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Iraqi Forces battle Shi'ite militias backed by al'Sadr, Iran

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by Jon88, Mar 25, 2008.

  1. Jon88

    Jon88 Benched

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    Maliki's Moment of Truth in Basra
    Tuesday, Mar. 25, 2008
    By BOBBY GHOSH/BAGHDAD

    [IMG]
    Iraqi police manning a checkpoint


    The massive operation by the Iraqi army in Basra could be a defining battle against Shi'ite militias. Reports from the southern city — the hub of Iraq's oil industry and gateway to its main ports — say fierce fighting has broken out between government forces and militias. Eyewitnesses have told TIME of several smoke plumes rising out of the city's northern districts, and the sound of explosions and gunfire. Iraqi TV channels have shown images of helicopters flying over the city, and troops sweeping through some streets. At least 22 people were killed, and 58 wounded, in the fighting.


    Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki arrived in Basra on Monday, accompanied by his ministers for defense and the interior, to personally supervise the operation. For Maliki, this is a crucial show of force. For much of the past three years, the Iraqi government has had little influence over Basra. As British troops have steadily withdrawn from the city, it has fallen into the control of three major Shi'ite militias — Moqtada al'Sadr's Mahdi Army, the Iran-backed Badr Brigades and a local group associated with the Fadila Party. The three have recently fought turf battles over large swathes of the city, claiming hundreds of lives.

    Although there are over 4,000 British troops at a base outside Basra, they have done little to curb the violence. "We have a capacity to provide air and other specialist support if needed, but at this time British involvement is minimal," a British Ministry of Defense spokesman said, declining to be identified in accordance with department policy. Many Iraqis blame Basra's descent into chaos on flawed British strategy. They contend that in their haste to draw down forces, the British did little to train and bolster the local police force. Instead, many militia fighters were recruited into the police, making the force a part of Basra's problems rather than a solution.

    Maliki's government has repeatedly sworn to bring the militias to heel, but this is the first major offensive it has mounted in Basra. Early reports suggest the military drive is targeting the Mahdi Army, which controlls much of northern Basra. But Iraqi officials have said Tuesday the operation will continue until all militias have surrendered.

    Maliki's government and the Iraqi Army desperately need a big military success. Most of the credit for the reduction in violence across Iraq over the past year has gone to the U.S. military's "surge" strategy, and to the Sunni tribes that switched sides to fight al-Qaeda. The Iraqi security forces have appeared, at best, mere spectators; at worst, they are seen as sectarian militias in uniform. A spectacular win in Basra would help give the army and police some much-needed credibility among ordinary Iraqis.

    Failure to impose Baghdad's writ on Basra would have major economic repercussions — already, the oil pipelines are frequently bombed and large quantities of crude smuggled out. But there's more at stake: While he directs the fighting in Basra, Maliki must also prepare himself for a political backlash in Baghdad. Two of the militias have close ties to the government: Sadr controls a large block of the members of parliament, and the Badr Brigades are the military arm of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the largest Shi'ite party. If both political blocks withdraw their support for Maliki, that would doom his government.

    The Iraqi capital, meanwhile, is bracing for a fallout from the fighting in Basra. Large parts of western Baghdad have been shut down by a strike called by Sadrists. Anticipating violence from the Mahdi Army, the Iraqi Army has increased patrolling in the city and reinforced police checkpoints.
  2. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    This will be interesting to see how it pans out.

    We really need that government and troops to do well. The better they do, the better for us and our own troops.
  3. Dallas

    Dallas Old bulletproof tiger

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    Agreed. That Al'Sadre guy is one who really needs to either be arrested and put away or just flat out killed. He stirs up more crap inside Iraq than Al Queda appears to be doing.

    He plays both sides constantly. People like that are extremely dangerous.

    Just last month he swore a cease-fire again for another 6 months. It appears he is a liar as well. ;)
  4. vta

    vta The Proletariat

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    They should have put a nail in al Sadr's coffin four years ago.
    Letting this jerk go was a serious miscalculation.

    Now he's viewed as some kind of powerhouse, because he waved a white flag after he was surrounded and his wall of idiots were being depleted.
  5. Jon88

    Jon88 Benched

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    Maliki decided to do something besides watch TV and smoke the hookah I guess.
  6. Jon88

    Jon88 Benched

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    "He speaks anti-American rhetoric and incites violence, but we'll let him live."

    I'm wondering if he's participating in any of the battles?
  7. vta

    vta The Proletariat

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    Nope. When his goons start dropping off around him, he waves the white flag and says he wants political reconciliation. Then he runs off to Iran to take a breather with the Persian's and the Pistachio's.
  8. Jon88

    Jon88 Benched

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    I see they've grown tired of that game.
  9. vta

    vta The Proletariat

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    We can hope...
  10. sacase

    sacase Well-Known Member

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    SHould have killed him in 03/04 when we had the chance.
  11. Heisenberg

    Heisenberg Pow! Pow!

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    Beh. Lets just turn that entire region into a parking lot and take all the oil. Easier.
  12. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    Yes we should have taken out that guy long ago.

    I have to say I am very uneasy about paying his guys money and giving them weapons because one day that will probably come around and bite us in the butt.
  13. arglebargle

    arglebargle Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to the Middle East.....

    If you don't want to play the game, you shouldn't go there. The Sunni Awakening Councils are manned primarilly by Sunni fighters who were shooting and bombing our troops a year ago. Now they are on our salaray, and we are arming them. Deals have also been made with Sadr's militias. Alliances are fluid though, and you aren't going to get any sort of fanatical loyalty, especially as a suspect foreign interloper. To their eyes, we are very suspect, as shown by our exhortation to the Iraqis to rise up against Saddam, and then our preciptous betrayal once they did. Our failed promises to Afganistan are another example. Nothing is simple here, and simple solutions will blow up in your face.

    What's interesting to me would be how this thing started. Chance? Did Maliki jump in, trying to goad Sadr's militia while the Americans are still there in force, to be dragged in? Did the American command decide it was the best time to thump the Sadr militias? Or even Sadr wanting a chance to gain more status and power?

    The real trouble with just offing Sadr is that instead of just the militias, you end up with his entire religious constituency going nuts. So far, that has apparantly been viewed as not worth it. Though Sadr himself has been off studying at the big U in Iran, so as to cloak himself more deeply in clerical authority. While remaining more difficult to get to.

    At least Petraeus has a decent understanding of the territory there. But it will be interesting to see if this moves on to a sustained campaign, or is just a flare up that gets settled quickly. I think that the little flare ups actually increase Sadr's influence.
  14. Jon88

    Jon88 Benched

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    You can thank the first George Bush for that disgusting act. Thousands of innocent people just sick of Saddam were killed because of it.
  15. Jon88

    Jon88 Benched

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    Screwing up has been the name of the game.
  16. Heisenberg

    Heisenberg Pow! Pow!

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    That reminds me. There was a good movie made about that.

    http://imdb.com/title/tt0120188/
  17. iceberg

    iceberg detoxed Zone Supporter

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    and the faster we can legitimately get them home.
  18. vta

    vta The Proletariat

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    Since the surge, it has become apparent that al Sadr isn't as important as he propped himself up to be. The U.S. has been providing better security, without the Sharia stringency and carrying out of death sentences for Islamic heresy. They don't love the U.S., but at least we're not judging them with our protection.

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