"The Sadrists are angry over recent raids and detentions, saying U.S. and Iraqi forces have taken advantage of the cease-fire to crack down on the movement.
They also have accused rival Shiite parties, which control Iraqi security forces, of engineering the arrests to prevent them from mounting an effective election campaign. The showdown with al-Sadr has been brewing for months but has accelerated since parliament agreed in February to hold provincial elections by the fall.
On Wednesday in Basra, gunfire echoed through the streets as Iraqi soldiers and police fought the Mahdi Army, police said.
Reinforcements were sent to Basra from the Shiite holy city of Karbala, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said, adding a large number of gunmen have been detained." Yahoo News
So, there is fighting in Basra among the Shia? What a surprise! A showdown there between forces of the Mahdi Army and the rest has been "in the cards" for some time. The MSM talks as though the "Iraqi Security Forces" are something other than representatives of millitia anti Sadrist forces among the Shia. That is not the case. The security forces really represent the power of some of the Shia parties/militias being used in this case against the Sadrists. There is an ongoing struggle among the major Shia factions in Iraq. One of these is the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr. Others include the Dawa allies of Prime Ministers Maliki, the al-Hakim faction (SIIC), the Badr Force (generally allied with Hakim) and Fadila in the Basra area.
Need a score card? Well… the "security forces" are full of Badr Force militia men. These people belong to an organization that was raised originally by Iran to fight against IRAQ. They have been recruited into the "security forces" in large numbers. They intend to break the Mahdi Army if they can and the US seems to approve of that idea.
Reinforcements have been sent from Karbala to Basra. Karbala is virtually ruled by the Badr Force.
The US has been treasuring the idea that the apparatus of the Iraqi state is other than a congeries of militia factions and parties.
Once again the untruth of that is exposed.
Who is firing into the Green Zone. I doubt if anyone really knows. pl
Is it really such a problem that the former(?) UK area of responsibility (i.e. the South of Iraq) can unspool as easily as an April breeze? When oil contracts are trading at about $100 on the spot futures screen, (and, by the way… the premier market for processed petro-products -Iran- is buying, big-time…) one would think that the Badr/ Hakim/ Dawa …ad nauseum factions would recognize a river of money when they see it.
Again, the Arabs disappoint.
Most importantly, the people who ridicule McCain’s assessment of hundreds of years of involvement need to sober up. The British Army and the Royal Marines are not prepared for 100 years of involvement and now we get to have a little 2008 experiment in local-yokel politics in Metro-Basra.
Should be quite the glittering micro-cosmos.
-P.S. love the site, Paddy.
So here it is, almost April of 2008, and the upswing in violence is right on schedule. As the Joint Chiefs and Colin Powell testified over a year ago now, the surge and much of our military posture must be dismantled because there are no new troops to cycle in. And here we are. I am amazed, however, that the Sadrists are the first target. This civil war is getting started in earnest.
Now let’s really see what kind of soldier Petraeus is.
The stakes are extremely high. Until now the militias in Basra have been fighting for rights to smuggle oil. The federal government has been content to reap the profits from international oil sales. Now there is discussion of Basra becoming a separte region–like Kurdistan. Such an entity could ostensibly control 80% of Iraq’s oil wealth, which is very threatening to the Shia elites in Baghdad.
Like the Shia elites, Sadrists, consisting mostly of marginalized Shia, want to control the oil.
Shia elites are more likely to play ball with the Occupier, since their long term survival depends on US protection from enemies, including marginalized Shia. Sadrists depend on their base and have never felt a particular need to reach out to the Occupier.
US control over Basra’s oil riches depends in large part upon getting Shia elites in charge. How far will the elites go to suppress their brethren?
Oil is somehow involved in most every aspect of the conflict but is rarely mentioned in “news” coverage. What’s really at stake is a closely guarded secret, to be known only by Washington insiders.
Meanwhile, the British forces remain skulking in their base outside Basra, utterly ineffective, utterly irrelevant. How long ago was it that Gordon Brown issued his version of “Mission Accomplished” and declared British troops were no longer needed in a Basra where the democratically elected government of Iraq could safely take control? The shame, the shame!
The thing that puzzles me in this is what is the final objective? I find it hard to believe that we would encourage the breaking of a nationalist force for a pro Iranian one. Seems as if other wheels are within the wheel of this one, or perhaps more apropos outside of this one.
It would seem to me that the longer view is to remove the nationalist forces and encourage the pro-Iranians to influence the major Arab nations to back a further push down the line on Iran, with both Iraq and Iran getting clobbered in that activity by a true coalition.
That’s as close to the tin foil as I would like to get. But it seems unlikely that a pro Iranian Shiite government in Iraq is the optimal configuration from ours and the Arabs points of view.
I believe its more than just stopping an effective election campaign. It is about stopping a powerful Shia-Sunni (anti-occupation) alliance in the elections
Being the only Shia leader considered to be relatively free of Iranian control, Sadr is the one who could have built an effective alliance with the Sunnis. A Sadr-Sunni alliance, fiercly opposed to the occupation, running in the elections will most likely have made some considerable gains – The Iraq project brought down by the very democracy it brought about?
Cheney doesnt do Irony.
Juan Cole is reporting that said security forces, backed up by the USM appear to imagine they can somehow sort out Sadr city:
“Eyewitnesses reported clashes on Tuesday in Sadr City, east Baghdad, led by Mahdi Army militiamen against American and Iraqi forces. The latter had encircled Sadr City, while the Mahdi Army roamed its streets within. The sound of gunfire could be heard, and helicopter gunships were seen hovering above.
One has to wonder, does the plan to “break” the Mahdi army entail the leveling of Sadr city a la Fallujah? Still, one repeats a lesson until it has been learned, so I suppose they could imagine that giving the slum the Hama treatment would further the spread of democracy in the ME. . .
The simplistic myopia of the Busheviks concerning the complex situation in Iraq reminds me of Evelyn Waugh’s comic novel “Scoop”–about his experiences as a war correspondent. A young naif named William Boot is hired by newspaper baron Lord Copper to report on the civil war in Ishmailia. He questions Mr. Salter about his duties.
“Well, there is one thing. You see I don’t read the papers very much. Can you tell me who is fighting who in Ishmaelia?”
“I think it’s the Patriots and the Traitors.”
“Yes, but which is which?”
“Oh, I don’t know THAT. THAT’S Policy, you see. It’s nothing to do with me. You should have asked Lord Copper.”
And how long will the “Awakening” Sunnis sit on the sidelines?
Right now they’re probably cheering the Shia fratricide, but I’d guess that sooner or later, the idea will occur to make some of their own anonymous mischief to fan the flames.
And as the hole gets deeper and deeper, one should continue to expect more of the Bush/McCain refrain of “Keep digging!”
Help! Some one please tell me that this model of a modern Major General is being ironic.
All this negativity requires a Happy Time Diversion:
Marshmallows and Puppy Dogs!
Now I feel happy again!
Mike – the British Army have very considerable experience going back over decades of fighting in Iraq and know full well that the best thing any occupier of Iraq can do is skulk in their bases because whatever they do, they are ineffective and irrelevant. The sooner the US Army realizes this, the better for all concerned.
There is one thing that puzzles me though. There are some who suggest that Dick Cheney’s recent visit to the area was to inform the US’s allies of an impending attack on Iran. While it is unlikely that Cheney would tell the Iraqi government given their close links to Iran, why would the Shiites indulge in a major internecine struggle just before such an attack. Is it an attempt to “fix” the US Army in smaller packets away from their bases so making them an easier target for an Iranian counter-attack?
Bergner is one of CWZ’s puppy dogs. p
Mo, I think you hit the nail on the head because there are to many PSA’s withdraw our forces or be kicked out by democratic forces.
Col, now I am beginning to think your concert will not not work because Dumbya “divide and conquer” approach has left to many wounds to heal.
Time to divide Iraq in three and live with the consequences of Dumbya’s strategic disaster.
Patreus, like Mainstein, lacks the forces to win unless there is a surge is the Shia areas of Iraq.
Let McCain run on that. jl
As luck would have it, last night I attended a meeting of a political club at which the speaker was one Sami Ratouli, a mid-fiftyish Iraqi-American who was born and raised in Najaf and emigrated out of his homeland in 1976. After about a decade in Britain and Europe, he settled here in the Twin City area of MN, founded a successful Middle Eastern bakery and restaurant and became a US citizen. He is a Shiite but his wife is Sunni.
He recounted how moved he was when on 9/12/01 two long-time customers, middle aged Jewish women, came into his shop, asked to speak to him in private, and told him to call one of them at any time day or night if he or anyone in his family needed help or shelter in the event of threats or persecution such as had occurred sporadically elsewhere in the country following the events of the previous day. He resolved then and there to turn his business over to others and find some way to build bridges between the Islamic world and the West, and within the Middle East itself. He founded an organization called Muslim Peace Teams in 2003, modeled after one called Christian Peace Teams that had been working in Iraq for a short time prior to the downfall of Saddam. (Website is http://www.mpt-iraq.org) Their main work is to organize and operate teams that include both Shiite and Sunni Muslims that work to build understanding and reduce tensions between the two communities. For this work he claims to have the backing of Moqtada al-Sadr himself, whom he personally knows, as well as comparably prestigious Sunni clerics. Since starting this effort Rasouli has traveled to Iraq for numerous, extended periods. All of the above has been by way of introduction to a few of his insights about the situation in his native country that I will pass on.
Rasouli asserts that the Iraqi Army and police force that has been stood up by the coalition is recruited mainly from late teen and 20 something Shiite men who come from the rural areas of southern Iraq. Furthermore, he said that from the educational standpoint this is a lost generation. Because Saddam put the Sunni needs first, it was the Shiite regions that suffered the most from the deprivations that resulted from the sanctions in place in the 1990s and early this decade, and education was one of the hardest hit areas. Thus they are mostly illiterate, both linguistically and culturally, at least in any sense that extends beyond their immediate families and tribes. Also, what agriculture in the South wasn’t destroyed by Saddam’s revenge after the 1991 uprisings has been further damaged by the carnage of the invasion and subsequent occupation. Thus, these lads who otherwise would have become farmers like the generations before them had no prospects and jumped at the chance to sign up, in spite of the dangers. He said they’re paid about $700 per month, which is good in today’s Iraq where a teacher gets a little over $100. Rasouli claims that the loyalty of the soldiers and policemen is built on the paychecks, bribes and extortion that they receive, and that as soon as the coalition starts packing up they’ll start melting away. Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement, by contrast according to Rasouli, is built on much deeper loyalties, both to faith and to country. They’re also better educated because a considerably larger percentage of them come from cities and towns, where opportunities were greater.
When during the Q & A I asked him directly whether he thought the country would hold together once the coalition forces start moving out to the west and south, he shrugged his shoulders and said “who knows?” But he was adamant that the direction of the country can only be resolved by the Iraqi people themselves, and that the resolution can only take place once the coalition forces pull up stakes and go back where they came from. He foresees a period of several years, at least, will be required for the dust to settle on the boundaries and polity of what is now Iraq.
I offer the above for what it’s worth. I have to say, though, that the picture he paints of the Maliki regime sounds like what I’ve read about the various editions of the Government of South Vietnam redux.
A couple of academic posts see this as the attempt of the ISCI and Dawa to block the Mahadi’s in the Fall regional elections.
I feel inclined to take a good look at Lt. Gen Odom’s strategy. Follow the British. Move out of the control mode we’re caught in. Retire to our bases, guard the borders and let them fight it out. Then deal with whoomever is left standing.
Pat – it strikes me that Bergner is more marshmallow than puppy dog. At least puppy dogs can pee for themselves.
Another superlative post, a clear strategic view in a nutshell!
This was the ploy used by the Greek hero Jason against the soldiers which grew from the dragon’s teeth. He threw a rock into the group as they fought him, causing them to kill each other off–since each thought another had thrown the rock. Of course Jason’s situation was much simpler, not having to worry about the effect upon the conflict by surrounding countries supporting one faction over the others. Then too, any Golden Fleece to be gained by this strategem won’t go to us.
Maliki is running on empty, who does he think he is? President Thieu approving the Vietnamization program by going in to Cambodia and Laos to prove his army is up to snuff? Not – in the most obvious way telegraphing his impotence to his enemies by big PR operations (bound to fail) in Mosul and Basra. At least Thieu had some popular support reflected in the ARVN – and still they were bounced out. Maliki’s army on the other hand is replete with slackers and or actual enemies. What a fool egged on by Dick Cheney.
The media has started toying with the idea that the surge’s “success” is unravelling, but I wonder how much it was ever even implemented much less whether it was a success/failure? Colonel I’m sure you remember that the 30,000 additional troops were originally intended to “clear, hold, and build” – whatever happened to that?
All the fuss in the media about the surge succeeded has had nothing to do with the reinforcements, but rather with diplomacy i.e. negotiating with the Sunnis to (temporarily) “flip” against AQI. But I still haven’t seen anything evualting the surge in terms of “clear, hold, and build.”
The temporary increase in the number of US troops which has come to be called the “surge” has been effective in allowing the suppression of AQ activity in the capital and a few other places. I think it would be unfair and inaccurate to say that the increased number of troop has had no effect.
At the same time, the Sunni Arab rejection is not a temporary thing. They simply got tired of the interference of the AQ people in their lives. Petraeus and others were smart enough to take advantage of that.
These Sunni Arabs are not our allies. It would be childish to think they are. They are their own friends. Their revolt means that AQ’s fortunes are not likely to improve in Iraq. We have not won the war, but AQ has certainly lost it.
I just listened to Bush’s speech at Dayton on Iraq. He continues to seem to have trouble identifying the enemy. With regard to the intra-Shi’i fighting now going on, he said that “the enemy” will want the TV screens to be filled with violence..
Who on earth does he think the enemy is at Basra? pl
Perhaps Bush has become a drummer for McCain’s transcendental threat of “radical Islamic terrorism.” This is perfect for someone as anti-intellectual as Bush obviously is because this vague designation can transform virtually anyone into “the enemy.”
On January 29, 2003, Bush said, “The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein, and his willingness to terrorize himself.”
While what is really happening on the ground is Basra seems to remain unclear form the vague and conflicting press reports, Reidar Visser (www.historiae.org) posted his initial thoughts on the complexity of the situation and possible Maliki rationales on Tuesday and just sent around an e-mail update that Fadila has finally weighed in:
“After a long silence on the Basra operations, the parliamentary bloc of the Fadila party has within the past hours released a statement criticising the impact on civilian life in Basra and asking for an end to the operations “as soon as possible”. This is not quite as hostile as the reactions by the Sadrists, but it underscores internal Shiite divisions regarding control of Basra and shows how little room for manoeuvre Nuri al-Maliki really has. His remaining allies are ISCI, Daawa and the independent Shiites, but neither he nor the independents share ISCI’s preference for a weak central government. Unless Maliki is able to secure defections from ISCI (or a change of their policy in the federalism question) this seems to be a poor basis on which to build a coalition.”
So this appears to be an early play by Maliki/ISCI to beat down the Sadrists’ strength before the scheduled October provincial elections.
Analysis from CNN doesn’t look good:
Who on earth does he [Bush] think the enemy is at Basra?
Al-Qaeda fighters trained by Iran, obviously. Where were you during McCain’s brilliant speech?
Also, looks the ARVN all over again with Iraqi forces defecting to Sadr’s side (or just running away):
At least this is a movie McCain has seen before.