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There may be another explanation for what is going on in Iraq
Posted by: McQ on Monday, March 31, 2008

James Joyner is of the opinion that Maliki, like Israel vs. Hezbollah, lost the confrontation in Basrah.
The parallels between this action and the Israelis’ 2006 invasion of Lebanon to take on Hezbollah are striking. In both cases, the party that initiated the escalation into high level conflict inflicted substantial damage on their adversary and were able to claim military victory. At the same time, neither came anywhere close to achieving their political objectives. In assessing the 2006 action, I concluded that Israel therefore lost. Absent substantial new information, I’d have to conclude that Maliki was the loser here for the same reason.

We’ve essentially returned to the status quo ante, which would seem to be better for Sadr than Maliki given that Maliki’s initiation of conflict is a fair indicator that he was less happy with prevailing conditions. The infrastructure in Basra has obviously sustained some damage, making the central government’s task in rebuilding the economy more complicated.
I'm not sure that I can buy into that analysis.

A) The purposes of the actions were entirely different. In the case of Israel, it was purely a military response to an external threat. While Maliki certainly used the Iraqi military in Basra, I'm of the opinion his move was more political than military.

B) We're talking about inter vs. intra state problems. Hezbollah is an external threat (strictly military) to Israel (although a perceived failure against them can cause some political problems internally for Israel). That difference alone argues that the "parallels" aren't so parallel. There is no political connection between Hezbollah and Israel. There is an Iraqi political connection with Basra. That means the approach to the problems must be different and the outcomes not as cut-and-dried as those between Israel and Hezbollah.

C) Last, it's way to early to claim that Maliki didn't come close to achieving his political objectives. And, we tend to view this action through the prism of a Western military action. As it turns out, and as you'll see below, this may have been nothing more than a standard cordon-and-search operation gone bad.

However, keeping with the current theme until then (since it seems to be the dominant theme out there and certainly one I've entertained), Joyner goes on:
The Iraqi Army has, once again, proven itself to be a collection of amateurs, a substantial number of whom are cowards and/or disloyal. AP’s Charles Hanley provides a timeline of our efforts to stand up a competent force capable of fighting without American support and concludes, “Year by year, the goal of deploying a capable, free-standing Iraqi army has seemed to always slip further into the future.” It’s hard to argue with that assessment.
I think this is overly broad and overly harsh. It also tends to lump all of the IA in one big basket with the police. As we all know, there are units within the IA which are much more fully trained (and thereby competent) than others simply because of the way the Army has been built (their special ops comes to mind immediately). So I resist such broad generalizations.

But speaking of this particular operation, let's do a a little accounting:
Sadr’s call for an end to fighting by his followers comes as his Mahdi Army has taken high casualties over the past six days. Since the fighting began on Tuesday, 358 Mahdi Army fighters were killed, 531 were wounded, 343 were captured, and 30 surrendered. The US and Iraqi security forces have killed 125 Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad alone, while Iraqi security forces have killed 140 Mahdi fighters in Basrah.

From March 25-29 the Mahdi Army had an average of 71 of its fighters killed per day. Sixty-nine fighters have been captured per day, and another 160 have been reported wounded per day during the fighting. The US and Iraqi military never came close to inflicting casualties at such a high rate during the height of major combat operations against al Qaeda in Iraq during the summer and fall of 2007.
A cowardly or incompetent Iraqi Army doesn't inflict the level of casualties it has inflicted in Basra unless it's enemy is even more cowardly and incompetent. The fighting in Sadr City in Baghdad has been a combined effort between US and Iraqi forces. The number killed by that force is very similar with the Iraqi effort in the south seeing a higher number of Mahdi KIA as a result. The effort in Basra has been led by the Iraqis and the US has provided combat support.

The police in Basra are another story altogether and shouldn't be lumped in with the Iraqi army. Putting a police force together began as a disaster and hasn't fared that much better since (although there are signs of improvement). And when talking about local police in particular, their loyalty is always suspect simply because of the way the tribal system works in Iraq.

I'm not claiming that all Iraqi army units performed well or even bravely, but the number of Mahdi army they've killed, wounded and captures argues against the claim they they're amateurs or cowardly or disloyal. It appears that the majority of the IA units deployed at least handled their duties better than their enemy.

As I've also pointed out, you can train an army until you're blue in the face, but combat is where you separate the wheat from the chaff and the hard lessons are learned. From what I've read about the operation there are going to be some very lengthy After Action Reviews going on from MOD on down. But that doesn't mean that the IA wasn't effective.

I hinted to above, however, there may be a much simpler explanation to all of this than we might imagine.

Here's a statement from Major General Abed Al-Aziz, who is the spokesman for the ISF, defining the purpose of the operation [the wording is awkward as it is from an Arabic translation]:
There are so many reports and some figures also in the TV stations appeared, and they claim that the security forces and this operation is fighting a certain political trend or JAM. I would like to say that the security forces, including the Iraqi Army, is a tool by the authority that has been elected by the Iraqi people; our authority is an elected one. This is the first thing that I would like to say.

The plan was not set to fight any political trend. It was not set to fight JAM or any other political trend. The plan was set after the commanding operation…chief commanding operation in Basra held meetings with tribe leaders and citizens in Basra. And he asked the people in Basra and the people asked the chief to eliminate those criminal groups and armed members that control several resources in Basra.

How could we distinguish JAM and other members, armed members? Actually, when we conduct a raid or we search a certain area at the beginning and especially on 25th March and when the troops went to Al-Jumhuriyah area, we didn’t have any bombing prior to that, just like any other operations. The operation that we did was a cordoning; that is, to close the entries of the city, then conduct a search operation—a house-to-house search—so that we can find any weapons and wanted individuals that is based on intelligence reports and also arrest warrants from the court.

How do we distinguish? When those armed groups open fire against the Iraqi Security Forces, this is the way we would distinguish. So, when the Iraqi forces conduct a search operation and receive fire, this is the way we distinguish them. The Iraqi Security Forces tell the Iraqi citizen, “Do not open any fire,” and they have been told to remember the human rights. And even if we received fire, we told the soldiers not to respond to fire unless they stop first.

So, we can distinguish those groups by the way they behavior…or the way they behave. I don’t think that anyone who belongs to any political trend could open fire to any security force because those soldiers are coming to protect him. So, once a person open fires against any soldier, then this person is an outlaw and he is a criminal and he should be arrested.
To review - the General is saying the operation is in response to a request by tribal leaders and leading citizens to eliminate the criminal elements which were controlling some of the resources of Basrah (and as you read the rest of it you'll see reporters note the power of these criminal gangs, especially at the "docks"). It is not there to fight "political trends" (al Sadr) or "JAM" (Mahdi army).

He also points out that they conducted similar operations in Al-Jumhuriyah without incident.

Lastly, he claims they distinguish who is a bad guy from who isn't by who shoots at them and who doesn't. Seems a reasonably sound method, however it may also help explain why al-Sadr is being cooperative about pulling his people off the streets. They weren't the target of the operation to begin with.

Note that he says this isn't a fight against any "political trend" or JAM. That means he's claiming the fight isn't against the Mahdi army, but instead the "special groups"- the criminal gangs - which have always been fair game.

James concludes:
More importantly, any illusion that Iraq is near political reconciliation has also been shattered. The Western media division of Iraqis into merely three sects -Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd- is obviously wrong, as there is substantial discord within those groups. It’s difficult to imagine that six days of killing one another is going to lessen that in the near term.

The only hope, really, is that Sadr’s support will start to dry up in reaction to this episode. Perhaps war-weary Iraqis will decide to get behind their government. More likely, though, they’ll simply blame Maliki and double down on Sadr. Which, frankly, would seem the more prudent bet.
I can't agree with that either. One of the things that has been causing me pause has been the fact that both sides of this confrontation (Maliki and al Sadr) have been seemingly willing to quickly come to some sort of agreement about a ceasefire. It made no sense if Maliki's purpose was, as everyone suspected (and I was certainly one of them), to finally confront al Sadr over who is in charge. It further made no sense to give into all of his cease fire demands if that was the case.

However, if al-Sadr and the boys weren't the target, but because they've been chomping at the bit to get after it again (and expected al Sadr to lift the cease fire in February, which he didn't do) then it could have been a complete misunderstanding on both sides of the confrontation. It could also explain why al Sadr was in Iran when it started. T

he Mahdi army assumes it is being attacked and fires at the IA as they enter Basrah to try to purge the city of its criminal elements.

The IA, using the General's criteria to distinguish their targets, fires back - something like that can quickly spiral out of control.

And perhaps it did, until the ISF discovered who was in the middle of the fighting and the further realized they aren't the target of the operation.

Certainly a hurried attempt to end that would be called for and explain the agreement much more satisfactorily than those explanations now being floated by news services and pundits. And that is, again, bolstered by something MG Al-Aziz said early in the press conference today. Let me again set the stage for the question by including his explanation of what the operation's purpose is:
Actually the campaign, Night’s Campaign, is not a military operation targeting the people in Basra. And it’s not targeted in the same time against a certain political trend.The operation basically follows and pursues the criminals that are present in certain places or areas in Basra. And the idea of the operation is based upon cordoning a certain area, then searching it. And there are also warrants to—against criminals, arrest warrants against criminals so we can—when an area is searched they will be arrested. And in case there are some weapons, they will be confiscated and everything will be done. So this is the operation of Night’s Campaign and it start in neighborhoods of Jumhuriyah, Saiza[ph], Hayaniah and hopefully the operation will be continuing until all areas in Basra are cleared by all criminals and outlaws.
IOW, as mentioned, this is a law and order campaign, not a confrontation with al-Sadr.

A reporter follows that explanation with this question:
REP1:[Asks question in Arabic.]

INT: Question from Biladi TV. General, the Iraqi government gave a specific time to put down the weapon to the armed groups. In case the armed members and groups did not put down their weapons and the period set by the government is over, how would you deal with the situation in Basra?

MAJ GEN ABED: [Speaks in Arabic.]

INT: Actually, when they don’t put down their weapon, the armed groups, those criminals and those outlaws and those who create chaos so to think will be that the operation will be continue—will continue until we apprehend them.
To me that says the ISF plans on continuing the operation and has given those not targeted the chance to lay down their weapons and step away from the action. And if they don't do so, then they'll be considered to be a part of the problem and treated accordingly.

All this to say, this is indeed a complex situation (and perhaps much more complex than it needed to be). It seems quite premature to be drawing any conclusions from an operation which is still on going and, if you believe MG Abed (heck, I don't know - he could be the new version of Baghdad Bob), the ISF's move may have been misinterpreted by the Mahdi army as an attack on them, gotten out of control and now is in the process of settling that and getting back to the operation's original purpose.

We'll have to monitor this and see.
 
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looks like sadar still has his private army with their weapons so they werent disarmed. so much for the cash for weapons program. looks like maliki backed down.
 
Written By: slntax
URL: http://
I think we just missed a golden opportunity to ’accidentally on purpose’ send a JDAM at Mr. Sadr. In the middle of a bit of fighting, oops, well, triple bonus points. Unless of course he’s been hiding out in Iran, like it was rumored a while back.

Which brings up the question: just *where* is Mr. Sadr calling home?
 
Written By: Nathan
URL: http://
I think we just missed a golden opportunity to ’accidentally on purpose’ send a JDAM at Mr. Sadr.
Well that might have been tough since apparently he’s been in Iran the entire time (Qom, I think).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
I’m not sure that I can buy into that analysis.
Nor I..

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
the ISF’s move may have been misinterpreted by the Mahdi army as an attack on them,
The ISF’s move against "criminal elements" was geographically biased against the Mahdi Army. The Sadrists controlled the province of Basra and were corruptly involved with local militia - criminal elements. There are another 8 provinces between Baghdad & Basra where local officials are corruptly involved with local militia, however these are controlled by factions of the al-Maliki government and are not currently subject of similar actions against "criminal elements" by the ISF.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
Sadr early on called for talks, and this was rejected by Maliki. Instead, Maliki made ultimatums he could not enforce. If the real target were simply rogue elements, it would have made sense to talk with Sadr. The subject is that Maliki’s party, as well as the Badr brigades that fought against the Mahdi army, are very close to Iran. The Badr brigades are likely armed by Iran, though clearly the Mahdi army gets arms from Iran too. So it appears to me that Maliki has been humbled, and for now, Iran’s role in the Shi’ite portion of Iraq is enhanced. From the US perspective, this is very troubling; are we supporting a government that is really far more pro-Iranian than they admit to being? Even if Iraq becomes more stable, is that stability due to Iranian backed militias simply choosing to wait out the Americans? And since the Sunni allies are also skeptical of the government, and increasingly cynical of the US, just where are we strategically? To those of you who support continuing this, I’m trying, trying, trying, to understand your perspective. I don’t see any real way to "win" here absent a politically infeasible massive surge. Even then, things could go wrong.

When do we say, "OK, we’re leaving, but it’ll be on terms we negotiate with the Iraqi government and regional powers, specifically Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, and Jordan," and then hold talks on the future of Iraq, creating a shift of responsibility from the US to a regional coalition?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Boris:
So it appears to me that Maliki has been humbled, and for now, Iran’s role in the Shi’ite portion of Iraq is enhanced. From the US perspective, this is very troubling; are we supporting a government that is really far more pro-Iranian than they admit to being?
Indeed, after several hundred of his milita thugs were killed, Sadr ordered them to stand down. Maliki has been humbled by a successful mission.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Look, there’s a Mutually Agreed Pretense going on here. The JAM is a glorified protection racket, with promotion of its gang boss to official national tyrant as the ultimate goal. But every time JAM comes up against MNF or (serious) IA units, it gets decimated.

So ... the CG and MNF strategy is clear and easy. Just keep shaving off "fringe" and "rogue" elements, and it won’t be that long till the Mahdi Army is nothing but a powerless sliver. All Mookie’s posturing simply pushes new waves of fools into the grinder. There is no way forward for him.
 
Written By: Brian H
URL: http://
And Scott, the Iraqis have ZERO interest in handing responsibility to that "regional coalition". What a stupid joke! Those debased regimes have neither inclination nor competence to maintain democratic peace in Iraq.

Here’s a better plan: stabilize and strengthen Iraq, and give it trusteeship over that "regional coalition" of petty tyrannies.
 
Written By: Brian H
URL: http://
To those of you who support continuing this, I’m trying, trying, trying, to understand your perspective. I don’t see any real way to "win" here absent a politically infeasible massive surge. Even then, things could go wrong.
You are setting absurdly high criteria of success, like you wish to construct failure. America is simultaneously friendly with Turkey & Greece, Saudi & Israel and Pakistan & India. Having two friends anti-pathic to each other is not foreign policy failure.

Iraq and Iran have a 1200 mile border, their people share religious traditions and both have a large Kurdish minority - inevitably they will interact in a close manner. Why do you persist in requiring Iraq share an American & Sunni Arab emnity towards Iran as a criteria of success?

The actual maximum criteria is that Iraq is an independent state with a peaceful and just internal policy that is not actively engaged against American interests. In practice America is happily allied to nations that do not come close to meeting that ideal.

The reason America needs to stay is that Iraq does not yet have an army capable of ensuring its independence. Like Brian H says. If that occurs then Iraq can pretty closely match the ideal, which for that region would be a very good thing.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
So ... the CG and MNF strategy is clear and easy. Just keep shaving off "fringe" and "rogue" elements, and it won’t be that long till the Mahdi Army is nothing but a powerless sliver.
Wishful thinking. They can sacrifice a few hundred here and there at no real long term cost — indeed, recruitment may be improved by something like this in a way which more than offsets the loses. Maliki’s idea that he could go and disarm and subdue Basra was also wishful thinking. Moreover, it’s not just the Mahdi army, it’s the Iranian backed Badr brigades (who backed the government) and even the Dawa party itself. It’s all fragmented.

And Scott, the Iraqis have ZERO interest in handing responsibility to that "regional coalition". What a stupid joke! Those debased regimes have neither inclination nor competence to maintain democratic peace in Iraq.
First, our policy is based on our national interest, regardless of what the Iraqis want. And frankly, we’re just hurting ourselves staying over there. Second, there is no sign that the Iraqi central government is gaining any real authority, or is in fact fundamentally independent from Iran. However, the US is the country that has proven it does not have the competence to even start to create "democratic peace" in Iraq. We can’t do it. We’ve failed miserably, at great cost to ourselves. So cut the loses. Let the people in that neck of the woods handle that neck of the woods. Deal with them diplomatically in terms of our interests, and stop trying to spread our ideals — our vision of democracy is sort of a western religion — through force. It was a fool’s errand, bound to fail anyway.
Why do you persist in requiring Iraq share an American & Sunni Arab emnity towards Iran as a criteria of success?
Because I don’t. I never mentioned emnity towards Iran, those are your words. Nor do I think the Saudis have emnity toward Iran, I think recently there has been some reconciliation between the Sunnis and the Iranians, which makes me think a regional peace is possible. Neither the Saudis nor the Iranians want regional civil war. Iran will have considerable influence in Iraq. Cool. No problem. But why the hell are we still spending lives and dollars there for nothing that really matters to us. Al qaeda in Iraq is an enemy of both the Sunnis and the Shi’as. If we leave, the Iraqis will make sure al qaeda is defeated. What is there for us to gain there? What is worth this continued cost? Let the Arabs and Persians handle their own affairs. Why should we butt in?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
However, the US is the country that has proven it does not have the competence to even start to create "democratic peace" in Iraq. We can’t do it. We’ve failed miserably, at great cost to ourselves. So cut the loses. Let the people in that neck of the woods handle that neck of the woods. Deal with them diplomatically in terms of our interests, and stop trying to spread our ideals — our vision of democracy is sort of a western religion — through force. It was a fool’s errand, bound to fail anyway.
Rubbish, democracy is not a religion it is the only practical government for Iraq. Right here today Iran is investing effort to secure a peaceful solution in a democratic Iraq. If there is to be peace in Iraq it needs to be multi-communal and almost by definition this requires democracy. Persian or Arabian style dictatorial regimes will not achieve peaceful government in Iraq through anything other than the use of massive repressive force (like that employed by Saddam and being attempted by Al-Qaeda in Iraq).
Nor do I think the Saudis have emnity toward Iran, I think recently there has been some reconciliation between the Sunnis and the Iranians, which makes me think a regional peace is possible.
When you dismiss 5000 years of Arab/Persian emnity and 1400 years of Shia/Sunni emnity (including but not limited to beheadings, massacres, genocides, invasions, persecutions, pogroms of literally millions of people) on the basis of some selective observation of events in the past 12 months whilst noting that both Saudi and Iran actively repress the others supreme religion. I suggest you are being a tad "optimistic".
Neither the Saudis nor the Iranians want regional civil war. Iran will have considerable influence in Iraq. Cool. No problem. But why the hell are we still spending lives and dollars there for nothing that really matters to us. Al qaeda in Iraq is an enemy of both the Sunnis and the Shi’as. If we leave, the Iraqis will make sure al qaeda is defeated. What is there for us to gain there? What is worth this continued cost? Let the Arabs and Persians handle their own affairs. Why should we butt in?
What they want is irrelevent, because neither the Arabs nor the Persians are capable of supporting a system of government that can provide a peaceful resolution. Democracy has the best chance of ensuring regional peace. You do not want to see communal massacres do you? America does not, therefore America needs to stay at least until Iraq can provide its own security.


 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
Iraqi Army and police forces immediately moved into Basra neighborhoods abandoned by the Mahdi Army, which is the armed wing of Mr. Sadr’s political movement, setting up checkpoints and searching for roadside bombs. As helicopters continued buzzing overhead, shops began to reopen and residents ventured out into the streets.
Obviously, the Mahdi Army, celebrating their success, took a long deserved vacation at the beach, or some other such nonsense.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
If we leave, the Iraqis will make sure al qaeda is defeated.
But, according to you, the Iraqis can’t even take care of the Mahdi Army...
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Paul, over at Powerline, makes an interesting point regarding the media coverage of the last few days:
Yesterday, I pointed out how the Washington Post, in a display of post-modern thinking, had discerned a lack of progress in Iraq from the government’s decision to attack rogue Shiite militias. In the old days, the existence or absence of progress would be gauged by the success of the new military campaign, not the decision to launch it.

Not to be outdone, the New York Times has jumped in with its own post-modern approach to evaluating the government’s campaign. It concludes that Moktada al-Sadr’s call to his followers to stop fighting in Basra represents “a serious blow for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.” A less sophisticated observer might have thought that a rogue leader’s call for a halt in fighting is more plausibly viewed as a blow to the rogue leader.

The Times compounded its post-modernism by declining to send a reporter to Basra. Instead, the paper is relying on unidentified Iraqi stringers, at least according to this account which paints a very different account of the situation in Basra than the one that appears in the Times.

It’s possible, of course, that al-Sadr came out of the latest round of battle in decent shape notwithstanding his eagerness to stop the fighting. He has made certain demands of the government. If these demands are honored he will, at a minimum, have saved face. But according to the Times’ story, it’s "not clear" whether the government is willing to agree to al-Sadr’s demands. Yet the paper can’t resist presenting him as the victor.
The highlighted "this account" sends you to the following site:
http://talismangate.blogspot.com/2008/03/second-hand-propaganda.html
Which presents a report from Basra that differs greatly from the NYT and WaPo accounts and, not surprisingly, differs from the Juan Cole writeups of recent days.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Stupid comments like sending a "regional coalition" to take our place truly show your deep and profound lack of reasoning ability and understanding of the situation. It also shows that your message is none other than political party spew motivated by a desire to win the "game" of politics be damn anything else. Lastly it shows profound misunderstanding of history and or a willful negligence. Once again I ask? How somebody can type so much and say so little (It truly is a skill of yours)
 
Written By: coater
URL: http://
Rubbish, democracy is not a religion it is the only practical government for Iraq.
Democracy is one way to organize government, and it tends to only work when there are certain cultural underpinnings making it effective. Moreover, democracies differ based on culture and stage of development. I find little evidence to suggest that Iraq can develop a stable western style democracy.
Right here today Iran is investing effort to secure a peaceful solution in a democratic Iraq. If there is to be peace in Iraq it needs to be multi-communal and almost by definition this requires democracy. Persian or Arabian style dictatorial regimes will not achieve peaceful government in Iraq through anything other than the use of massive repressive force (like that employed by Saddam and being attempted by Al-Qaeda in Iraq).
Iran wants Iraqi’s democracy to be similar to Iran’s. Right now, the Kurds have their own system, Sunni tribes run their affairs, and the Shi’ite militias control most Shi’ite areas. The central government is weak. The question isn’t democracy or dictatorship, it’s how to create a process whereby rule of law is accountable and equal to all parties, and corruption minimized.

Also, you are vastly overstating emnity between the groups. Shi’ites and Sunnis have routinely lived side by side, and for most of history it hasn’t been a cause for hatred or violence. Iran has hosted and given exile to all the major political Arab leaders from Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in a very fruitful diplomatic effort, in part because they recognize that the US isn’t going to accomplish much, they’ll have to assure stability. The US is drifting to irrelevance here, look at what’s really happening, not just rhetoric about democracy and the like. The US is incapable of creating stability or somehow securing a democratic Iraq. The last five years proves that dramatically. You are vastly overestimating American power.

Obviously, the Mahdi Army, celebrating their success, took a long deserved vacation at the beach, or some other such nonsense.
They have succeeded. Maliki has failed. Remember, he wanted to DISARM the militias and arrest large numbers who didn’t disarm. There was no disarmament. There were few arrests. The militias remain powerful, armed, and the government has been unable to subdue them. Iran didn’t want this fight, and intervened to cool things down. We couldn’t do that.

Also, note that Sadr wanted a cease fire from the start, on the terms he got. Maliki turned him down, and refused to talk to him. In the end, Sadr got his way on that score.

Keith, the Mahdi army gets lots of support from the Shi’ite community. The Iraqi government can’t defeat them without massive bloodshed. Al qaeda in Iraq is relatively impotent, foreign, and is opposed by virtually all elements in Iraq. They are a threat to Iraq, not to America. While we waste all this time and money in Iraq, the real threat is brewing in Afghanistan and in terror cells elsewhere. Money could have been spent securing our ports and dealing with al qaeda. Instead, it’s been wasted, and we’re seeing now that we are ending up in a position where our best alternative is a partitioned Iraq, with at best a semblance of democracy in the various parts.

Seriously, I understand many of you with good will and good intent believed this was the right call, going to Iraq. But at some point you have to re-assess and admit that things weren’t what they seemed. That’s OK, but given our economic situation, the real threats out there, and the continued cost on numerous levels of Iraq, at least consider the possibility that it might be time to find a way to shut this thing down.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
They have succeeded.
I guess this is what they call a "strategic retreat" ?
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Oh, one other thing about al qaeda in Iraq: they are irrelevant. Not only do all Iraqi elements oppose them, but so does Iran (who is strong enough to make sure they can’t gain power) and the Saudis. The idea that al qaeda will take over Iraq if we leave is utterly absurd.

And neo, I assume you mean a strategic retreat by Maliki? It’s not a retreat by the Mahdi army at all. They didn’t want the fight, they wanted this kind of cease fire from the start. Maliki started the fight wanting to disarm them, and Maliki was forced to retreat because the Mahdi army could not be subdued. This was a huge failure on Maliki’s part, and it convinces me now that the surge has failed, and really it’s only a matter of time until even the hold out 30% of Americans realize Iraq was a major foreign policy blunder.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Let’s see, the Mahdi Army is in retreat, and the ISF is continuing operations, and sending reinforcements.

Isn’t it OBVIOUS that Maliki is loosing.

What’s interesting to me is that I’ve yet to see a civilian death toll. There are claims that 400 lives have been claimed, but that tracks with the claims of how many enemy have been killed.

Yes, any time you try to take on thugs who are armed, there’s going to be bloodshed.

But, do we want thugs in charge, or the central government? Because, the thugs have their own brand of justice. Whether they have support from a segment of the population or not, their militia is not a legitimate part of the government at any level.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
And neo, I assume you mean a strategic retreat by Maliki?
Only the French would accept your idea of success.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Neo, Maliki attacked, threatening to disarm. Sadr said no, let’s discuss and maintain the cease fire. Maliki made ultimatums. Maliki backed down, did not achieve his goals, and Sadr got his way. Objectively, Maliki lost. There is no other honest way to call this. Seriously, you guys have to get real here. I haven’t read a serious analysis that posits this as a victory for Maliki.

Sadr Wins as Government crackdown backfires

I’ll watch to see if the government really does get the disarmament it wants, but as it looks now, I don’t see much effective government action. The link only had Maliki say that there will be continued operations. I doubt he’ll attempt much. Right now, Maliki is just trying to save face, I think. Your Time article did not support your claim except in one section where they could not confirm reports — it could be disinformation.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Iraqi PM: Basra Operation a ’Success’
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s prime minister says the military operation to clear the southern city of Basra of Shiite militia violence has been a ’’success.’’
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a statement Tuesday that his office will recruit 10,000 more police and army forces and will move to enhance public services in Iraq’s second-largest city.
His comments come after a peace deal between radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Iraqi government has brought a tense calm following a week of clashes.
The ferocious resistance by militia fighters has left the U.S.-backed prime minister politically battered and humbled within his own Shiite power base.
But he says the crackdown achieved ’’security, stability and success’’ in Basra.
All the news fit to print .. no less.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
LOL! What else would Maliki claim, Neo! Is that the best you can do?

Maliki started the fighting and demanded disarmament. He was forced to back down. He wants to save face. Sadr’s forces remained armed, and while they’ll tolerate some government officials there (no doubt heavily infiltrated), it’s clear that Maliki could not back up his ultimatums.

But, as I point out in my blog today, this seals the deal — Iraq is nowhere near any kind of political unity or democracy, and there is really no reason for us to stay there. It’s all been a waste, based on a rather naive notion that democracy can be spread if only the dictators are eliminated and we give democracy a chance. We learned a lesson, and I’m pretty sure we’re not going to see this mistake repeated anytime soon. Now the focus has to be on making sure that the government doesn’t waste any more money and lives on a big government social engineering program gone awry.

The Iraq war has a winner: Iran.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
And you’re staking your claim on analysis of an operation that has not yet ended.

About as good an analysis as Reid saying last year the surge was a failure.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
And you’re staking your claim on analysis of an operation that has not yet ended.
SOP, Keith, SOP. That and the never-ending "goal post moving" contest in which these folks have to engage.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Keith, the operation has essentially ended. Maliki is not trying to disarm the opposition, and he’s ceased the kind of raids he’s been doing. Now it’s just talk and walking through the streets.

Reuters has a good analysis, and notes that this could be a major Shi’ite battle this summer. And it may be less about the government establishing rule of law (the government is completely corrupt) but about Maliki’s factions controlling smuggling and running Shi’ite areas much like a crime syndicate.

Here is another good analysis of the situation.

Excerpts
The campaign was a predictable fiasco, another in a long line of strategic failures for the sickly and divided Iraqi government, which survives largely because it is propped up by the United States. So why did al-Maliki do it? With no obvious immediate crisis in Basra that called for such desperate measures, what could have motivated the decision to attack?

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.

...

During the fighting, the Iraqi army was allied with the Badr Corps paramilitary of the ISCI, which was trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. ISCI, the leading Shiite political party in parliament, is now al-Maliki’s main backer in the government, along with his own smaller Da’wa (Islamic Call) Party.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Excerpts
Once again provided by Juan Cole - who gets his direction from his Iranian masters.

*Yawn*

When is Erb going to refer to an accredited source.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Here is another good analysis of the situation.
good ie it conforms to your opinion...
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Once again provided by Juan Cole - who gets his direction from his Iranian masters.
SShiell, Cole is a full Professor at the University of Michigan, one of the top schools in the country. He appears on TV news programs as an analyst, and is routinely cited in analyses of the war.

You want to ignore him. You don’t like hearing the truth. And you have an easy way to do it. Like a child who sticks his fingers in his ears, you just as maturely say he has "Iranian masters" (nothing to back it up because you know you’re lying) and then you go "yadayadayada" and refuse to listen. In other words, your ignorance is willful.

I’ve given you good sources, including recently a reuters analysis and Cole’s piece. You give nothing, SShiell.

Keith, my opinion is based on evidence and analysis. So far, the only contrary evidence I’ve seen is a claim that "operations are continuing," which could mean anything, including just a face saving gesture where both sides agree. OK, I’ll keep my eyes open, but right now I really think that even those of you hold outs who still think the war was worth while need to re-assess.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I don’t care if Cole shared the Nobel with the Goreacle. He’s a hack. But then that is my opinion of the man. I can see you have a great personal relationahip with the man so I won’t piss on your hero too much.
I’ve given you good sources, including recently a reuters analysis and Cole’s piece. You give nothing, SShiell.
And you sir are a LIAR! And not a very good one at that.

Take a moment and go back up to the 15th comment for this entry. I provided a link at:
http://talismangate.blogspot.com/2008/03/second-hand-propaganda.html
As usual, you blew it off as you did with anyone here who disagreed with you - your usual MO.

Take a look. I will await your apology.

I won’t hold my breath.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
First, SShiell, the link you send is to some unknown blogger complaining and offering no real evidence (and engaging in wishful thinking). So it’s hardly anything to take seriously.

But you miss the point, you called COLE a tool of the Iranians, which of course is absurd. You use that to avoid having to take his analysis seriously. He has far more credentials than some unknown blogger who complains it’s all a big media propaganda conspiracy. You have nothing to back up your attack on Cole.

Face it, SShiell, almost nobody thinks this war is worth it anymore, and pretty soon you’re going to have to either admit you were wrong or, if you don’t have the self-esteem to do that, create some "stab in the back" story where all them horrible liberals and media types prevented us from winning what we otherwise would have. Face it, you have nothing.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
The Iraq war has a winner: Iran.
No, it has not won. There are still viable Sunni Militia, a semi-autonomous Kurdish region (that is supporting a rebellion amoung Iranian Kurds) and the Shia are divided (shooting at each other in fact). This is a balance of power that rationally can only be resolved either through a shooting war or an internal Iraqi dialogue of the various people’s representatives (a democracy). You believe that neither of these things will occur, but rather a third way will emerge whereby conflicting theocracies will agree on a powersharing arrangement in a way that has never happened in the entire history of the world. In this you are a fantasist.
The question isn’t democracy or dictatorship, it’s how to create a process whereby rule of law is accountable and equal to all parties, and corruption minimized.
These criteria are not able to be met under Iranian or Saudi style dictatorship. The criteria can be met under a federal democracy. The American democratisation process has viable utility.
Shi’ites and Sunnis have routinely lived side by side, and for most of history it hasn’t been a cause for hatred or violence.
Each time only one sect has been dominant, excluding any suggestion of equality. Dominance is established through force of arms and is not a welcome solution, especially as the 2 sides are so evenly matched.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in a very fruitful diplomatic effort, in part because they recognize that the US isn’t going to accomplish much, they’ll have to assure stability. The US is drifting to irrelevance here, look at what’s really happening, not just rhetoric about democracy and the like. The US is incapable of creating stability or somehow securing a democratic Iraq. The last five years proves that dramatically. You are vastly overestimating American power.
Stability cannot be achieved through theocratic rule without forceful suppression of the alternative sect. You should not attempt to propogate an absurd myth that two competing theocracies can share power.

A balance of powers exists in the Gulf between the Sunni and the Shia. Neither Saudi or Iranian theocracy can be assured that their proxy will be victorious in any Iraqi sectarian conflict. Therefore both wish to avoid such a conflict. Maintain this balance of power, it does not require a large degree of American power.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
Scott,

BTW good article from Juan Cole. Especially like how he covers the wishes of the Iraqi electorate and the outcome of the upcoming provincial elections. In fact I do strongly suspect that come October you are going to be arguing that the USA needs to withdraw on the basis of calls from democratically elected Iraqi provincial assemblies, whilst concurrently stating that the American project of democratisation is an effort of colonialism doomed to fail in Iraq. Your mentat gymnastics will be a delight to observe.

In answer to Juan Coles concern as to how long the Americans can stay, it is a question of Iraqi government needs rather than what the Iraqi voters may want. And also how highly rated concerns about Americans compare to other issues in the Iraqi electorate. Of course all that would require some sort of democracy, which you dismiss as a total impossibility (and probably will continue to do so till at least October).
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
No, it has not won. There are still viable Sunni Militia, a semi-autonomous Kurdish region (that is supporting a rebellion amoung Iranian Kurds) and the Shia are divided (shooting at each other in fact). This is a balance of power that rationally can only be resolved either through a shooting war or an internal Iraqi dialogue of the various people’s representatives (a democracy). You believe that neither of these things will occur, but rather a third way will emerge whereby conflicting theocracies will agree on a powersharing arrangement in a way that has never happened in the entire history of the world. In this you are a fantasist.
Iraq is 65% Shi’ite. Iran seems to have its foot into the different Shi’ite parties and militias. Al-Sadr is the least pro-Iranian of them all, he has a twinge of Arab nationalism. So in that sense, it seems a bit more bizarre that we see him as the main enemy. I think the Shi’ite portion might end up fragmented for some time, and the Kurds will be pro-American (and we might be able to keep forces in Iraqi Kurdistan for quite some time, you have a point there). That’s why I think Saudi Arabia and Iran will see it in their interest to try to keep stability there — and stop al qaeda — even if we left quickly (or withdrew to Kurdistan to not only maintain a presence, but be there to prevent the Kurds from becoming expansive towards other Kurdish lands).

Bigger issue: I think you are carrying a lot of western cultural assumptions into this, or at least modern cultural assumptions (if you want to consider non-western modernizing examples like Taiwan and South Korea). Democracy is not natural, and in fact most European countries had it fail a few times before it took root. Ottoman culture was not only pre-modern, but corrupt and brutal. I think democracy too quickly will be for them a path towards corruption and democracy in name only, with various groups vying for oil revenue, smuggling, and even arms trade. The result will be either a drift towards authoritarianism, or a fragmented state. I really don’t think a modern federal democracy can work in Iraq, they simply don’t have the basic culture precursors. Iran’s theocratic democracy is interesting and provides a semi-model, one that may be acceptable to both Iran and the US since it would be based on Sistani’s approach that separates government and state (unlike his rival Khomeini’s). Yet that will only fly in the Shi’a areas.

So rather than put the cart before the horse, why not accept a partition (it can be Bosnia like, one state, three autonomous federal or confederal units) and work from there. The problem in Iraq is the idea we can keep it a unified whole and move to democracy. Ethnic division and corruption are the two main killers of democratic efforts, and Iraq has both in spades.
In answer to Juan Coles concern as to how long the Americans can stay, it is a question of Iraqi government needs rather than what the Iraqi voters may want. And also how highly rated concerns about Americans compare to other issues in the Iraqi electorate. Of course all that would require some sort of democracy, which you dismiss as a total impossibility (and probably will continue to do so till at least October).
Well, never say ’impossible,’ just from what I see, I can’t see how a functioning western style democracy can emerge. There will be democratic processes in place, and those can be built upon. Also, I think democracy is best built from the bottom up (local first). With the three sections of Iraq kept relatively apart, the chances are better.

Serious question: when do we see that it is not in our interests to keep spending money and lives in Iraq, especially when the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan and there are renewed concerns about counter terrorism efforts. Because, ultimately, our policy has to be about American interests and needs, not Iraqi.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Good writeup. Too bad TIME mage already called (hoped) that al Sadr won this engagement.

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1726763,00.html

The press chose sides in this war long ago and they didn’t chose the U.S.’s side.
 
Written By: Mark Eichenlaub
URL: http://regimeofterror.com
So rather than put the cart before the horse, why not accept a partition (it can be Bosnia like, one state, three autonomous federal or confederal units) and work from there.
Yes partition is a reasonable option, but partitioning populations requires a capable force. America is the only capable force.

Bosnia has a EU peacekeeping force of 7000 ten years after partition, Iraq is 8 to 10 times bigger amd than Bosnia and would require large initial force that could be drawn down to 60,000 troops in ten years. These would be American, because the regional powers are too biased, the UN incapable and the EU or China not interested. To partition requires ethnic cleansing of somewhat intermingled populations and it will be difficult to force people from their homes without attracting criticism. What to do with the Turkmen and assorted other minorities? What happens in Baghdad? Kirkuk? Poorly handled cleansings would beget ongoing resentment. Eventually peacekeepers could be withdrawn after each statelet builds forces to protect themselves and borders settled. Of course the Shia will get help from Iran and the Sunni Arabs help from Arabia so the cost arming these will not be borne by America (a saving), but their religions are antagonistic so the cost of peacekeeping might increase. Bottomline America would need to start down another path that will take a long commitment with its own danger level and lose the 3 years of work done on securing a united Iraq.

Plus transportation of oil is difficult if it flows from one partition across another and most the current pipes do lie north to south.
Serious question: when do we see that it is not in our interests to keep spending money and lives in Iraq, especially when the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan and there are renewed concerns about counter terrorism efforts. Because, ultimately, our policy has to be about American interests and needs, not Iraqi.
Flippantly cynical answer: when the oil dries up or America stops using so much of it, until then maximum stability in the ME is best.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
Yes partition is a reasonable option, but partitioning populations requires a capable force. America is the only capable force.
They already have a defacto partition thanks to the massive ethnic cleansing and ethnic violence in the 2006 civil war. That’s calmed down, in part because there are few mixed communities. I could nonetheless see a role for the US to help stabilize a partition, especially if it’s part of a multilateral effort.

Iraq isn’t Bosnia though. Part of Bosnia’s problem is how the maps are drawn, one could have reasonably clear borders between Iraq’s populations. The touchy areas would be some of the big cities, and Baghdad. I think if the Saudis and Iranians help broker a deal on oil revenue sharing, the could have a relatively stable co-existence, not requiring a Bosnian like force.

Oil is the best reason for activity in the Mideast, at least it is a national interest. But I still believe a detente with Iran, and efforts to have a more realist diplomacy (rather than the idealism of spreading democracy) will be more effective. And, like Nixon’s detente with the Soviets, it doesn’t mean appeasement, it means tough negotiations and recognition of mutual interests.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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