Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why the campaign against Sadr?

John Nagl characterizes the current campaign against Moqtada al-Sadr in today's sponsored open forum at the Washington Post. Nagl isn't distracted by the nonsense assertions, so prevalent in the press, that the current campaign against the militias in Iraq is actually directed from Teheran to impress upon Washington how they can turn on and turn off violence like water from the kitchen faucet. Instead he goes right to heart of what we should be worried about: executing the plan right.

Detroit: Lt. Col. Nagl, as an American trying to make sense of Iraq I find it troubling that the administration and the media to a great extent try to simplify the relationships and polarization that exists in Iraq. Good vs. evil hardly can be the subtext to this story. It is my understanding that all political groups of any size have their own militias, not just Sadr. Is this true? If so, what of the joyous recent pronouncements from Rice that the Iraq government is banning militias? Why are they moving on him now, and what is the implication given the upcoming elections?

Lt. Col. John Nagl: Detroit

Iraq is indeed a complicated place; I think General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker did a good job last week of laying out just how fragile the progress we've seen over the past year still is, and how many parties have an interest in the future direction of Iraq. There are in fact several political groups with affiliated militia movements, although Sadr's is among the most worrisome, and has the potential to significantly affect the course of the elections this fall. In this light, I think the decision by the Government of Iraq (GoI) to move against not just Sadr's militia, but all of them, is a step in the right direction. How well it is executed remains to be seen.

This is a campaign for the mastery of the Shi'ite communities in Iraq. And there are two aspects to it. The first is to destroy the power of Iran over the militias and extend the power of the Government of Iraq over them; and second, to reflect both the results of the Surge against the Sunnis and the campaign against the Shi'ite militias in the coming elections. In other words, it is part of a campaign to rid Iraq of enemy influence. Once we accept this characterization as the true picture of events then the next question necessarily becomes, how to do it right.

One essential component to getting it right is for Washington to get behind the strategy. Right now, two out of three Presidential candidates are embarked in a bidding war for who can withdraw the most brigades the fastest after 2009. This may happen as a consequence of victory. But it in an of itself a withdrawal will not produce victory.

The Belmont Club is supported largely by donations from its readers.


Blogger hdgreene said...

I speculated two weeks ago that the the operations by Maliki against the Mahdi army may not have caught the US command by so much of a surprise as they say.

Both Baghdad and Washington are information sieves. So plans for major operations in Southern Iraq where rolled out for this coming July. These would mimic the offensive last summer north of Baghdad. Meanwhile, "preparation of the battle field" gave cover for an IA build up in the south.

Meanwhile, Iran -- seeing the telegraphed punch coming -- would supply surprises of its own in April/May.

But the Iraqi army jumped off in Basra first. They apparently achieved tactical surprise (I'll speculate "in what way" in a bit) and the offensive (which will likely carry on through the summer) started off as an Iraqi on Iraqi fight -- with the Americans apparently caught flat footed; out of the loop. But was the high command?

The problem for Iran is that their "army" in Iraq is stranded behind enemy lines. That means they cannot resupply and provide reinforcements in timely manner. So at the end of March they would have stashes of weapons and a rough plan for future action -- a month down the road.

They also have a clandestine system of command and control. Basically it is possible to conceal who reports to who and who controls what in times of relative calm. But hit them with a sudden crisis and immediately the chain of command has to reveal itself -- or lose its forces to inaction. Clandestine systems light up.

So immediately communications flow at a high rate through the organization. The relationship and rank of the actors become apparent to many "low level" operatives who found "relative rank" very obscure before. People are captured and talk about what they've seen.

The idea is to have Iran's gun in Iraq misfire. It may have been a risky plan, putting the Iraqi's out front. But the idea was to achieve tactical surprise and that's worth some risks. And the Iraqi's were seen acting as their own men.

Of course they need to appear unprepared, too. For the Democrats will cut funding and yank us out of there if the Iraqi army looked "too ready."

That's part of the information war, directed at the Democrats and the Media as well as Tehran.

4/22/2008 05:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hdgreen: That's part of the information war, directed at the Democrats and the Media as well as Tehran.

The Federal Government should not be in the business of waging war, information or otherwise, against Americans. Last time I checked, the Democratic Party was one lung of the American two-party system, and the Media is the "Press" mentioned in the Bill of Rights.

4/22/2008 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Teresita, if Carter can go to Hamas with Obama's blessing, or Nancy Pelosi cuddle with Baby Assad and Hezbollah, or Obama offer a visit to hug Ahmadinejad with no preconditions, ...


None whatsoever. Period.

4/22/2008 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Teresita: Given that the Democratic Party has been waging war against the war ("The Surge has failed" months before the surge started) precisely to force an American defeat that could be blamed on the current Administration and thus leverage said defeat into an electoral victory in November, I'm in complete agreement with Whiskey_199. There are no rules. Not that anyone could call that 'treason.' No, not that. Uh-uh. No sir. It's really patriotism, see. It's patriotism because what's best for this country is the Democratic Party in power. How can that be treason. Treason is when Republicans get elected. Now That's treason. Republicans in power. That's bad for the country. Yes sir, real bad. That's why there can be no rules. Rules might get in the way of throwing them out. That's why we denounce every fact as a lie. After all, what is a lie? Why clearly a lie is any statement that the Democratic Party doesn't want the people to believe. The people must not be allowed to believe these things because if they did it wouldn't strengthen the Democratic Party. Whatever doesn't strengthen the Democratic Party must not be allowed to exist. All things must serve the Democratic Party or be destroyed. This is in the American people's best interest. Only the Democratic Party in power can truly be good. Anything that serves this end is good. This is the only rule. Remember it, but forget that you know it. It underlies everything, but must never be articulated. So sleep, now. Forget what you know. Trust Big Brother. Love Big Brother. Obey Big Brother. These are the rules.

4/22/2008 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Teresita you are being silly. We know how the liberal media and the Democratic party will spin events. What's wrong with using their own unthinking prejudices to your own advantage? If you know the Left is going to make utterly predictable, politically motivated attacks, what's wrong with blunting them in advance? I love the way the left expects their victims to help them. Sell the left the rope to hang their opponents with (Hey, it's Lenin's birthday). Pay for the bullets used by the firing squads. They do this Metaphorically until they can do it literally. Dealing politically with the left is not a suicide pact -- unless you let them establish the rules: then it sure as hell is (and for a good chunk of them as well once the butcher bill is added up).

John McCain is actually closer to the Democratic party I grew up with. He was in my town today and I was quite impressed by what he had to say.

The left has seized the Democratic Party and I believe ruined it. You are welcome to feel otherwise.

4/22/2008 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

I see Hillary is up 8 points in Pa. She might pick up a point or two as the night wears on (the smaller and more bitter towns report later).

Actually, I think she would help herself if she declared she would not let Iran triumph in Iraq -- that she will stand by the new, free government there. She should just threaten to obliterate Iran if they keep making war on Iraq. This would be good information warfare, in my view. It would also help her win in November and, of course, lose in May.

4/22/2008 08:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whiskey_199: Teresita, if Carter can go to Hamas with Obama's blessing, or Nancy Pelosi cuddle with Baby Assad and Hezbollah, or Obama offer a visit to hug Ahmadinejad with no preconditions, ...

Okay let's start with Carter. Before he went there, Hamas was a Party that ran on a platform of never recognizing Israel like their hated enemies in the Palestinian National Authority do. When Carter came back, he managed to get Hamas to agree to the following: "If President Abbas succeeds in negotiating a final status agreement with Israel, Hamas will accept the decision made by the Palestinian people and their will in a referendum monitored by international observers ... even if Hamas is opposed to the agreement." So the world is already a better place for Jimmah having talked to them.

Now I'm going to get objections along the lines of Hamas never kept their word on anything, etc. Well you can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket. The Bushies refuse to talk to anybody and view that as a sign of strength, as if the force of arms was sufficient to conduct all foreign policy. Well how's that working out for them?

4/22/2008 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger MataHarley said...


Hours after Jimmah left the building, Mashaal set the record straight. They would accept a state with 1967 borders, but would never outright recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Keep the champagne corked.

How heartwarming you think the words of Carter, whispered into the ear of a Hamas leader, can achieve what Egypt as mediator has not - magically change the foundation of Hamas ideology towards the Zionist in Muslim lands. Yet even you recognize their words mean nothing, as you've already awarded points for the chit chat attempt as some form of accomplishment.

An ex-President, Palestine supporter, acting against the requests of the current admin. Could you expect anything but love, kisses and promises founded in lies? They had the golden opportunity dropped into their laps - a way to appear reasonable and demonized in the eyes of the world. Certainly fooled you into thinking the world's a better place for this embarrassing photo op.

The height of irony is that, even were the Hamas leadership to consent to a harmonic coexistence, the Hamas minions would not. The leaders lack the power to control their militants. While Carter was begging for a truce and peace with Mashaal, a military wing leader promised attacks on Israel would intensify. Sami Abu Zuhri was saying Hamas would not necessarily accept the outcome of a referendum.

Not even a farce of a deal was possible. Not only do they not agree internally, Hamas doesn't deal with the powerless. And Carter is the epitome of impotent. He can deliver nothing for a Hamas promise. And they knew that.

He was, however, an ideal instrument for a propaganda victory. Yeah... the world's a better place. For Hamas supporters, at least.

4/23/2008 12:21:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

"So the world is already a better place for Jimmah having talked to them."

And an hour later it was back to square one. See, Hamas would be breaking their charter if they gave up trying to kill Jews.

Besides, nothing at all, anywhere in this world or any other at any time in memory, has EVER been made better for Jimmy Carter having talked, argued played twister or otherwise interacted with ANYBODY. Ever.

Hmmm...okay, I lied. I liked his work with Habitat for Humanity. He should stick to doing the plumbing in houses for poor people.

4/23/2008 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger davod said...

"The Federal Government should not be in the business of waging war, information or otherwise, against Americans."

The Democratic Party in Congress (last time I looked, Congress was an arm of government) and the media, should not be in the business of waging war, information, or otherwise, against Americans.

4/23/2008 11:40:00 AM  

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