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03 April 2008

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Montag

One newspaper has reported derisive graffiti at captured Iraqi Army and Police positions, a play on Maliki's vainglorious "Operation Charge of the Knights:"

"CHARGE OF THE SADRS"

Curious

Several interesting articles related to Basra and its aftermath.

Why al-Maliki Attacked Basra,

http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/04/01/basra/index.html

Three main motivations present themselves: control of petroleum smuggling, staying in power (including keeping U.S. troops around to ensure it), and the achievement of a Shiite super-province in the south. A southern super-province would spell a soft partition of the country, benefiting Shiites in the long term while cutting Sunnis out of substantial oil revenues, both licit and illicit. But all of the motivations have to do with something President Bush established as a benchmark in January 2007: upcoming provincial elections.


http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JD03Ak02.html

The turf war in the Iraqi Shi'ite regions has several templates. Iraq's future as a unitary state; the parameters of acceptable federalism, if any; attitude towards the US; control of oil wealth; overvaulting political ambitions - all these are intertwined features of a complex matrix. Therefore, the fragility of the newfound peace is all too apparent. Tehran will be justified in estimating that it is prudent to wait and watch whether peace gains traction in the critical weeks ahead.

But the most important Iranian calculation would be not to provoke the Americans unnecessarily by rubbing in the true import of what happened. Tehran would be gratified that in any case it has made the point that it possesses awesome influence within Iraq. Anyone who knows today's anarchic Iraq would realize that triggering a new spiral of violence in that country may not require much ingenuity, muscle power or political clout.

also,
I think this chart is very good indication what current financial health (hence how far we can sustain the war)

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/BOGNONBR

Overall, not good. The economic damage from the war is great. Specially related to energy price and overall economic growth.

jon

Sadr is now calling for a mass demonstration in a week. They are also calling for a nonviolent sit in in Baghdad on Friday.

Meanwhile the US is continuing to conduct air strikes in Basra and Sadr City.

Maliki has incorporated the Badr Corps en masse into the army. Will they perform better now that the force has been purged? Will ISCI fight better when not supported by Iran who seems to have extended some protection to Sadr and the Mahdi?

Maliki is probably on borrowed time.

frank durkee

Let me commend Lt Gen Ret. William Odom's teatimony on 2 April about Iraq. It's worth the read and raises some critical issues and perceptions. I ran into on the HUff Post where they had it from "After Downing Street.org".

frank durkee

Also see Mark Lynch's Abu Aardvark for more on Odom and Nir Rosen's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Happy Jack

In al-Furat TV a list of tribes supportive of Maliki was provided.

I'm curious about this list of tribes supporting him. You wouldn't have a link by any chance, would you?

Clifford Kiracofe

1.General Odom's realistic testimony on Iraq is at the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations website:

http://www.senate.gov/~foreign/testimony/2008/OdomTestimony080402a.pdf

2. Per Rahimi, al-Sadr is undergoing ayatollah studies:

"Al-Sadr’s attempt to become an ayatollah follows his earlier call to suspend operations by his militia, the Jaish al-Mahdi (The Mahdi Army, or JaM) in the summer of 2007. Together with his decision to study in Najaf, this has marked a decisive new beginning in the organizational structure and leadership dynamics of the Mahdi militia. ...Al-Sadr’s decision to become an ayatollah, along with his suspension of JaM, is an indicator of more complex transformations occurring within the Sadrist movement. Al-Sadr is not merely trying to gain religious legitimacy by becoming an ayatollah, but also access to a major source of religious and financial capital that is primarily under the control of high-ranking Shiite clerics in Najaf. Since his family legacy alone would not entitle him to what his father had acquired as a senior jurist (marja taqlid, or “source of imitation”) in the 1990s, becoming an ayatollah would guarantee al-Sadr access to religious capital that has been solely in the domain of high-ranking clerics for centuries..."

http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2373952

3. Rahimi per Basra and Mahdi Army:
"The six-day-old operation has failed to achieve two of its main objectives: weaken the Mahdi Army and undermine Moqtada’s political influence in regions where the Maliki government seeks to gain control with the support of the U.S. armed forces. In fact, what the six-day offensive may demonstrate is the bolstering of Moqtada’s status as a nationalist figure and the successful establishment of a grass-roots social movement, which most political factions in Baghdad lack at this crucial stage in Iraqi political history...."

"Amidst the factional conflict, Iran’s strategy has remained clear—to remain out of the fighting so all Shiite factions can seek the support of Tehran for their particular political interests. By staying out of the conflict, Iran also plays the role of a big brother whose absence offers consent to the Maliki government to weed out the splinter groups of the Mahdi Army while keeping Moqtada and his militia close to Tehran as a potential ally in case of a U.S. attack on Iran. Tehran’s objective is to see the Sadrist movement weakened through military operations, but help keep it strong enough to potentially serve as an asset for Iranian interests in Iraq..."

http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2374071

David Habakkuk

Clifford Kiracofe,

A curious article appeared in the Daily Telegraph a couple of days back:

'A strong statement from General David Petraeus about Iran's intervention in Iraq could set the stage for a US attack on Iranian military facilities, according to a Whitehall assessment. In closely watched testimony in Washington next week, Gen Petraeus will state that the Iranian threat has risen as Tehran has supplied and directed attacks by militia fighters against the Iraqi state and its US allies.

'The outbreak of Iraq's worst violence in 18 months last week with fighting in Basra and the daily bombardment of the Green Zone diplomatic enclave, demonstrated that although the Sunni Muslim insurgency is dramatically diminished, Shia forces remain in a strong position to destabilise the country.

'Petraeus is going to go very hard on Iran as the source of attacks on the American effort in Iraq," a British official said. "Iran is waging a war in Iraq. The idea that America can't fight a war on two fronts is wrong, there can be airstrikes and other moves," he said.

'"Petraeus has put emphasis on America having to fight the battle on behalf of Iraq. In his report he can frame it in terms of our soldiers killed and diplomats dead in attacks on the Green Zone."'

(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/04/05/wiran105.xml)

What does seem plausible is the suggestion the Telegraph goes on to make that the revelation by recent events not simply of the strength of the Sadrists, but of the influence of Iran with both sides in the fighting, has rung alarm bells in Washington. It does look like a cold bucketful of water, after recent complacency about the success of the 'surge'. Whether the argument that this realisation is likely to lead to a broadening of the war is plausible is of course another matter -- it could just reflect a British sense of impotent panic at being drawn along in a sequence of events over which we have no control, which has an inherent escalatory potential.

I am curious as to whether the fact that the mediator between the Shiite groups was the commander of the Qods brigades tells us anything about who in Iran is in the driving seat, in relation to policy towards Iraq.

frank durkee

I'm not sure where this belongs. There is an interesting review of two books on tribalism in todays "Arts and Letters Daily"l and others.. It supports and extends comments and thoughts presented here by The Co

Clifford Kiracofe

David Habbakuk,

Seems to me the Rev Guard (IRGC) is in a very powerful position politically in Iran. A state within a state. Thus its involvement "mediating" the Basra situation would be logical and expected considering its overall Gulf activities.

"The Revolutionary Guards are quickly emerging as the most prominent actor in Iran," said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "They're playing an increasingly active role on the domestic political scene, have enormous economic assets and interests, are a key player in the nuclear program, and are essentially running Iranian activities in Iraq and Lebanon."
....
"The Quds Force is led by Brig. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and reports directly to the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Many senior Revolutionary Guard officers have close family ties to top members of the clergy, according to a study of the Guard by Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/31/AR2007033101105.html

Per Shia extremist activities:
"We don't assess necessarily that the central government of Iran is behind this but we are certain there are elements, including the Quds Force, who continue to train, finance and equip these people," said senior military spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith."
....
"One of Iran's purposes is to build up a structured militia that will be capable of retaliating against the U.S. on Iran's behalf should the U.S. or Israel attack Iranian nuclear facilities, something that remains a deep concern in Tehran, Rahimi said."
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-iraq_29_slyfeb29,0,7383662.story

I do not see the logic, nor a clear vital national interest, for the US attacking Iran as it would make the situation in the region worse than it is now. We are already at about $1-3 trillion for our adventures in the region and the blood and treasure meter is running right along.

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