The long count
Repeat after me. Moqtada al-Sadr is the uncrowned king of Iraq. Well, maybe not. The NYT reports: "Iraqi Troops Take Charge of Sadr City in Swift Push".
The long-awaited military operation, which took place without the involvement of American ground forces, was the first determined effort by the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to assert control over the sprawling Baghdad neighborhood, which has been a bastion of support for Moktada al-Sadr, the rebel cleric. ...
No American ground forces accompanied the Iraqi troops, not even military advisers. But the Americans shared intelligence, coached the Iraqis during the planning and provided overhead reconnaissance throughout the operation. Still, the operation was very much an Iraqi plan.
Earlier efforts in Basra were marred by a failure to "shape" the battlefield; that is, clear it of civilians. Political considerations are uppermost in operations of this kind which means that inconvenience to the public is to be avoided when possible. This time, the Iraqis crept up on Sadr. The US military corralled the JAM forces with huge concrete fences to permit defeat in detail. Then the Iraqis pushed through.
The timing of Tuesday’s operation was kept secret. Late Monday night, the Americans removed slabs in the concrete wall they had erected to cordon the neighborhood, in order that Iraqi forces could pass through. American M-1 tanks guarded the gaps throughout the rest of the night until the offensive began. ...
All told, six Iraqi battalions advanced north on six parallel routes. At full strength, an Iraqi battalion consists of about 700 troops. Two Iraqi companies ventured even farther north to secure the Iman Ali Hospital and two other sites.
It's getting harder and harder to maintain the fiction that the Surge has succeeded only because Moqtada al-Sadr has magnanimously allowed it to flourish. Sadr earlier threatened all out war on US forces. Bill Roggio writes:
On April 20, Sadr threatened to conduct a third uprising, but later backed down from his threat, claiming it was directed only at US forces. The Maliki government has stood firm and said operations would continue until the Mahdi Army and other militias disarm and disband. On May 1, the Iraqi government sent a delegation to confront Iran on its involvement with the insurgency, but Sadr, who is currently in Iran, refused to meet with the Iraqi government representatives. On May 10, the Sadrist movement signed an agreement with the Iraqi government that would allow the Army and police to move into Sadr City unopposed.
While Sadr's day may be ending, he and his backers can still be saved by the bell. Moribund insurgencies have been given new life by political developments before.
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