more than a few years old.
    People always forget the periodic “early out” programs in the second half of the 1980s that carried through into the early 1990s. I had one friend who had re-up’d for a six year term in 1988, started having second thoughts by 1989, and then got paid $15-20K to get out early around 1990 or 1991.

  40. John Howley says:

    As always, Col. Lang, your emphasis on the logistical realities are a welcome antidote to the vaporings of the MSM.
    However, to date, your attention has been limited to US supply lines in Iraq. What about Afghanistan?
    In that landlocked country, overland routes run from the port of Karachi through either Quetta or Peshawar. The northern alternate runs through Russia-friendly territory.
    That’s about the limit of my knowledge but scary enough.

  41. Montag says:

    Colonel, your rebuttal to Andy reminded me of what T.E. Lawrence wrote about the strategy of the Arab Revolt in their guerrilla warfare against the Turks. Lawrence insisted that they purposely allowed the Turkish Garrison in Medina to remain there, supplied by a long railway windpipe. Although the Arabs would constantly interdict this windpipe they were careful not to completely sever it, thus allowing barely enough supplies through to allow the Turks to stay in Medina–where they weren’t accomplishing anything. For various reasons the Turks refused to evacuate their forces from Medina until they were threatened by the British advance. The Osprey volume on “Lawrence and The Arab Revolts” puts it succinctly:
    “By the summer of 1917 the effectiveness of the Arab Army had improved to such a degree that Gen. Liman von Sanders was urging the Ottomans to evacuate the Hijaz entirely; but to abandon the holy cities of Mecca and Medina was politically unthinkable, so the Arab Revolt remained a bleeding wound for the Ottoman Army.”

  42. Don Bacon says:

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to state that the US is already in a state of war with Iran, and has been for some time. This war is rooted in the ongoing interference with Iranian sovereignty originating with the overthrow of their government over fifty years ago, and including: US hostages and botched hostage rescue, US support of Iraq aggression, 1984-1988 tanker war, economic sanctions, bombing threats, overthrow propaganda, Kyl-Lieberman, heavy warship presence, refusal of diplomatic recognition, capture of Iranians in Iraq, plus stuff we don’t even know about.
    state of war:
    1 a: a state of actual armed hostilities regardless of a formal declaration of war b: a legal state created and ended by official declaration regardless of actual armed hostilities and usually characterized by operation of the rules of war
    It’s true there has been no declaration of war against Iran, but that seems to be old-fashioned under the new “GWOT” enduring-war policy with Iran as a clearly-designated enemy. Polls show that the propaganda has been successful — most Americans say Iran is a principal US enemy.
    The opportunities are rife for incidents that might spark open hostilities, incidents like the Stark and the Iranian airliner during the tanker war.
    The apparent planned movement of US troops to Basra places them just a stones-throw from the Iranian province of Khuzestan, which is the gateway between the Arab world and Asia. It is also where 80-90 per cent of Iran’s oil reserves are located. Iraq occupied part of Khuzestan during its war with Iran, and Iran in turn has always had designs on oil-rich Basra province. Khuzestan is a major military base to support covert operations overseas and foreign insurgent groups, including the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iraqi Badr Brigades. US OPLAN 1002-04 is the plan for US invasion and occupation of Khuzestan.

  43. mongo says:

    This is a happy day for me. I have enjoyed this blog for some time now because the discussions generally fall outside of my yardsticks and I end up learning something. 🙂
    I now have something of my own to contribute, with thanks to arbogast: Based upon my own reading, it would appear that most projections of supply for U308 (yellowcake) are fraught with unkonwns — see, e.g., for a fairly comprehensive discussion. It may well be that the French based their estimate on supplies that they could consider guaranteed, as opposed to supplies that they would have to compete for with other nations.

  44. DaveGood says:

    As I recall things…. the Brits ( Not to mention the Iraqi’s themselves) were calling for an election within a few months of the invasion.
    But no.
    The USA stalled on elections while it tried to ensure it’s own hand-picked candidates would win any such election….. claiming that the “Security” situation was too rough to allow elections.
    As months and then years dragged by, the “Security” situation worsened…. America’s favoured candidate turned out to be an Iranian plant and feelings turned against the occupying forces, including the Brits.
    America was driving the Bus… the Brits were helpless passengers who could see the driver was drunk and blind but were unable to get off till the driver crashed.

  45. smoke says:

    The spectral mystery of the Cheneybot.
    A fatal weakness of the whole Iraq adventure may be the central disconnect between the war aims and planning delegated to the military and the true aims of the political leadership, known only to a hand-picked club of the elect, hidden under publicly-stated secondary aims, and probably conflicting. And shining hubris in the hidden program.

  46. Pale Rider says:

    It was a good idea to stay out of Iraq then and it’s a good idea to get out of Iraq now.
    Had we heeded the wisdom of NOT invading Iraq, we wouldn’t be where we are now. If we revisit that logic, we can find the will to get out and move our troops into a rebuilding phase.

  47. …the Brits were helpless passengers who could see the driver was drunk and blind but were unable to get off till the driver crashed.
    Helpless? The French were smart enough to stay off the bus in the first place. We Americans who knew Bush’s bus was destined to careen over a cliff were the helpless passengers with the likes of Cheney saying “so?” to our concerns. The Brits had more of a choice in the matter.

  48. DaveGood says:

    since the colonel did start this thread with a drive by on the British and it’s actions in southern Iraq I would like to respond further…. if he will post it.
    First off… The British were horrified that the USA administration, without consultation or warning, disbanded the Iraqi Armed Services, thereby putting nearly half a million heavily armed, suddenly destitute, and angry young men on the streets.
    Next, the British were forced to watch, indeed were hostages, as the USA did Iran’s heavy lifting by first destroying Sunni cities such as Falluja. Then having done that and made the Sunnis enemies for Generations, turn around and began arming and paying them ( The Awakening)…. Thereby, achieving a feat beyond stupidity, the USA, as of now, arms and pays all sides in this war.
    In the meantime, the USA is helping along the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad with the building of walls and checkpoints around neighbourhoods in Baghdad.
    Meanwhile more ( But nowhere near enough) Brigades were dumped into the middle of the shambles, and it’s referred to as “COIN” because that’s so much easier to pronounce and spell then “escalation”!
    And while the colonel is dead against war with Iran ( For blindingly obvious reasons) I recall him being incensed that British naval personnel were captured a year or so ago in disputed waters without the British navy opening Fire.
    Anyone else see the problem?
    If the Brit’s had opened fire… that would have been the start of the hot war with Iran he’s against.
    No-one in Britain was happy that the Navy allowed their captured personnel to sell their story to the press.
    On the other hand, it was the Pentagon and the Whitehouse that sold the story that Pat Tillman died a hero battling the Taliban when they knew he had three American bullets in his forehead and Jessica Lynch was publicly disgusted with the way her story was manipulated.
    The Republican Party of America and all who voted for it own this war and are responsible for its outcome.

  49. David Habakkuk says:

    John Howley,
    As regards the supply lines to Afghanistan. An alternative route through ‘Russia-friendly territory’ to the north may indeed be available. The question is the price — which might well be a major reorientation in Washington’s whole approach to Russia.
    The former Indian diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar was reporting recently in Asia Times Online that Moscow is engaged in consultations with the governments of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan as regards the proposed land corridor to be made available to NATO. Some comments from Bhadrakumar’s piece:
    ‘Washington faces an acute predicament insofar as Moscow won’t settle for selective engagement by NATO as a mere transit route but will incrementally broaden and deepen the engagement, and major European allies might welcome it. Moscow insists on the involvement of the CSTO and even SCO. On the other hand, Russia’s involvement could invigorate the NATO mission in Afghanistan and ensure that the mission is not predicated on the highly unpredictable factor of Pakistan’s partnership.
    ‘Will Washington bite? Putin, with his trademark fighting spirit of a black belt in karate, could well be counting that his presidency still has five or six weeks to go and that is a lot of time for making Russia NATO’s number one partner globally and ensuring a durable place for Russia within the common European home.’

  50. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Dave Good:
    Why in God’s name should naval vessels of UK open fire on the Iranian gun boats?
    Iran and UK are not at war incidents such as that happen all the time all over the world.
    And why did you and others get so worked up about the incident in the Persian Gulf between UK and Iran; UK is not your country and Persian Gulf is not part of your territorial waters?

  51. Babak Makkinejad says:

    David Habakkuk:
    The obdurancy of US and EU with regards to Iran is very likely going to cost them their project in Afghanistan.

  52. marquer says:

    Hence, I think it can be safely assumed that Iran, with a population greater than that of France (65 million to 55 million) is not thinking about nuclear development strictly for electricity.

    I am one of those who regards the protestations of the Iranians about the “peaceful” nature of their nuclear efforts as being entirely cosmetic. The primary aim of their program is clearly weaponization.
    That said, Iran does have large indigenous deposits of thorium, around which they could build a nonproliferating fuel cycle, using a reactor design such as CANDU. This would free them from dependence upon outside sources of uranium.
    That they do not do so should be parsed in the context of their other actions, decisions and statements in this regard.

  53. Antiqated Tory says:

    With all due respect, the British army is terribly overextended. My understanding of the pullout from Basra is that it was actually pushed on the gov’t by the military, more or less as a matter of consensus from the lowest ranks up. Vietnam is America’s analogy; the British one here was Palestine. No, it was not the honorable thing to do, and it leaves a mess that will last for generations. But too many people were shooting at each other and all of them at the Brits. A friend’s friend is in the Fusiliers–at the same time as he was getting shot at, generally by the “police forces” he had helped train, another battalion in the regiment was in Afghanistan, breaking a British army record for “longest period cut off from relief without surrendering.” One battalion sitting on a hill, broke the record from Mafeking, air resupply only for I believe over 6 months. Why? Not enough forces to relieve them.

  54. Jeff Rubinoff (Antiquated Tory) says:

    Heck, Col, I can’t spell my own alias. “Antiquated” of course.
    Also, I was wrong. The Fusiliers battalion broke the British Army record _since Korea_, not for all time. Much less long than Mafeking. Still, about 12 weeks. Can get the exact length if you’re not in a hurry.
    Col, if you’d like to edit this post into the previous one, please go ahead.

Comments are closed.