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28 March 2008


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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.


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.


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.

Stephen Calhoun

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.

M. Hoppe

"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?


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.

Cold War Zoomie

I can hear the pundits now..."Absolutely no one could have ever predicted this:"

Wash Post: US Appears to Take Lead in Fighting


"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"


"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"



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.


"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.


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.


"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.

jeff roby

"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?

Color-coded Wonder

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

William R. Cumming

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."

Walter Lang


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

Walter Lang


Ah. More ignorant lefty crap about the ARVN. pl

Color-coded Wonder

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

David W.

Is it time for Operation Linebacker?


"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.


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.


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.

Martin K

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.


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.

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