Saturday, February 25, 2006

Two reports from Iraq

Two interesting reports, one from Iraq the Model and the other from Healing Iraq regarding the situation in Baghdad.

The key messages from Iraq the Model are:

  • the level of violence was not as bad as made out to be in the press, at least according to the government briefers.
  • the curfew continues.
  • neighborhoods are setting up checkpoints to screen outsiders

He has this interesting observation:

Sadr ... holds two meetings with Sunni leaders; one on the clerical level with the Association of Muslim Scholars and the other on the political level with the Accord Front. A couple of joint press releases were made after the meetings in which the two parties made calls for unity among Iraqis and condemned all kinds of attacks on mosques and civilians. In both cases the US and Iraqi authorities were blamed for the escalating situation. Ironically, these are the very two factions believed responsible for the greatest deal of the violence in the past few days!

Healing Iraq's also reports the government assertion that reports of sectarian violence while real, were exaggerated, but in a more skeptical tone. He remains skeptical of the Interior Ministry's neutrality, suspecting them of siding with the Shi'ites. This bit coincides with Iraq the Model: "Things are now quiet in the Sunni towns of Zubair and Abu Al-Khasib, south of Basrah. Sadr's followers continue to demonstrate, but in general, things appear to have calmed down there."

We also get a glimpse of what American forces have been doing:

Clashes between Interior ministry forces and insurgents at Khan Dhari, Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. According to the Defence minister, the force was providing protection for a funeral procession of the slain Al-Arabiya TV, Atwar Bahjat, heading to the Karkh cemetary. They came under fire and roadside bomb attacks near Harith Al-Dhari's residence at Khan Dhari, resulting in a firefight. The Association of Muslim Scholar's website, and Muthanna Al-Dhari's statements on Al-Jazeera TV, say the residents returned fire after they were mocked and assaulted by the Interior ministry force which arrived in 20 vehicles early in the morning, before the funeral procession. American forces in the area seem to have intervened, and later freed 2 of Dhari's cousins taken as prisoners by the Interior ministry forces.

(As far as I can recall Atwar Bahjat was a celebrity Sunni news correspondent who was killed, possibly by Shi'ite militias in the first hours after the Golden Mosque attack. The US forces are depicted as watching, intervening at least on this occasion.)

Moqtada al-Sadr seems to be trying to cover up his apparent involvement in the earlier. Healing Iraq reports this strange statement from the Mahdi in which their spokesmen say that the killers of the past few days have been too handsome to be them.

The Iraqi Rabita website reports an interview with a Mahdi militia leader today, quoted as saying: "Strange things are happening these days. It's true that our guys often act as a bunch of spiteful, criminal thieves going on sprees of sabotage, murder and plundering. But the people who were running the act were clean young men, elegantly dressed, in modern vehicles, carrying the latest weapons, unlike our guys who are usually unkempt ruffians. No one knows were they are now."

Here are pictures from Healing Iraq's site which illustrate the point.

Update

Pajamas Media has a  link to a podcast interview of Omar at Iraq the Model describing the situation in Baghdad.

Commentary

I'm guessing that Healing Iraq got his pictures from one of the websites he mentions as sources. His information about Sadr's backpedaling seems to square with Iraq the Model's ironic observation that Sadr is now churning out press releases denouncing violence which he is suspected of avidly participating in. And I'll grant that the uniforms worn by the militiamen shown above look like they came straight out of a box.

Sadr's about-face suggests he wants to distance himself from a failed enterprise. He is not, definitely not the kind of guy to go down with the Titanic after letting the women and children into the lifeboats. This suggests the civil war crisis has been beaten down for now. However, if those uniforms are new and Sad'r and the al-Qaeda (mentioned elsewhere in Healing Iraq's post) were practically ready to exploit the civil unrest from the start, then one might speculate whether the Golden Mosque attack was not part of a larger plot to spark up a civil war in Iraq. That's speculation but an interesting thought to hold in mind as more evidence comes to hand. Once again, input from the readers if they have any info (remember to quote the URL or type of source) would be much appreciated.

42 Comments:

Blogger PeterBoston said...

I think that the inescapable conclusion is that Iraq has a government and that it is in charge of the situation.

2/25/2006 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Just like our press interprets Katrina and the flood, Al Jazeera emphasizes the impact of Iraqi sectarian fighting on Bush.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Shia Prime Minister, flanked by Kurdish and Arab Sunni leaders, called on Iraqis on Saturday to unite and fight terrorism in a news conference carried live to the nation on state television.

With the gravest crisis since the US invasion threatening his plan to withdraw 136,000 troops, George Bush, the US president, made a round of calls to Iraqi leaders on all sides urging them to work together to break a round of attacks sparked by the suspected al-Qaida bombing of a Shia shrine on Wednesday.


So, Al Jazeera is telling the same story as Wretchard's blog references, this does sound hopeful, that this is not the beginning of a hot civil war. I would guess that Al Qaeda is behind the original mosque bombing, that seems more likely than Shia. Assuming it is Qaeda, it seems they have arrived at the "burn down the ville to save the ville" stage of their war.

2/25/2006 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

No, this isn't the beginning. They've still to smuggle more weapons for that.

2/25/2006 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Ardsgaine said...

Who benefits from the shrine being blown up?

That is the question that keeps nagging at me. In a murder, the first question the police ask is, who benefits from the victim's death? The answer isn't always obvious, and sometimes it's complicated by multiple good suspects. When I ask myself who benefits most from the destruction of the mosque, I keep coming back to Iran.

Al Qaeda was already being isolated because of their unrelenting violence, and the bombing does them no favors at all. If suspicion falls on them, it pulls Iraqis together against a foreign menace more detestable than the US.

Sadr is already sitting pretty as a power broker in the new government. He's young, and all he has to do is wait out the occupation. Then he can make his move to become the Ayatollah of a new Islamic Republic.

Iran is the one group that has the most interest in keeping the war in Iraq going. When the Iraq War begins, then the US is able to turn its attention to Iran. Just as the Iran/Iraq war served US interests in the 80s, the Iraq/US war serves Iran's interets. If it looks to them like either Al Qaeda or Sadr are not able or willing to keep the violence going, then they send in their own team to demolish a Shiite mosque and stir up a civil war.

This is total speculation on my part. I'm playing Hercule Poirot here with the little gray cells, and I realize the flaw in that sort of detecting. Still, it makes a lot of sense to me, and I'm wondering if someone with more knowledge of the situation can either support it, or dispute it.

2/25/2006 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The car does look pretty nice too.
Time for an unfortunate accident to befall the beloved Mook.

2/25/2006 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The new uniforms do make you think about whether they had these Acme Start-a-Civil-War kits lying around complete with black suits, polished guns, new cars, etc. Of course they may have been stockpiling stuff like this against any eventuality, but it does suggest a level of bad faith.

2/25/2006 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Dan linked this back a thread:
In fact, Sadr's office in Najaf issued a statement Saturday calling on his followers to eschew their trademark black uniforms.

"The order has been given to members of the Mehdi Army to no longer wear their black uniform, so that it not exploited by those who commit crimes," said the statement.

The statement added that those attacking mosques were "criminal bands with no links to the Sadr movement."


Sunnis and Sadr's Shiites make peace


CYA WHY did we leave this guy?

2/25/2006 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

The 1st Team, Hezbollah, supported by some "local" talent dressed up in pretty new uniforms given to them by "They know not who."

Pretty damned nice operation.

2/25/2006 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

W,

Just black colored clothing, not uniforms, as far as I can tell from the pics.

2/25/2006 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

But, a Big-Time Failure.

The "Center" held.

2/25/2006 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

The mullahs have an historical opportunity that has not existed for 25 centuries. If Iran were able to exercise hegemony over Iraq the mullahs would have created a de facto Islamic superstate (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lenbanon, Palestine) greater in scope than the Babylonian Empire and nearly equivalent to the greatest Persian Empire.

That's heady stuff. Mix in that the grab at Cyrus's golden ring of immortality is for the greater glory of God and you have what probably amounts to an historically irresistible force at work within the mullah's inner circle.

Only the USA and Israel stand between the vision of this Islamic superstate and its realization. In that sense we truly are the Greater and Lesser Satan and our destruction is worthy of any sacrifice.

I believe this is the Grand Scheme underlying what we call the GWOT. Crazy? Yes, but there were two corporals with equally ridiculous visions of grand empires that created mountains of corpses before civilization could take another step forward.

2/25/2006 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

While a sense of the inevitability of civil war reverberates through commentary, events, and the reported remarks of many ordinary Iraqis, it's worth keeping in mind that opportunities for newfound power are already at hand for Moqtada al Sadr. At this point, he clearly has a much greater interest in consolidating his position rather than unleashing a beast that no one can control. Who knows? Perhaps Sadr pictures himself ending up as Iraq's Khomeini! (more...)

2/25/2006 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

One of the challenges facing Iran is the "Lebanonization" of Hezbollah. After a while the terrorist clients develop roots different from their original sponsors and grow apart. There are arguments that Iraqi Shi'ites will become stooges of the Iranian ayatollahs. Maybe, maybe not.

2/25/2006 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger ed said...

Hmmm.

It's looking more and more like we should have hanged Sadr when we had the chance.

2/25/2006 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger ed said...

Hmmm.

If Sadr thinks he'll end up the ruler of a Shiite state made from the southern portion of Iraq, he's fooling himself. There's no way the Iranian mullahs would suffer an independent Shiite state that wasn't at least completely controlled from Tehran.

2/25/2006 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

It seems to me that "becoming a stooge" is a function of need. So long as Iraq remains viable, there is no need for the Shiites to become stooges of Iran.

After all, nobody wants to be a stooge.

2/25/2006 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

OT That wan't a Serious "Attack" on the Saudi Oil Facility, yesterday. That was a "Probing" attack. Charlie used to do that to US all the time.

You sacrifice a few troops (in this case stooges) to test the defenses. You run'em up to the wire to see how close you can get, where the fire comes from, the size and speed of the response.

They'll be back. In Spades.

2/25/2006 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"After all, nobody wants to be a stooge."
---
Which of course begs the same question as the so-called moon shot:
Were the Three Stooges Real or just a staged event?

2/25/2006 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Well, the roving bands of black-clothes apparently left a few of their own plus some shot-up vehicles here and there--wonder where the investigation is headed? I mean, VIN numbers?

2/25/2006 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

Local boys driving vehicles imported from the U.S.

A black sweater with a "laundry mark" from Washingto, DC, would be a nice touch. That's what John LeCarre would have done.

2/25/2006 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger orlandoslug said...

IMO Sadr's an opportunistic thug; we need to give the decent people the credit for being able to smoke out people like that...as long as Sistani's around and his group of thugs don't grow into his own secret police like the mullahs next door have.
I think that's the problem for the mullahs next door, Iraq is too close to home; everyone knows what their deal is. I'm curious where Chalabi falls amongst all of this...

2/25/2006 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"IMO Sadr's an opportunistic thug; we need to give the decent people the credit for being able to smoke out people like that"
---
As long as he's around, there's a heck of a lot of young guys in Sadr city ready to go off whenever he says.
...but it's a good point.
Maybe someone will come along to aid the process.

2/25/2006 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

re Sistani, he's been as good a friend as we're likely to have down in the bazaar. AQ's been trying to kill him, has killed several of his top aides. He's held the civil war off as much as anybody, more than most. At least so far as i can see from my reversed soda-straw news consumer perch.

2/25/2006 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Ludlum's solution would be more technical than LeCarre's, like this week's AWST:

The Army has increased tactical unmanned aircraft from two systems in the region to 155. Moreover, there are now more than 23,000 counter-improvised explosive devices in the region, up from basically none.

These fantastic tech advances on the part of the Irresistible Factory America should be headline news. Somehow the NYT thinks it's great to put our classified technology on the front page when it can hurt us (Bush), but when it should be used to perk up the spirits and confidence of America, well that's when Success must be buried, spurned and mocked.

Why are they so determinedly negative?

This snip is from AWST, 2/20/06, p.33, Washington Outlook, in an bottom snip called "Better Armed."

2/25/2006 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger fred said...

Would someone please inform me why it was considered not useful two years ago to apply the $.05 solution to al Sadr? I realize that another thug, lap dog of the Iranians would have taken his place in the food chain, but at least we would not be saddled with the humiliation and perception of weakness by allowing him to live.

And I have been in near complete agreement with peterboston's rational elucidation of where this incident originated from. It only makes sense because the reward for Iran is extremely high if they can pull it off.

Right now I am very fearful of the future, because it seems politically expedient to kick this can down the road a ways. The American public has lot the will to fight, so its commander-in-chief and his advisors are also seemingly in a funk as to how to proceed without a mandate to take on Iran. I am pretty sure that the American people have their heads in the sand about what the realities are.

There will be the Devil to pay and a much higher butcher's bill...

2/25/2006 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

Dubya's going to take out Iran's nuclear program about Oct. He's not kicking any cans down the road. You should have figured that out by now.

Don't worry about Iraq. It'll muddle through. If you try to "Sweat" two Democracies it'll drive you Batty'ern a Cave in Capistrano.

2/25/2006 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

yeh...pentagon is very busy I'm sure. Try not to sweat the petty things, try to remember to pet the sweaty things.

2/25/2006 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

That's the Petagagon, Stupid.

2/25/2006 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

Fred asked...

"Would someone please inform me why it was considered not useful two years ago to apply the $.05 solution to al Sadr? I realize that another thug, lap dog of the Iranians would have taken his place in the food chain, but at least we would not be saddled with the humiliation and perception of weakness by allowing him to live."

Al Sadr is alive because he's an idiot. The only reason why he has any authority at all is because of his deceased father and uncle. If Muqtada al-Sadr got the 5 cent solution then his replacement would almost certainly be more intelligent and competent as a leader. In addition, the Imam Mehdi Army would be even more fanatical due to loss of their martyred leader.

Ignoring Muqtada is "real politic" pure and simple. Muqtada's continued breathing demonstrates (again) that our people on the ground in Iraq know what they're doing.

2/25/2006 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger Ardsgaine said...

Whatever move the president takes, I hope he doesn't think he can drop a few bombs and call it a war. That would be too little too late. Just like with Saddam, the problem won't be solved until we bring down the regime--not necessarily regime change, but at least regime destruction.

2/25/2006 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I think the slug's point was that as long as Sistanis around, there's a decent chance Sadr will not prosper in the long run.
Question is, how much damage will he do in the short run.
...and Sistanni won't be around forever.

2/25/2006 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I swallowed hard when I read that 8:58 PM post by Rufus.

2/25/2006 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

eggplant 9:24 PM,
Hadn't read your comment when I made mine about slug's Sadr comment.
Could be. Now we have an idiot in Basra and a Nutcase in Tehran.
...except I read that the Nutcase is just serving the purposes of the Mullahs, which also sounds plausible.

2/25/2006 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger fred said...

Thanks, Doug, I appreciated the explanation. It makes perfect sense to me. Perhaps the idiot is worth more to us alive than dead. Thus, let us allow the Iranians to employ this chucklehead, since there is a certain "transparency" to how he operates.

2/25/2006 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

These Guys are looking good

2/25/2006 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

No, it was fear - political fear.

2/25/2006 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

opinion: phillip adams
Peanuts of wisdom
Jimmy Carter's mediocre presidency has been redeemed by his social activism since, culminating in his latest book that looks at America's moral crisis
---
What a Pathetic Stain on this country.
And Phillip Adams isn't much of a writer.

2/25/2006 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

In my opinion, a lot of people "misunderestimate" George W. Bush.

Wouldn't it be a Bitch if we're doing the same thing with Muqtada Al Sadr?

2/25/2006 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

No Jarhead who had been in the field more than a week ever took Charlie, "Anything but Serious," regardless of what McNamara thought.

2/25/2006 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

I too am thinking along the lines of "who benefits."

I understand it was more of a "demolition" style attack than an all out suicide attack.

Ardsgaine: When I ask myself who benefits most from the destruction of the mosque, I keep coming back to Iran.

I have to say given the fact that Iran is very close to completing the A-bomb; they are a prime suspect.

It's possible that Sadr had a hand in it. He has been know to kill his enemies - regardless of affiliation (he is a sheer opportunists). Now, Sadr may just be a proxy - but that is far from clear.

The new car and the new black outfits point to a well organized operation - possibly a state sponsored operation. Which then would point to Iran.


rufus notes:

Dubya's going to take out Iran's nuclear program about Oct. He's not kicking any cans down the road. You should have figured that out by now.

Yes, it sure looks like it. I think a nuclear Iran could cause much damage to Iraq and Isreal - both of whom are our friends.
I wonder what exactly happen to TV anchor Atwar Bahjat. What about the video tapes her and her crew were carrying.

Did she have solid evidence of who demolished the Golden Mosque? Or, was she in the crime?

One last point. I would assume that those involved in the demolition of the Golden Mosque are probably known to a number of Iraq citizens. They must come forward and ID the perps.

2/26/2006 01:48:00 AM  
Blogger Evanston said...

Eggplant is correct, Sadr's stupidity has been useful. I'll elaborate below.

Overall the timing of the mosque attack could not be better. Had it occurred in 2004 we would have had a serious problem. With no sizeable Iraqi forces, the Americans would have been caught in the middle. Die-hard Baathists and Al Qaeda blew their chance because they saw the us as the primary enemy. They tried to knock out the U.S. but there were too many of us and we're too good.

They did attempt small scale attacks on the Shia but failed to provoke them into a civil war. Overall, the die-hards and Al Qaeda underestimated the magnitude of change that would occur once a legitimate Iraqi government and army were created. Now it's too late.

Sadr's stupidity helped. He tried a power grab and the Shia moderates had to turn to us. We wiped out his most zealous and dedicated guys and all that's left are the small-scale criminals. The Shia hotheads were neutered, allowing cooler heads to prevail. Sistani, the Dawa and SCIRI knew elections would bring them the power they wanted.

Now we see up-armored HMMWVs with Iraqi flags on the gunner's shields. This is a seminal moment for the Iraqi army, interior ministry and police. Despite divided loyalties, they are patrolling the streets.

Two days ago William F. Buckley wrote an article essentially giving up on Iraq. I've never seen him more wrong. This is the climax of our combat ops there.

Iraqi politicians on all sides have seen the need to work together, or else they will lose their personal power to ruffians in the streets. The leaders know that geography prevents a 3-state (Kurdish, Arab Sunni, Arab Shia) solution. They'll create a unity government now and eventually a federal government. American casualties have decreased for the last 3 months and continue to decline, to this day. Soon they will no longer become newsworthy in the West (ho-hum just like Israel vs. Palestinian) because it'll be muslim vs. muslim and for the most part lack spectacular footage like Americans in house-to-house fighting.

A further "plus" (if I may be brutally cold about it) is the recent killing of the Al Arabiya news team and the current hostage-taking of an American journalist. Such incidents dissuade the "legitimate" media from venturing out and collecting footage. The grainy, shakey and fakey footage from the die-hards doesn't work well on western newscasts. And the reality of media today is if there are no pictures, it essentially didn't happen.

In sum, we've seen the end of Americans as the primary "boots on the ground" in Iraq. From now on out we'll be doing "force protection" (that is, protecting ourselves) while we provide logistics support to the Iraqis.

2/26/2006 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger The Idiot Master said...

Two points:

1. Who Benefits

I agree with other posters that Iran appears to benefit. Not sure if Sadr fits into this scenario as an ally/proxy of Iran.


2. Modus operandi ("MO") "...a Latin phrase, approximately translated as "mode of operation."

I have seen very little reporting on the actual attack on the Dome. Seem to recall that the bombers, disguised as police, tied up the guards and rigged explosives. Do we have any more info/confirmation on this? Did the guards survive? As I recall, their survival was also part of the initial reporting.

It sure doesn't sound like Zarqawi's "MO", which would more likely include butchering the guards and/or using one or more truck bombs.

More like an inside job - make sure the Dome is "guarded" by just a handful of allied or bribed men who have been briefed in advance to roll over and they won't get hurt.

2/26/2006 05:48:00 PM  

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