Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The referee's card

Who won again? "BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Security forces in the southern Iraqi city of Basra hunted militants Wednesday in a stronghold of a powerful Shiite militia."

The BBC reports that "An Iraqi commander has led a convoy through the stronghold of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr in Basra. Correspondents say the convoy was a show of force and that it met no significant resistance as it went through the Hayaniya district."

Former Spook asks, who correctly interpreted the result of the recent fighting, Robert Dreyfus of the Nation, who declared Sadr the winner, or Bill Roggio who called Sadr the loser?

So, which pundit got it right? We’ll go with Bill Roggio, for a couple of reasons. First of all, let’s assume that the latest Mahdi uprising was aimed at embarrassing (and weakening) the Iraqi government. If the offensive was going so well, why did Sadr—or more correctly, his patrons in Iran—decide to pull the plug? Assuming they still controlled large sections of Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, the Mahdi fighters had little reason to lay down their arms.

Instead, it was Sadr who ordered his factions to cooperate with Iraqi security forces. And the reason for that is highlighted in Mr. Roggio’s dispatch. During six days of intense fighting, the Mahdi Army took a beating, literally and figuratively. Even an insurgent force can’t afford to lose over 200 fighters a day, including those killed and wounded.

We doubt that Sadr was concerned about the number of fighters he lost. What he couldn’t tolerate was the image of Iraqi security forces, backed by U.S. troops and airpower, routing his forces in Basra and Baghdad. That sort of black eye doesn’t help Sadr, who still views himself as a major political force in Iraq.

Additionally, the Mahdi Army’s latest ill-fated adventure hardly builds confidence in Iran, which has invested millions in supporting Muqtadr al-Sadr and his fighters. Mr. Dreyfus notes that Iraqi lawmakers flew to Tehran during the recent uprising, asking for Iran’s help in ending the fighting. Elements of the Iranian government (most notably the military’s Qods Force) agreed, and Sadr issued his cooperation edict within hours. According to the Nation’s analyst, Iran’s eagerness to help is another example weakness in the Maliki government.

But that narrative seems to contradict the facts. If things were going swimmingly in Basra (and elsewhere), Iran had no incentive to lean on Sadr. On the other hand, if the Mahdi Army was taking unsustainable losses, Iran had ample reason to call a truce. We should also point out that the cease-fire (so far) is one-sided affair. According to Mr. Roggio, the Iraqi government has not called for an cessation of hostilities, and military operations continue.




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78 Comments:

Blogger Ash said...

Success depends upon achieving ones stated goals does it not. Didn't Malaki vow to fight to the end, to require the militias to disarm. Instead he sued for peace in Iran even after receiving US assistance in his quest and now the British have rescinded their withdrawal. You call that victory? I presume you are relishing the fruits of Israels victory over Hezbollah as well?

4/02/2008 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger mark said...

Success depends on achieving one's stated goals, indeed. One notices in Iraq, however, that the path to stated goals is never a very direct path. Mr. Maliki is not only surviving but seems to be building a coalition as he proceeds. I haven't seen the poll numbers recently, but there seems to be considerable Iraqi satisfaction with the Maliki government. And there will be more satisfaction once the government brings all oil production under the protection of the central government. This protection seems to be what the Basra operation is all about, no?

4/02/2008 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

The key as to who is winning is that Sadr is calling for a cease fire and the Iraqi army is ignoring it. A drive through the baddest Mahdi neighborhood is about as in-your-face as it gets.

If the Mahdi army is not responding it is because they cannot not because they all became nice guys overnight.

4/02/2008 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Peter Boston, the Qom guy and Al Sadr issued instructions for the Madhi to stand down, with the understanding that the Iraqi Government and its forces would continue. There was no negotiation, what there was, is capitulation.

4/02/2008 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger joe buz said...

Ah, so pleasant that we can sit in our comfortable offices or homes and discuss who's propaganda is worthy of belief. It has long been accepted that Muqi gets his marching orders from across the eastern border. Why would any lover of freedom believe or root for his bosses?

4/02/2008 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

The fact that Sadr is still kicking is victory enough for him, just as the Gulf War was a victory for Saddam. He is transitioning to a political leader and will get some points with his people for calling a cease fire. Those who don't follow his orders will be killed, proving Sadr's wisdom. Maybe Iran is the big loser here. I don't think they have complete control over Sadr. Much as I would like to see justice done in his case, he might be useful to Maliki for keeping order and preventing unnecessary direct confrontations. It makes Maliki seem more reasonable as well. Compromise is the essence of democracy, but the government has to be in charge.

4/02/2008 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Ash,
Did you miss the last sentence?

"According to Mr. Roggio, the Iraqi government has not called for an cessation of hostilities, and military operations continue."

Seems the only scenario left painting a victory for Iran is Kevin's, namely that Maliki is merely an Iranian Proxy, and they didn't want him humiliated.
Right?

4/02/2008 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

The War Nerd has a great article on just this issue. It is well worth your reading it all. He even directly addresses some of your assertions. Here are a few excerpts:

"What happened in Iraq this week was a beautiful lesson in the weird laws of guerrilla warfare. Unfortunately, it was the Americans who got schooled. Even now, people at my office are saying, “We won, right? Sadr told his men to give up, right?”

Wrong. Sadr won big. Iran won even bigger. Maliki, Petraeus and Cheney lost.

For people raised on stories of conventional war, where both sides fight all-out until one side loses and gives up, what happened in Iraq this past week makes no sense at all. Sadr’s Mahdi Army was humiliating the Iraq Army on all fronts. In Basra, the Army’s grand offensive, code-named “The Charge of the Knights,” got turned into “The Total Humiliation of the Knights,” like something out of an old Monty Python skit.

Thousands of police who were supposed to be backing up the Iraqi Army either refused to fight or defected to Sadr’s Mahdi Army. In Basra, the Iraqi Army was stopped dead and clearly in danger of being crushed or forced to retreat from the city. In Baghdad, Sadr’s militia was rocketing the Green Zone non-stop—not a good look for the “Surge is working” PR drive—and driving the Iraqi Army clean out of the 2-million-man Shia slum, Sadr City. And in every poor Shia neighborhood in cities and towns all over Iraq, new branches of the Mahdi Army were forming up and attacking the government forces.

Then, after four days of uninterruptedly kicking Iraqi Army ass, Sadr graciously announces that he’s telling his men to end their “armed appearances” on the streets. Makes no sense, right? Nah, it makes a ton of sense, but you have to stop thinking of Gettysburg and Stalingrad and think long and slow, like a guerrilla. "

snip

"By the time a homegrown group like Sadr’s is ready to “announce itself” on the streets, it’s put in years of serious grassroots work winning over the locals block by block. The Mahdi Army runs its own little world in the neighborhoods it controls. It distributes food to the poor, deals out rough justice to the local crims, and runs the checkpoints that keep Sunni suicide bombers off the block. It’s the home team, the Oakland Raiders times one million, for people in places like Sadr City. You can’t eradicate it without eradicating the whole neighborhood—or making it so rich that people don’t need a gang. That’s probably the only sure way to end guerrilla wars: make the locals so rich they’re not interested in gang life any more, turning them into Sean John Combs-alikes. And that’s not going to happen any time soon for the two or three million people crammed into places like Sadr City. Until then, the Mahdi Army is their team and they’re sticking by it.

By attacking Sadr’s neighborhoods this week, Maliki’s troops pushed the Shia masses closer to Sadr; and by losing, they made the slum people prouder than ever of their home team. That’s what you get when you go for a “defining moment” in guerrilla war."

snip

" And like I have to keep saying over and over, the purely military hardware aspect of this sort of war is the least important factor of all. The Iraqi Army had the weaponry on their side, and they got their asses kicked by the Sadrists, because the Sadrists were defending their home neighborhoods, those stinking slums that mean the whole world to people who live there. Victory in insurgency is a matter of morale, and you build it slowly, the way Mao said, by helping the locals in their dull little civvie lives. Then, when the army comes to try to take you down, they don’t have a chance, because you’ve prepped the neighborhood well, the locals are your eyes and ears, and it just plain doesn’t mean as much to the government troops as it does to your cadre who were raised there. That’s why Hezbollah’s part-time amateurs were able to beat the Israeli professionals in 2006, and that’s why Sadr was ahead of the game when he called the fight off this week. It’s like what Suvorov said: train hard, fight easy."

snip


"ike Hezbollah, the Sadrists cooperate with Iran, but no way in the world are they Iranian puppets. In fact, it’s “our” Shia group, the Badr Brigades—the core of the Iraqi Army—that has an embarrassing history of fighting for the Iranians against their own country, Iraq. But that doesn’t mean they’re Iraqi puppets either.

When Iraqi Shi’ites want to insult each other, they accuse each other of being pro-Iranian, and it is an accusation. They buy the idea of an “Iraqi nation,” as long as it’s their gang running it. One thing you can absolutely count on in the Middle East is that every clan, every sect, is going to look out for itself. The middle-class Shia are using us; Sadr’s using Iran; but they’re both out for themselves. Sadr would probably have been willing to cooperate with us, if Bremer hadn’t pushed him into rebellion in 2004. So it’s a mistake to think of any of these groups as having permanent alliances. They’re practical people."

snip

"f you’ve learned your lesson here, you should be able to answer that question now. Sadr called off his boys for lots of good reasons:

1. The first job of a guerrilla army is to stay alive. That’s much more important than winning a Western-style victory. The Mahdi Army is intact, ready for the next round.

2. The next most important job of a guerrilla army is to maintain and grow its support in the neighborhood. Sadr has his own constituency—and I mean that literally, since all the Shia groups are positioning themselves for elections this Fall. By calling off the fight, he spares his people further gore and destruction and comes off as the compassionate defender of the poor. Just in time for campaign season.

3. A guerrilla army facing occupiers with a monopoly on air power is committing suicide by going for total victory on the ground, seizing an entire city or district. Just ask the Sunni, who bunkered up in Fallujah and got slaughtered. By melting back into the civilian population, the Sadrists are now invulnerable to air attack.

4. After four straight days of failure by the Badr Brigade/Iraqi Army, the US was frustrated enough to start committing American ground troops to the assault on Sadr. That would have meant serious casualties for the Mahdi Army, as it did when they took on US forces in 2004. Not that they’re afraid to die for their neighborhood—Shias? You kidding me?—but because it would be stupid to die fighting the Americans when everyone in Iraq knows the US just doesn’t figure much in the long term.

Sadr’s not afraid of us, he and his commanders just see us as a dangerous nuisance, like a chained pit bull they have to step around. Ten years from now, every player in the current game will still be playing this slow, shady game, except one: the Americans."

http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=18297&IBLOCK_ID=35&PAGE=1

4/02/2008 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Why is it that only the obvious lefties copy and paste obnoxiously long dribble?

4/02/2008 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

I excerpted it for you because I know closed minded folk like you would never risk your cherished misconceptions by actually following the link and reading the whole article.

4/02/2008 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

M K Bhadrakumar at Asia Times has another take on it. He's of the opinion that Iran has made everyone else look foolish by brokering the cease-fire. The Anglos have been thwarted in their dastardly plot to start guzzling all the luscious petroleum in Basra. (Hmmm ... I'll bet we could buy a lot of oil for the price of this war. Maybe there's another reason.)

How can this be the same paper that publishes Spengler?

4/02/2008 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger joe buz said...

Or maybe the Iranian puppet masters instructed Muqi to stand down until they were ready in a month or so to open a two front offensive. One in Basra the other in the Golan.

4/02/2008 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The War Nerd resides in Fresno.
This guy's in Baghdad:

From Iraq: Observations of a USMC Liason to the ISF

Stories highlighting defections. It was reported yesterday that 40
Iraqi Police (IP) defected to "join the militia movement". This is most
likely true. However, the IP consists of tens of thousands of personnel
and that number equates to less than half of 1% of the IPs. This should not be viewed as a systemic issue and represents an improvement on several orders of magnitude from years ago when defections were far greater in magnitude and scope.

4/02/2008 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Our man in Baghdad says the Rockets were driving a wedge between the people and Sadr's Islamic "Soldiers."

4/02/2008 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger 2164th said...

My previous comments on a previous thread stands. Basra was a disaster and the Iraqi government toothless to protect itself or inspire a country. Actually I said it was a stinking pile of shit. I guess a trillion or two just doesn't do as much nation building as one would expect.

Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe reports:

"Iraq: In Al-Basrah Aftermath, Iran's And Al-Sadr's Gain Is Al-Maliki's Loss
By Sumedha Senanayake

Al-Sadr remains a force in Iraq
(epa)
The Iraqi government's operation in Al-Basrah was billed as a decisive battle to regain control of the southern city from what it called armed gangs and criminals. But the real focus of the operation seems to have been radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, the Imam Al-Mahdi Army.

The intense response by al-Sadr's followers across southern Iraq and Baghdad seemed to catch the government off-guard. As the violence and instability spread, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government faced what appeared to be a widespread insurrection. At that point, a military option did not seem feasible.

On March 30, after nearly a week of fighting, al-Sadr issued a nine-point statement calling on his followers not to attack government forces. He urged the government to stop its random raids on Sadrists, called for an amnesty for fighters in the Al-Mahdi Army, and the release of all imprisoned members of the Sadrist movement who have not been convicted of any crimes.

Iran Plays Both Sides

Several days after al-Sadr's cease-fire call, it emerged that Iran helped broker the truce that ended the bloodshed that left nearly 500 dead and 900 wounded. In the aftermath of the Al-Basrah conflict, Iran clearly emerged as the big winner.

Several sources indicated as early as March 28 that a representative of al-Maliki's Al-Da'wah Party, Ali Adib, and Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Badr Organization, the military wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), traveled to the Iranian city of Qom to meet with Iranian officials.

According to McClatchy Newspapers, the aim of the trip was twofold: to press al-Sadr to restrain his militia and to call on Iran's Qods Force to stop supplying weapons to Shi'ite fighters in Iraq. It was also revealed that the two men went to Iran without consulting with the prime minister.

Haidar al-Abadi, a member of Al-Da'wah, said that the delegation was from the Shi'ite-led United Iraqi Alliance, which is dominated by Al-Da'wah and the ISCI, "and the prime minister was only informed. It was a political maneuver by us."

The role of Iran in brokering the truce clearly demonstrates the Islamic republic's influence in Iraq, particularly in the Shi'ite community. Based on what was discussed in Qom, Iran was playing both sides of the fence, as peace brokers and instigators of the violence.

Al-Sadr Remains Strong

While the military confrontation ended essentially in a stalemate, al-Sadr came away with a political victory. His militia remains intact and he has demonstrated that it can withstand a major assault by the Iraqi military.

The aftermath of the clashes also showed that al-Sadr still has control over his militia. There had been much speculation that al-Sadr had lost control of the Al-Mahdi Army and that some breakaway factions were not heeding his authority. The Al-Basrah clashes and subsequent cease-fire demonstrated that he was still in charge.

While his militia were clearly not a passive actor in the Al-Basrah violence, their armed struggle was framed in the context of self-defense. The Iraqi security forces were seen as the aggressors in launching the military campaign, which many Sadrists described as politically motivated.

As it became clear during the Al-Basrah operation that the Al-Mahdi Army was the main target, al-Sadr continued to adhere to the truce he declared for the militia. The truce was instituted in August 2007 after his forces clashed with police in the holy city of Al-Najaf. There were concerns recently that the increased pressure on the Al-Mahdi Army might push al-Sadr to end the truce.

Maintaining the truce gave the appearance that al-Sadr was willing to place Iraq's benefits above his own political ambitions, which he stressed in the nine-point statement that led to the current cease-fire. In it, he supported Iraq's unity by calling for an "end to armed appearances in Al-Basrah and all other provinces."

Considering his bravado when his militia took on the U.S. military twice in 2004, al-Sadr's actions during the latest confrontation suggested his growing maturity as a political leader.

Huge Blow To Al-Maliki

For al-Maliki, the results of the "Battle for Al-Basrah" were certainly humiliating, given that he personally oversaw the military campaign. Al-Maliki hoped to erase the perception that he is a weak and ineffectual leader, particularly in dealing with al-Sadr and his militia. However, soon after the operation began, it was apparent that al-Maliki greatly overestimated the abilities of his forces and underestimated the tenacity of al-Sadr's militia.

Al-Maliki had vowed to crush the Shi'ite militias, armed gangs, and criminals that effectively controlled the city for three years. He initially gave all armed elements in Al-Basrah 72 hours to disarm, but after this was ignored, the deadline was extended to 10 days, coupled with an offer of cash in exchange for weapons.

In an operation that was planned to be completed quickly, Iraqi security forces were met with strong resistance from al-Sadr's militia, despite U.S. air support. Defense Minister Abd al-Qadir Jasim admitted on March 28 that the government had been "surprised" by the militia's resistance and the government's battle plan and tactics had to be altered.

More troubling for al-Maliki, "Al-Azzam" reported on March 31 that several thousand police officers had refused to fight the militia and two Iraqi Army regiments reportedly defected to the Sadrists. If numerous acts of insubordination and desertion indeed took place during the operation, this would indicate the low level of morale among the security forces.

In the end, al-Maliki declared the operation a "success." However, his words may ring hollow since he failed to disarm and crush al-Sadr's militia, and this may have weakened him politically in the eyes of his ruling Shi'ite alliance.

The revelation that members of his own Shi'ite alliance, including from his own Al-Da'wah Party, went to Iran against his wishes to broker a truce further undercuts his authority and ultimately his credibility.

Thorn In Washington's Side

U.S. support for the Al-Basrah operation has become considerably more muted since it was first launched. On March 30, CIA Director Michael Hayden told NBC News that he had no prior knowledge that the Iraqi government planned to launch such a campaign. In fact, he even indicated that U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and U.S. commander in Iraq General David Petraeus were also left in the dark about the operation.

This could be a sign of tacit disapproval of al-Maliki's handling of the operation as well as the administration distancing itself from it in order to offset any potential embarrassment before Crocker and Petraeus testify before Congress in June.

The failure of the operation also makes clear that the Iraqi military is far from prepared to take over responsibility for security. This does not bode well for the United States, since it is an indication that troop reductions maybe further delayed.

Al-Sadr's performance again shows that the young cleric is a major political force in Iraq who cannot be ignored. Many saw the Al-Basrah campaign as a means of weakening al-Sadr before the provincial elections now set for the fall. Now it seems that he may be a long-term political player and the United States may have to work with him, whether it likes it or not.

Finally, in terms of Iran, the United States can't be too pleased that Tehran was where Iraqi Shi'ite leaders turned to in a crisis -- yet another stark indication of the growing Iranian influence in Iraq.

4/02/2008 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"This offensive is not against Sadr or a particular religious sect.
This Government of Iraq has done a very good job of publicizing and conveying to the people of this country that they are not targeting a sect, they are targeting criminal elements that serve oppress this country and the government.

This conveyance has been confirmed in many conversations I have had with numerous Iraqi's (from senior Ministry of Oil officials, middle management, to the janitors who live in Sadr City and work in my building, to include all sects).
Many see this as the right action, as strengthening the Government and as courage from the Prime Minister, even I didn't believe that.

When you here that coming from a White House press secretary, you tend to not believe it, however, when it comes from the people who live in the very society it affects, it carries more significance.
"

4/02/2008 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

Doug, all those insights from a USMC Liason ensconced in the Green zone who must dodge incoming mortars regularly. Or, as he wrote:

"Finally, it is very real that easy targets such as the IZ have been
frequently targeted in the last week and that will most likely continue
for the interim. While I know how to keep myself fairly safe and
maintain the highest chance of survival, there is an element of chance
that is very tangible, but I like to believe my being Irish is going to
assist me on that end."

4/02/2008 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger tagryn said...

Guys, excerpts should be no more than a couple of paragraphs, combined with a link to the full document. If you can't do the courtesy of following basic netiquette, don't be surprised if everybody skips over your post entirely. That goes double when it isn't your blog and you're just a commenter.

And no, it isn't 'all so vital that its essential that everybody reads the whole thing', so that snipping is impossible. It just means you were too lazy to go to the trouble of doing more than a cut-and-paste.

4/02/2008 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

He said he'd rather be launching Hellfires at the mortar boys Ash, but that the guys in the Red Zone called in frequently to ask if he was OK.
---
tagryn,
They figure if Benj can do it, so can they!
We'll see if your well timed advice has the desired effect.

4/02/2008 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Ditch said...

ash and 2164th, so many of the things said by both mainstream media and liberal analysts about the situation strike me as puzzling.

For instance, ash, in your first reply you say that Maliki went to Iran to ask for peace. Then that becomes other Iraqi politicians, who were asking Iran to stop arming Sadr, and get him to call off his men. Sadr is in the pocket of Iran, why not go to Iran? It is said that Iran, in telling Sadr to back down, has "won" and has proven its "importance" to the Shia community. But who ever implied that Iran was powerless? How has Iran won unless Iraq's government caved in substantially?

Maliki 'caved in' to the extent that Coalition forces 'caved in' elsewhere in the country. In Anbar, we told the populace to disband, they did not but allowed troops to enter. In Anbar we began to sign up men both for official and unofficial security jobs. And what is the picture on Bill Roggio's report today? Hundreds in Basra clamoring to join the Iraqi military. Wait, wasn't the Iraqi military humiliated? Shouldn't that throng be yelling at the military to leave, rather than asking to join? The bottom line is, Maliki moderated demands but did not capitulate and is intent on controlling the force of arms in Basra. That same calculation has worked across the country. Right now the vast bulk of visible proof as to who yielded to whom points to Iran and its forces ceding to the desires of Maliki, not the other way around.

ash, your lengthy quote of the 'war nerd' is long on partisan point-scoring, and short on demonstrable fact. For instance, saying that thousands of Iraqi troops deserted and switched sides: I have seen this stated twice by liberal commentators and have yet to see a news source for it. That the Iraqi military was resisted more heavily and in more places than was anticipated, that is granted, but the casualty numbers are so one-sided in the military's favor that I see no way to say things like "after four days of uninterruptedly kicking Iraqi Army ass" with a straight face. To cover up the obviousness of the numbers with spin about guerrila tactics being such that it makes sense to give up is to not only obscure the truth, but to actively propagandize for the enemy. If Iraqi forces were being repulsed and crushed and turned on from within, their casualty numbers would be headline-level high rather than nowhere to be seen.

This strikes me as an Iraqi Tet. Reported immediately by the media as a huge loss for the US, lapped up by doves as the same, while the hard data actually says the opposite. Unless quite a lot of pro-Sadr hard data has yet to emerge, signs point to Sadrite/Iranian propaganda being more effective than Sadrite/Iranian arms.

I am baffled by the relative lack of attention this is being given in the blogosphere. I am confident that the more light is shed, the less triumphant the doves will be about Sadr's "victory".

4/02/2008 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Ash Brecher is an idiot who constantly feuds with Victor Davis Hanson and called for his vineyard to be burned down over Hanson's support for the Iraq War.

That ought to tell you about Brecher's maturity level, ability to think and reason, and his judgment on any particular issue.

More to the point, Brecher is consistently wrong about nearly everything in military affairs. His main point is that guerillas are unstoppable and conventional military operations "outmoded." Which would surprise the survivors of the Iran-Iraq War, those in Chechnya, and those of Hezbollah-Israel.

Brecher's main point is that by surviving, and propaganda, and the weakness of the Iraqi Police, Sadr "won." To make this point he has to ignore Sadr's losses in men who CANNOT BE REPLACED. The Iraqi ARMY has a much larger manpower pool, and with the "deal" in place to share power can crush Sadr with manpower from the Sunnis, Kurds, as well as Maliki backers.

Sadr has only his own militia forces which are limited, and Iran's Qods Force which while substantial has reasons not to commit too many men to the fight. [Mostly for fear of provoking a war with Iraq again before they have nukes and while Iraq has US Air Power and the Navy at it's side. Along with the need to keep Qods Force in Iran to help with power-struggles.]

Brecher ignores that the Iraqi Army did not fold or collapse. That they took casualties and gave out far more. That attrition warfare benefits THEM and hurts SADR. He exaggerates the losses of Maliki's IA and the gains of Sadr (which were more like retreats of territory).

Who won? The side that keeps increasing it's territory. Which would be Maliki and the IA, fighting "American Style" with professional operations.

Brecher in short is an idiot who ignores facts on the ground for his thesis that anti-American guerillas are twenty feet tall and invincible.

I would agree that between Maliki and Sadr's band of thieves there is not much to choose from other than Maliki is more amenable to our interests because he needs our patronage. But rationally, in the game of national interest, that is enough. Yes by all means take the word of a Pat Buchanon, Isolationist paleocon with a long record of poor judgment and bad prognostication in Fresno over Roggio, a professional military man on the ground at the scene.

4/02/2008 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

I'll stand by my interpretation from the beginning of the fight (I live in Ohio, by the way): Iran wanted "live fire" works for the fifth anniversary of the invasion so the media could pee on anyone foolish enough to schedule a parade. They wanted "the big show" for the Aug./Oct period to get Obama elected. They probably have enough juice for two months of mayhem. Instead, Maliki used the excuse of the "Mahdi fireworks" to give them the big show early.

Iran risked losing its assets in Iraq. So it called on some politicians it owns among the Shiites to come negotiate "the truce." It makes it tough for Maliki to go on killing Mahdi army fighters when they want to stop fighting.

What he needs to do now is go after their infrastructure and leadership. I suspect they have lost a lot of their strength outside of Basra (the Iraqi Army should take out what's left). If the fighters have been forced into a few neighborhoods in Basra they may need to behave or lose their sanctuaries when the locals turn against them. It will be hard for them to behave.

4/02/2008 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

ceasefire, truce, hunda...

it's all crap...

the enemy has declared war and has shown no mercy to thousands of innocents...

it's time to say to hamas, iran, hezbollah, sadr and anyone like that, you want war?

you get war, that means, complete and utter destruction of your home base...

forget food, water, electricity, medicine or even the UN...

dont start something your not prepared to finish...

it's time to coat the bullets in pig fat and start shooting...

4/02/2008 03:02:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

From Iraq: Observations of a USMC Liason to the ISF
Basra:
"The Iraq Army has cordoned off the city and is methodically advancing to
allow residents to leave the city amidst the fighting, militants to turnover arms while gradually isolating the factions they intend to uproot.

This is a stark contrast from tactics used during "Saddam times" where indiscriminant death and destruction were used to rule by fear.

The methodology is symbolic because it demonstrates that the Army and the GoI are not indiscriminately targeting the population, it also demonstrates military and governmental confidence and strength
."

4/02/2008 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

"Sadr’s Mahdi Army was humiliating the Iraq Army on all fronts."

By losing men wholesale. Who knew that was the way to humiliate a foe most effectively?

This is a obviously continuing struggle which people are trying to analyze as if it were all said and done. It is a struggle in which one side is continuing to fight and go after its goals, and from which the other side has decided to attempt to disengage. Generally one doesn't try to disengage from a battle they're winning. . .unless they're the USA.

4/02/2008 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Nichevo said...

Ash said...

I excerpted it for you because I know closed minded folk like you would never risk your cherished misconceptions by actually following the link and reading the whole article.


Actually, Ash, if you had been kind enough to lead with the URL, exile.ru, I could have skipped your post entirely. The fact that you did not...well, it's like a meeting some friends at college dragged me to. All hush-hush. The sales pitch went on for like two hours before (well, it ended and then) they naed themselves: AMWAY.

If I'd'a known that, I'd'a never needed to waste my Saturday afternoon. But you only wasted a little of my time. Nonetheless I cannot really thank you.

4/02/2008 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger Nichevo said...

Of course I could have taken the shortcut of skipping past any post headed with your name, Ash. If you prefer people to do that, just screw all Netiquette and keep on the way you're going.

4/02/2008 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger xwraith said...

Wretchard,

Would you call this a spoiling attack? Something designed to disrupt the tempo of events down south? The idea that Iran would try to do something to influence the US elections does resonate with me. It would then be a logical move by the Iraqi government to disrupt such a plan.

4/02/2008 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

...the United States can't be too pleased that Tehran was where Iraqi Shi'ite leaders turned to in a crisis ....

Of course it's totally impossible that the Iraqi's flew to Iran, wandered around counting things, read paperwork upside down on the other guy's desk, sniffed the air for bad vibrations, or watched for Persians eye twitches, and then reported to American intelligence once they got back to Baghdad.

I mean, given how close they are to Iran and all, it makes total sense that they'd prefer Iranian assistance to American. Americans who marched into Baghdad in 8 days when Iran couldn't do it in 8 years.

Just forget those little wars the two countries have had, the tens of thousands of dead men and boys, the fact that Iran has been trying like hell to foment a civil war in Iraq for several years now, or that Iran is responsible for blowing up one of Iraq's major mosque/shrines.

Geez, liberal doods, in your desperation to disparage America are you *really* that stupid that you don't know your history, timeline or sequence of events, and how dare you assume the rest of us are as dumb as you are!

4/02/2008 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger Nichevo said...

Not assuming, nahn, more like hoping. Or maybe "wishing will make it so?"

That's good, I didn't think of that one. After all, my first thought was of hearing of this end-run was, Hmm, new vacancies in Maliki's government. Probably new vacancies in their homes and families, too.

But for some reason I think a man like Ahmadinejad might be a real sucker for that sort of thing, as long as you lay the proper salaam aleikum-death to Israel and USA trip on him.

Maybe it's the cheap suits, maybe it's the notion of seeing halos around speakers at the UN, maybe it's appearing to sincerely believe there are no gays in all of Iran. But he does somehow strike one as willing to believe that you'll only put it in a little bit.

4/02/2008 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

This seems like a sober referee's card.

4/02/2008 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...


Sadr as Wile e. Coyote.


In the first part of the cartoon, The Coyote is invincible ... and then there's the rest of the story.

4/02/2008 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger deepinjuncountry said...

Desertions are good, it helps to show who's who.

I just love the assumption that the Iraqi Shia can't wait to give their power and their country to the Persians. We're talking tribal here, folks. It doesn't get more basic than that.

The road from Baghdad to Teheran runs both ways. And so does who's using whom.

4/02/2008 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Who is the guerrilla is Basra? If Moqtada as-Sadr is the guerrilla, then he obviously won. But what if the Iraqi government is the guerrilla?

The Iraqi federal government’s power in Basra exists in name only; the militias of Basra have effectively run the joint for several years. Any credible attempt to enforce governmental authority over Basra will necessarily increase public support for the government, for federal government’s credibility in Basra is zero to begin with.

Although Ngo Dinh Diem is now seen as a failed despot, there were reasons why Americans supported him in the 1950’s; he decisively defeated the Binh Xuyen bandits. Although Diem controlled South Vietnam in theory, the Binh Xuyen bandits were the real lords of Saigon. They outgunned him, they outmanned him, and they had more money, but the Binh Xuyen didn’t have Diem’s courage under fire. They lost. Against the power of the Binh Xuyen, Diem could be considered to be the guerrilla even though he was theoretically the head of state.

I think it is a mistake to assume that the title of “government” necessarily keeps someone from acting as the underdog.

4/02/2008 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger Coyotl said...

Just forget those little wars the two countries have had, the tens of thousands of dead men and boys, the fact that Iran has been trying like hell to foment a civil war in Iraq for several years now, or that Iran is responsible for blowing up one of Iraq's major mosque/shrines.

Ummm, Nahncee, where did Nouri al-Maliki spend the Iraq-Iran War? On what side did Dawa and SCIRI fight during that war? Do you even know who Dawa and SCIRI are? Astonishing ignorance, if it weren't so sadly tendentious.

4/02/2008 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

coytl - just fyi - you're an idiot and an ass and I rarely read your posts any more, because you're also usually too damned long-winded. so you might as well hold off any further fire on me, because this is the last time I'll respond.

4/02/2008 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/02/2008 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

NahnCee said:

"coytl - just fyi - you're an idiot and an ass and I rarely read your posts any more, because you're also usually too damned long-winded."

Short and to the point.

4/02/2008 11:18:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

I would not discount the wisdom and courage and efficiency of men like Saddam and Ahmadinejad in their own environment. Saddam was a political assassin and had many violent brushes with opponents where he risked death. In his early years you could not call him a coward. Ahmadinejad is a man who personally executed Khomeni's enemies and by some accounts had been on the Shah's short list, shortly before the Shah abdicated. Sadr seems the same kind of guy.

But if they are the hedgehog, knowing only one big thing, how to kill, keep on killing, and kill some more, it's not always enough. Wielding power effectively in the modern age means you need other people to accept you in some manner as a leader. You must deliver at least some benefits to your power base. And ruling entirely by fear and intimidation has it's limits. If nothing else efficiency and utility of the military are pared down in coup-prevention.

Sadr cannot expand from his base, because of who he is. Another thug. Out-gunned by the US military, and faced off by others, thuggish also, but who are able to move beyond pure thuggery into actual Western-style leadership from time to time. To build somewhat-consensual arrangements with other power brokers, tribes, etc.

Sadr outside Iran holds the losing hand because he can't expand. And Iran won't help him beyond certain limits, they have boundaries as well.

However, all of that is perhaps a sideshow. WaPo reports that Iran's nuke program has both Saudi and Turkey nuking up as quickly as possible. Saudi is terrified, and Turkey feels that only a balance of forces prevents Iran from making inroads on Anatolia. [Turk-Persian rivalry is very, very old.]

4/02/2008 11:52:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Let me add, a nuclear Turkey has profound implications. Greece cannot afford to let Turkey go nuclear without nukes of it's own. NATO has proven ineffective in protecting them. They may well look to Russia as a patron, particularly since they abhor the Kosovars, Albanians, and Macedons all who have overt US/EU/NATO patronage and designs on Greece itself. And are Muslims to boot.

Many of the Balkan nations will also nuke up, they like Greece have negative experience with the Turks. You can expect Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary at a minimum to join Greece in nuclear weapons if Turkey starts developing them. They could probably obtain them fairly quickly.

The effects on Italy and Germany of course would be profound. There would be considerable pressure in the foundering of NATO to nuke up as well, given the manpower shortage in those nations.

Whoever nukes up first is like the nation in 1914 who mobilizes first. They can crush their enemy with impunity. Very dangerous.

4/02/2008 11:58:00 PM  
Blogger putnam said...

Talismangate has a great blog titled "the intifada that wasn't". He says Sadr got his butt kicked and I agree.

http://talismangate.blogspot.com/2008/03/intifada-that-wasnt.html

Over the last 5 years the coalition has slowly eliminated or "brought into the political process" the most difficult factions. The bathist's, then Al Queda are now pretty much elimited. As each group is taken down the coalition has more resources to use taking down the next. Now Sadr has been taken down a notch. It is purely liberal wishful thinking that this was somehow a major defeat for the coalition. But then they have been fantasizing about out defeat and humiliation for 5 years.

Unfortunately for them, reality can't be long denied. And they will get another taste of it when they run their marxist barry against McCain.

4/03/2008 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

U.S. Cites Planning Gaps in Iraqi Assault on Basra
Good article with many sources, including Crocker.
---
Normal Life Starts to Return as Iraqi Forces Regain Control in Basra (April 3, 2008)

4/03/2008 05:20:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

1/ Macedonians are NOT muslims. They are orthodox christians.

2/ The Greeks mofos will get zero sympathy from me as long as they continue with their anti American and anti Israeli stance. As for the islamo Turks, I prefer that Russia smash them into dust, as they have a proven record on that score. The same kind thinking should apply to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.

4/03/2008 05:21:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Basra and American interests

But Mr. al-Maliki is still Prime Minister and still controls Iraq’s security forces, consisting of hundreds of thousands in the ranks and backed by the Americans.

Al-Sadr, meanwhile, still is in hiding in Iran.
Every time the Mahdi Army musters on the streets, hundreds are cut down and hundreds more captured.

And for all of his popularity, al-Sadr’s political party earned one of the smaller vote totals among the Shi’ite parties at the last election; his violent overreaching since then may not have improved his popularity.

And even though al-Maliki’s government forces supposedly lost the battle on Basra’s streets, government security operations in the south continue, with
armed government convoys patrolling areas

some analysts said they would never enter .

4/03/2008 05:31:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Daily Briefings

1. Iranian media reports Iran, Pakistan to embark on scientific cooperation in various fields. Meanwhile, AQ Khan is said to be demanding his freedom in Pakistan.

2. Tensions, fears rise as ‘rumors of war’ persist concerning Syria, Israel.

3. Ayman Zawahiri proclaims that al-Qaeda does not kill innocent people. Within same message, he threatens Egypt and Jews.

4. As new Pakistani government embarks on laying out a softer approach to terrorists within, US is asked not to take any direct military action.

5. Saudi Arabia is seen as the largest single source of funds for international terrorists globally.

4/03/2008 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I prefer that Russia smash them into dust...

When was the last time Russia was able to get it together to smash ANYthing into dust? Russia is busted. I know they've got oil money coming in, but you're looking at a country with virtually no infrastructure. At least they seem to be able to feed themselves, but next to the Ivans, rebuilding Iraq is a cakewalk.

It makes more sense to hope that Israel will start smashing our enemies into dust, than to hope for a swaggering but drunken and povertry-stricken Russia to do anything except to rattle what few functioning missiles they might have left from 1965.

4/03/2008 06:17:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/03/2008 06:38:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

NahnCee,

The Russians manage just fine until the US starts interfering. They don't need billion dollar a copy F22s and F35s to turn a muslim city into rubble. Nor do they have any "moral compunction" in doing so.

4/03/2008 06:39:00 AM  
Blogger RattlerGator said...

putnam, here's the link to that Talisman post:

The Intifada That Wasn't

There are still so many folks so desperately hoping for American failure that we simply must be getting the job done.

4/03/2008 06:44:00 AM  
Blogger Soldier's Dad said...

If success was achieving ones "Stated Goal" every business in the world would be broke.

In business...success is called profits...which is completely different than the stated goal of every company...which is to provide some goods or services to buyers. The stated goal is always in some way to improve the buyers life.

France's stated goal in the US Revoultionary war was to help a "Fledgling Country" or some such nonsense...in reality it was to pull British troops away the main battle with France.

This whole but "Sadr Lives to Fight Another Day" nonsense is just that...the Iraqi Army Ordered 200,000 more rifles and 8,000 more trucks two weeks ago.

If Moqtada can't win decisively now...what are his chances when those additional 200,000 rifles get matched up with boots?

The only strings Iran is pulling is helping the Iraqi Government to decide that it needs an even bigger Army.

The Iraqi Army Training Programs are currently churning out a Brigade a Month from Besmaya..it took the US Army 5 years to grow from 33 to 43 combat Brigades...it took the Iraqi Army 10 months.

Mallki finds that he's a bit short on troops in Basra...no problemo...just call down to the Besmaya training complex and order up some more brigades. He can "Surge" an additional brigade per month into Basra indefinitely...just as General Patraeus "surged" an additional Brigade per month into Baghdad last spring.

Iraq has 5.8 military age males...if Iran wants a 5.8 million man Army on its border it just needs to keep up playing games. One would think that the Iranians would have learned from the Iran-Iraq War that its not the best idea to have an oversized Army sitting on ones border.

4/03/2008 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

The whole point of the Brecher (war nerd) article is that it is not a traditional military conflict where one surges battalions and counts the number and quality of arms. Rather it is a guerrilla war where one side is the rooted in the community, lives in the community, and is the community. You can't win a traditional battle against such a foe vanquishing the enemy troops freeing the civilians to lead a happy life. SD your ratios of deployed military/police vs. the population is more applicable then the number of battalions which can be surged. In Iraq it appears the the Iraqi Army/Iraqi Police are primarily one faction of Iraqi society instead of an armed force comprising all of the various groups fighting for the Iraqi state. I realize the US is trying to make this otherwise but that task is far from complete.

4/03/2008 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Evanston2 said...

Soldier's Dad, excellent points. Add to that the fact that the Iraqi Army just went toe-to-toe with a feared opponent and is still fighting while the other guy capitulated.
Sure, they had (and will have) U.S. fire support but winning begets winning. Particularly in an army (I was 22 years in the USMC) confidence is the most fragile thing. Guys like Ash have no clue. Iraqi sovereignty has been restored by the Iraqi Shia.

With respect to comments by Coyotl, the Iraqi Shia are still Iraqi. Coyotl notes that many Shia groups fought on Iran's side in the Iran/Iraq war. By that measure, Ayatollah Khomeini was Iraqi since he holed up in Iraq in the 1970s before the Islamic Revolution. What he calls "astonishing ignorance" was, in fact, a decent summary of the sweep of history in the region.
The biggest obstacle now is Mosul. Farsi and Arabic speakers are not about to join in a group hug. This latest conflict, with DAWA/SCIRI on one side and JAM on another makes that quite clear. Iraqi Shia want to run their own show in the south, not to kiss Iranian butt.

4/03/2008 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger mark said...

Soldier's Dad wrote: "If success was achieving ones 'Stated Goal' every business in the world would be broke."

Good point.

In the current war, we have stated goals and unstated goals. The unstated goal, which no official spokesperson can utter, is the taming/redirecting of violent/terroristic Islamic jihadism. Since this unstated goal assumes confrontation with one of the five pillars of Islam (jihad), and since we don't want to say that we are waging war against a pillar of Islam, the U.S. public's perception of the goals of the war is understandably confused. Hirsan Ali is probably our best weapon in pursuit of our unstated goal. Blessing and peace be upon her.

4/03/2008 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Whiskey_199: Many of the Balkan nations will also nuke up, they like Greece have negative experience with the Turks. You can expect Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary at a minimum to join Greece in nuclear weapons if Turkey starts developing them. They could probably obtain them fairly quickly.

The effects on Italy and Germany of course would be profound. There would be considerable pressure in the foundering of NATO to nuke up as well, given the manpower shortage in those nations.


Welcome to the new DOMINO EFFECT.

All of which could be nipped in the bud if we pulverized Iran's nascent nuclear R&D program and informed other aspirants that the same awaits anyone else who tries.

4/03/2008 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

or, conversely, actually adhered to the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty.

4/03/2008 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Roger said...

It seems to me that we won't know who "won" or "lost" for quite a while. What strikes me as remarkable is that for all the phoney Viet Nam comparisons, one of the biggest, most honest comparisons has just been missed.

From my perspective we have seen a reprise of the Tet Offensive and now, as then, the MSM has dutifully played its role in hailing defeat as victory. Could it be that MAS timed this action to coincide with the Crocker-Petraeus report to Congress? Indeed, Ms. Pelosi has already tried a preemtive strike should Gen Petraeus and Amb Crocker have the temerity to portray this as a victory. Sad indeed that we forget history and have to relearn it.

4/03/2008 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Sad indeed that we forget history and have to relearn it.


don't be silly -- it's much easier to just rewrite it, and then everybody's happy (except maybe for the people who were actually there)

4/03/2008 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger mark said...

Sorry to deposit a large posting. I've been reviewing the NYT on Basra and have these observations:

About the Times reporter/photographer Quis Mizher: he identifies himself as a former Saddam military officer. Whenever a photographer in Iraq manages to produce a cheesecake shot that happens to be precisely the shot that the masked men want the media to see (remember the staged photos on Haifa street taken by the 'independent' AP stringer photographer?) one must question the source and his relationship to the people in the photo. (Do the media sell out in this way? Let's not forget CNN's admission that it provided favorable coverage for Saddam for years in return for access.) Amazing how Quis produced a perfectly composed shot in all of his rushing about.

Why should anyone believe anything Quis calls in, and does the information's rewriting by a NY Times writer in Baghdad give it any additional credibility? ("This article was reported by Qais Mizher in Basra and written by James Glanz in Baghdad.") A lot of NYT stories get written by Glanz (Gordon is better), with input from the usual crew of locals, including Qais.

About photos adjacent to the Crocker article,: note that the April 3 NY Times article uses as an illustration a masked-guy AFP photo from March 28, seven days before the April 3 news event. Why? Editorial decision. The photo below it shows Maliki and sheiks, March 29, but that doesn't rate a story, even though it's probably the real story. Perhaps Quis was not available to cover that event.

The adjacent photo illustrations for page two of the April 3 story are even more ridiculously provenanced.

Quis shows up again as a contributor to Goode's "Normal Life Returns to Basra" story, which ends up being a collection of scary details from around Iraq, to frighten readers I guess.

About the Crocker article, every person interviewed says that the US didn't know much. But the US was able to deliver precision support for all of the operations, according to the rest of the story on page two. That's interesting. I suspect that the US knew every detail and claimed it knew little so that credit goes to the Iraqi troops. Maliki's government partners also denied any knowledge. Did Maliki know there was a delegation going to Iran? Who knows? Good deniability, but sounds like a good cop, bad cop routine. The question that the Times Crocker article could be asking is not whether the Iraqis had their US ducks in order but whether the Iraqis had their Iraqi ducks in order.

So . . . do I believe the Times and "reputable news sources" or some blogger such as Talisman Gate? If there is information available (e.g. who controls the ground, who's in charge, etc.), then I look for the source that can help me make best sense of it. In this case, the Times seems to gets things backwards, trying to fit the information into the "everything is all screwed up as usual and poor Iraqis suffer" meme, even when the US is providing all the support needed for the operation.

Maliki and the government made a bet and seem to be winning. The operation is not at a standstill. Most of Basra and the ports are occupied by the Iraqi army, revenues are already returning to the government via immediately increased oil exports, and the next stage of events is ready to unfold.

4/03/2008 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

Zenster has it right, we should prevent Iran froming getting nukes, but we aren't doing it.

4/03/2008 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

ya heck, why not just start a third war when you are already fighting two so successfully? How did Napoleon finally screw the pooch?

4/03/2008 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I have thought for a long time now that it's way too early to throw in the towel over Iran and it's firecrackers. If it was me, I'd have a Plan A and a Plan B.

Plan A would be to drop the hammer the instant we determine they've done a successful test. We know they're putting it together underground but I don't believe there's any way they could hide such testing from the world's seismographs.

If Plan A was not needed, then Plan B would be to drop the hammer(s) (on all their different nuke-experimenting sites around their country) the day of the inauguration of the next President, at the very last minute of Bush's authority to do so. Sort of a memorial of the way the Iranians freed their American hostages on the inaugural day of Reagan.

And for people like Ash I would very much like to understand why he thinks there's going to be a world war when NO one (except a toothless, brainless and spineless UN) will stand up for Iran, and when no Americans will actually be in danger when we defang them. Wishful thinking, thy name is Liberal Progressive Ash.

4/03/2008 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

I said nothing about a world war. We are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and you are urging taking on a third country simultaneously. On top of that we have one of the worst financial crisis since the depression and you are all gun ho. Hubris?

4/03/2008 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Think "Ash," Ash:
Nuclear Ash.

4/03/2008 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

That's a good vetting, Mark, esp of the photos, which even at the late hour I was reading looked staged.

I missed most of what you found in the text, maybe I was editing as I read, 'cause the article left me with an optimistic view!
I'll read it again today when I'm awake w/your scorecard at hand.

4/03/2008 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/03/2008 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger Coyotl said...

Evanston2 wrote:

With respect to comments by Coyotl, the Iraqi Shia are still Iraqi. Coyotl notes that many Shia groups fought on Iran's side in the Iran/Iraq war. By that measure, Ayatollah Khomeini was Iraqi since he holed up in Iraq in the 1970s before the Islamic Revolution.

A silly conflation, E2. You miss the fact that SCIRI and Dawa were founded as KHOMENEIST parties. They fought on the side of Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, and if Nahncee wants to recall the bitter emnity between the two countries for that bloodbath, then she should acknowledge the hard feelings within Iraq against SCIRI and Dawa for fighting against their fellow Iraqis. That's what Sadr used to capitalize on when he denounced his Shiite Islamist rivals as "Iranians".

Nouri al-Maliki is a jihadist trained in Iran. Fact. He used to run Dawa's Jihad office in Damascus during part of the 80s. Wretchard and all the other BCers who actually support him are betting that he's changed his stripes, and I've a former KGB officer in Russia whose soul they can read with similar naive results. (That's a Putin, reference, Nance.)

The Shiite uprising in '91 was a Khomeneist uprising led by SCIRI and Dawa as they crossed the border from Iran and "liberated" Southern cities and towns from the shell-shocked Baathist troops. And with "liberation" came the imposition of Sharia, the mandate of the abaya and the mounting of Khomenei posters. When the CIA reported this to Bush I, he and his advisors made the hard choice not to let Iraq fall into Shiite Islamist hands. Ironic, no?

So who here really has faith in the good intentions, the pro-American ideology of Dawa and SCIRI? Let's put opinions on the record.

4/03/2008 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger Coyotl said...

The NYTimes is claiming (via a convienently unnamed "Iraqi military official) that over a 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen deserted in the Basra battle. I don't trust the Grey Lady worth a damn, so I was wondering if anyone can find a tanscript of Maliki saying the following from a more reputable source:

Mr. Maliki, who personally directed the Basra operation, which both American and Iraqi officials have criticized as poorly planned and executed, acknowledged the desertions without giving a specific number in public statements on Thursday.

“Everyone who was not on the side of the security forces will go into the military courts,” Mr. Maliki said in a news briefing in the Green Zone. “Joining the army or police is not a trip or a picnic, there is something that they have to pay back to commit to the interests of the state and not the party or the sect.”

“They swore on the Koran that they would not support their sect or their party, but they were lying,” he said.


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/04/world/middleeast/04iraq.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp

The news conference was in the green zone, and there should be a transcript or other media source somewhere.

UPDATE: I just heard the same snippet from a BBC world news briefing. Some guy named Crispin Thorold, or something. He's claiming that Maliki is acknowledging the mass desertions. Interesting, if true.

4/03/2008 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger StratGeo said...

"Makes no sense, right? Nah, it makes a ton of sense, but you have to stop thinking of Gettysburg and Stalingrad and think long and slow, like a guerrilla."

I can absolutely assure you, Ash, that David Petraeus - the man who literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency - knows the difference between Gettysburg and Sadr City, between Stalingrad and Basra.

This is precisely the sort of thing that makes the snarky, superficial War Nerd unable to be taken seriously, except by snarky, superficial jackasses.

4/03/2008 10:50:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/04/2008 02:46:00 AM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Links up first,

Operation fix muqty

What desertions that occurred
happened in the So I and similar units where frustration over slow movement of personnel into police and IA units is nearly as big an issue as getting killed by MNF-I. Seems some of the un-vetted units have a tendency to take aim at troops, Who being soldiers have a tendency to fire back. Quite a number of units in the South West and North, on March 27th threatened to quit, with the largest group in the southern end. NOTE: they reformed and returned on or about April 1st, after negotiation with Iraqi Provincial and Central Government officials. It is, I believe, unrelated to the recent fighting in the south, timing is everything, however.

Malaki has also promised to reign n the militias in other towns and neighborhoods including Sadr City, using similar tactics as displayed in the Operation Knights Charge.

4/04/2008 02:53:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

StratGeo said...

"I can absolutely assure you, Ash, that David Petraeus - the man who literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency - knows the difference between Gettysburg and Sadr City, between Stalingrad and Basra."

I'm confident he does know the difference but that doesn't in any way imply many of the folk here do. Have you seen any reports of Pataeus declaring the recent fight a success?

4/04/2008 05:52:00 AM  
Blogger RattlerGator said...

Have you seen any reports of Pataeus declaring the recent fight a success?

Now you require a running scorecard from General Petraeus on an operation our American command has already said was an IA operation?

Desperation, Ash, desperation. But keep hope alive, Ash, keep hope alive. Your favored proxies will soon have another relatively insignificant "event" to embolden you once again.

4/04/2008 06:02:00 AM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

I said nothing about a world war. We are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and you are urging taking on a third country simultaneously. On top of that we have one of the worst financial crisis since the depression and you are all gun ho. Hubris? - Ash

How is it, that every time the economy takes a downturn, it's "the worst financial crisis since the depression"? If people's finances were that bad, I imagine fewer would be commuting in behemoth SUV's. I haven't detected any sort of reduction. And it's "Gung Ho", fyi.

4/04/2008 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

yasmuk,

The financial crisis, in particular the credit crisis is serious. So serious that the folks who have been big 'worryers' about 'moral hazard', government regulation, and free markets have intervened in the markets (i.e. Bear Stearns and the Feds general massive insertion of liquidity) to prevent wholesale financial market failure. There is definitely systemic risk and additional war would be detrimental to keeping the beast afloat.

4/04/2008 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

Nichevo,
"Of course I could have taken the shortcut of skipping past any post headed with your name, Ash."

If you do that, all that will be left is a big Ash-hole.

4/04/2008 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

It’s all so clear but no one wants to recognize it. Just ask yourself this basic question; what is Iran really after in Iraq? Well call me a cynic but I believe the Iranian leadership would love to see the Shiite areas of Southern Iraq, home of both important Shiite shrines as well as some oil, become Iran’s de facto (or real) 31st province. At they same time they will not want to be acquiring their own West Bank in Kurdistan or Gaza Strip in the Sunni Triangle so there is no question of them going for all of Iraq.

And who are Iran’s closest allies in achieving this goal? Why yes, their two darling puppets, Maliki of Da’wa and Hakim of the SIIC. And who is (was) working against this goal? Right again, ol’ Mookie, the Iraqi nationalist who has been playing kissy face with the Sunnis against regionalisation for the past year or so.

Now Iran has found Sadr useful at times. Their game is to keep the US in Iraq long enough to allow them to acquire nuclear weapons, figuring (rightly or wrongly) that the US will not attack them with so many troops vulnerable to missile counterattack from Iran. So for several years they used Sadr to keep the US off balance and more importantly to build up influence within his potentially dangerous group. But after the surge, Iran, just like the Sunnis, see that they can keep the US at unsustainable troop levels even without Sadr or any major effort at all.

So Iran turned on Sadr. The end game could be coming. The US will probably pull out within the coming years. The Iranians (oh I mean their puppets Maliki and Hakim) will be pushing for regionalism, which means Southern Iraq, which is just another way of saying Iran’s 31st province. So during the Iranian President’s visit in early March, he gave the orders to launch an attack on Sadr. Maliki cannot act militarily on his own, so he had to ask the US permission, which they (probably with some qualms) gave during Cheney’s visit.

The Iranian operation was a success. Sadr cried uncle. Look for him to play down the Iraqi nationalism and to jump on the regionalisation bandwagon. That was the Iranian price for him and his Mahdi Army surviving.

And the Iranians are in no hurry. Why should they be? They have the US arming and training the future security forces for their 31st province.

The real question is, who is doing better in the so called war on terror; Iran or Saudi Arabia? My money is on both.

4/05/2008 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

Kevin,

The Iranians, as we, should not underestimate Sadr's power and appeal. Even if we fully withdraw I think the Iranians will have their fill of trouble cuddling the tar baby Iraq, even if they only 'want' the south.

4/05/2008 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger Evanston2 said...

Coyotl, you're the one making the silly conflation.

You're equating fighting on Iran's side with being either primarily Khomeinist or Iranian in loyalty. Not so.

SCIRI and Dawa fought against Saddam/Sunni oppression. Not FOR Khomeini or Iran. That is why they are now taking Sadr (an Iranian puppet) down.

How long have you studied this? My minor was Arabic (graduated UVA in 1984) and I took nearly every history of the middle east and Islam class in the syllabus. "Astonishing ignorance" is relative.

For example, who said that "SCIRI and Dawa" have a "pro-American ideology?" No one. Yet you say this in a comment in order to build a strawman, and then assert some sort of expertise when deconstructing it.

The simple truth of the Middle East (and many other human relationships, for that matter) is that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." With the possible exception of the Kurds, no party in the Middle East is pro-American. Yet many welcome our backing to thwart their enemies. In that regard, events in Basra are a success for American interests.

That's my opinion, as you say, "on the record." To assert otherwise shows, in your words, astonishing ignorance.

4/06/2008 12:14:00 PM  

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