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Movement in Iraq
Posted by: mcq on Thursday, January 11, 2007

Seriously. Now we have to see how serious this really is. The words are there ... now we need some action and soon:
Iraq's prime minister has told Mahdi Army militiamen they must surrender their arms or face an all-out assault by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces, senior Iraqi officials said Wednesday, revealing a pledge Washington wanted to hear as American and Iraqi troops prepared a fresh operation to end the bloody sectarian war gripping Baghdad.

The blunt message was particularly significant given that Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi leader, previously had blocked several U.S. attempts to crack down on the military wing of radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, now one of the most powerful players in Iraq.

"Prime Minister al-Maliki has told everyone that there will be no escape from attack. The government has told the Sadrists (the political movement that supports the Mahdi Army), if we want to build a state we have no other choice but to attack armed groups," a senior Shiite legislator and close al-Maliki adviser said.
Indeed. A government cannot share such power and remain in authority. It will not be seen as legitimate by its citizens. So this is a huge step.

The "how", however, is still immersed in sectarianism:
An Iraqi general, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details had not been released, said a mainly Kurdish force from one of the northern Iraqi brigades would be sent into Sadr City, the Shiite slum in northeast Baghdad that is headquarters of the Mahdi Army.

The general said Kurds, who are Sunni but not Arab, were being used against the Shiite Mahdi Army to overcome the predicted refusal by soldiers from other Iraqi units to fight fellow Shiites. An estimated 80 per cent of the Iraqi army is Shiite.
Realistically, this does make some sense in terms of ensuring that those committed to the battle against the militia aren't likely to refuse to do the job. It will, however, do nothing to eliminate the sectarian strife and may, in fact heighten it. But then at this point, what wouldn't.

More on the particulars of the plan:
Iraqi and U.S. officials said the new Baghdad security plan would be under the control of Iraqi commanders, one each for nine districts in the city. Each commander would operate independently of Iraqi military headquarters. The Americans planned to put 400 to 600 U.S. soldiers in each district as a backup force, a senior Bush administration official said Wednesday. Others would be held in reserve throughout the capital to quickly deploy on the request of Iraqi commanders.
So, per this, the US forces will be in an advisory/training/backup role and the Iraqis will be in the lead.

However the big news is the "choice" al Maliki has given al Sadr. I almost hope he bows up, but then that might cost American lives, so instead I hope he caves in. I would guess, if I had too, and given his history, that I'm probably going to be disappointed. In the end that may be a good thing.
 
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However the big news is the "choice" al Maliki has given al Sadr. I almost hope he bows up, but then that might cost American lives, so instead I hope he caves in. I would guess, if I had too, and given his history, that I’m probably going to be disappointed. In the end that may be a good thing.
Which may be the whole point to the timing of the speech and everything else. Else, how to explain al Maliki suddenly growing a spine? The mere threats involved may well be enough.



 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
I almost hope he [Sadr] bows up, but then that might cost American lives, so instead I hope he caves in.
The problem there is keeping him "caved in". The outcome I fear is that he does a little kabuki dance about disbanding his army, while in fact doing no such thing. He could easily get away with such an act if Maliki were helping him or covering for him.

I think the long run alternative that costs the fewest American lives (and fewest Iraqi lives) is that he refuses and ends up dead or in prison. Seeing what he has gotten away with so far, I think one of the essential elements of a long run solution is Sadr completely out of the process.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Haven’t seen this get a lot of play yet, but seems like the small start to a big deal. the US raided the Iranian consulate in Irbil, northern Iraq, hours after President Bush announced he would crack down on the Islamic Republic’s role in Iraqi violence.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
I think the long run alternative that costs the fewest American lives (and fewest Iraqi lives) is that he refuses and ends up dead or in prison.
Possibly ... if it happens quickly. But if he gathers his militia around him and fights it out, well it could get pretty bloody.

I would agree, however, that his removal is one of the keys to any hope of success there, no matter how slim.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
I would agree, however, that his removal is one of the keys to any hope of success there, no matter how slim.
I rather subscribe to the hyrda theory, McQ. Cut off one head and another grows in its place. Kill al-Sadr and who knows how many will step up to take his place. Plus, he becomes a martyr. Al-Sadr is also just one man (granted the head of the most influential militia). Why stop with just him? If we are genuinely going on a direct action offensive against the militias, then we must track down and eliminate all of the other leaders, too. Of course, as you point out, American casualties will spike again, and who knows how many more months it will take to accomplish this mission (even given the new 20-30,000 troop bump). Is taking on the militias directly a politically feasible strategy in 2007? I don’t think so. Two years ago, maybe. Not now.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
Cut off one head and another grows in its place. Kill al-Sadr and who knows how many will step up to take his place.
The question then is do those who step in have the same charisma and credibility to do what he’s done? My guess is "no". Instead you have a fragmented movement.
Plus, he becomes a martyr.
Wasn’t that the fear when they executed Saddam? Remember the promised waves of violence?
Is taking on the militias directly a politically feasible strategy in 2007? I don’t think so. Two years ago, maybe. Not now.
Oh it’s certainly feasible. How smart it is or successful it will be is another question. However, while 2 years ago may have been the optimal time to do it, the fact that their removal is still one of the main keys to success hasn’t gone away.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
The outcome I fear is that he does a little kabuki dance about disbanding his army,
It’s Maliki doing the Kabuki dance.* There is no way Sadr will comply with this "demand," and no way the Iraqi government, with or without U.S. help, can enforce it without inflaming the entire country. And adopting the Tianamen Square strategy is just wonderful.

*Either that or he’s doing Bush’s bidding becuase otherwise, in the words of the President, he’s "out" (sovereign nation my a$$).
 
Written By: Ugh
URL: http://
I rather subscribe to the hyrda theory, McQ. Cut off one head and another grows in its place. Plus, he becomes a martyr.
Taken to it’s logical conclusion, that means you advocate never taking on any high-ranking terrorist enemy.

I think it’s the exact opposite. Failing to take on people such as Sadr encourages others to step up to the same level of opposition to us.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Instead you have a fragmented movement.
Possibly, but that is what was claimed would happen when Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi were killed, but instead of fragmenting, Hamas gained power and now is the chief party of democratic Palestine.
Wasn’t that the fear when they executed Saddam? Remember the promised waves of violence?
Two different issues. Saddam was merely a political leader. Religiously, he had no significance to anyone. OTOH, Muqtada al-Sadr is, in Shia terms, a direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW). He is also a mid-level religious leader (sort of like a bishop) and, as you point out a highly charismatic leader. His late father was a Grand Ayatollah (the second highest rank of Shia clergy) and many still blame Saddam and the Iraqi government for his death. Killing Al-Sadr is a totally different issue than just stringing up Saddam.
Oh it’s certainly feasible. How smart it is or successful it will be is another question.
Do you believe that embracing this strategy at this late date will prove successful? Essentially we are asking the military to restart the war. With continued pressure mounting to defund the war and bring the troops home NOW, is creating a situation guaranteed to ramp up American casualties the wisest course of action? Also, suppose we do take out the Iraqi militias. The last American combat units will be leaving no later than 2008. That is the absolute latest date that a Democratically controlled Congress will allow. What about Iraq’s other problems (foreign fighters, lack of stable government, lack of infrastructure, partition worries, etc.)? The US may be able to solve this one last problem for them (maybe), but it will cost us to do so. Should we be willing to pay that cost knowing that in the long-term, it won’t make a great deal of difference?
Taken to it’s logical conclusion, that means you advocate never taking on any high-ranking terrorist enemy.
No, Billy, that’s not true. I simply don’t want us to operate under false pretenses. Operating under the assumption that taking out the head kills the body has been proved wrong previously. This administration and some of our military leaders have erred in attaching too much political capital to the capture or death of individuals (Saddam and his sons come to mind). What happens when you remove your target and the group he represents continues to operate, or even grows stronger?
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
Possibly ... if it happens quickly. But if he gathers his militia around him and fights it out, well it could get pretty bloody.
This would actually make a nice target for a flyby shooting.
Oh it’s certainly feasible. How smart it is or successful it will be is another question. However, while 2 years ago may have been the optimal time to do it, the fact that their removal is still one of the main keys to success hasn’t gone away.
My only concern is that it’s being done with Iraqi troops. Good training for them but I think an all American force would be more effecient.


 
Written By: Mac
URL: http://
Omar:
Possibly, but that is what was claimed would happen when Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi were killed, but instead of fragmenting, Hamas gained power and now is the chief party of democratic Palestine.
Well, your other choice is to do nothing, which of course has led to the problems we have now. I’d rather risk the hydra.
Two different issues. Saddam was merely a political leader. Religiously, he had no significance to anyone. OTOH, Muqtada al-Sadr is, in Shia terms, a direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW). He is also a mid-level religious leader (sort of like a bishop) and, as you point out a highly charismatic leader. His late father was a Grand Ayatollah (the second highest rank of Shia clergy) and many still blame Saddam and the Iraqi government for his death. Killing Al-Sadr is a totally different issue than just stringing up Saddam.
Fanaticism, however, is fanaticism and it can be just as dangerous in a secular society as a religious one (Mao’s China, Fidel’s Cuba and coming soon to a banana boat near you, Venezuela) and there were enough ex-Saddam folks out there to stir up a wave of trouble ... and they didn’t.
Do you believe that embracing this strategy at this late date will prove successful?
Well I do know it won’t prove successful if we don’t embrace it, Omar. To roll out the cliches, this is whole hog or none, fish or cut bait and do or die time. If this doesn’t give the Iraqis the impetus they need to take charge of their country, I fear nothing will.

Do I approve of the military plan. Not really. I’ve been of the opinion we should be flooding the country with trainers for about a year or so. I’ve never supported the notion we should be fighting a counterinsurgency. But something has got to jump-start the Iraqis, and maybe that will be the outcome of this effort.
With continued pressure mounting to defund the war and bring the troops home NOW, is creating a situation guaranteed to ramp up American casualties the wisest course of action?
Politically, probably not. Strategically and tactically? I can’t answer that other than to say, "we’ll see", but I can say that the strategic and tactical far out weigh the consideration of the political in my book.
Also, suppose we do take out the Iraqi militias. The last American combat units will be leaving no later than 2008. That is the absolute latest date that a Democratically controlled Congress will allow.
OK ... so make them do that. Make them set a date. Make them take ownership. I’ll bet you they won’t.

Mac:
My only concern is that it’s being done with Iraqi troops. Good training for them but I think an all American force would be more effecient.
While that may be true, that’s not at all the purpose of all of this.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
Moreover and all American force would receive even stiffer resistance from the antiwar liberals in Congress. On that basis alone it would not be successful.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
Well, your other choice is to do nothing, which of course has led to the problems we have now. I’d rather risk the hydra.
And the President appears to agree with you. I sincerely hope that you both are right and that a great victory comes out of this.
Fanaticism, however, is fanaticism and it can be just as dangerous in a secular society as a religious one (Mao’s China, Fidel’s Cuba and coming soon to a banana boat near you, Venezuela) and there were enough ex-Saddam folks out there to stir up a wave of trouble ... and they didn’t.
Which is, I think, a fundamental misunderstanding of the Shia community. I can’t claim a huge amount of personal knowledge, because my interaction with them has been, perhaps unsurprisingly, fairly limited, but I do know their history and their character. Never underestimate the fanaticism of Shiites. Also, think of the propaganda value to the worldwide terrorist network : US butchers descendent of Prophet Muhammed (SAW). Do we really want to add that to our resume? Now most Sunnis and Sufis don’t necessarily put much faith in the al-Sadr family’s genealogical claims, plus we don’t hold our imams or descendants of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW)’s family in the same degree of regard as do Shia. That is a bit of a sweeping generalization, however, and I certainly cannot authoritatively speak for groups such as the Salafists, etc.

If this doesn’t give the Iraqis the impetus they need to take charge of their country, I fear nothing will.
And I certainly share that concern, but forcing a policy on Prime Minister al Maliki that he has opposed fairly vigorously until recently (taking on al Sadr and the militias) does not seem like making the Iraqis take ownership. It is rather more like forcing them to make a show of standing up so we don’t look bad when we stand down. Politically it might score some cheap points, but strategically (and from the standpoint of intellectual honesty) it looks like nothing but a cheap face-saving ploy.
Do I approve of the military plan. Not really. I’ve been of the opinion we should be flooding the country with trainers for about a year or so. I’ve never supported the notion we should be fighting a counterinsurgency. But something has got to jump-start the Iraqis, and maybe that will be the outcome of this effort.
I sincerely hope that you are right. Not for our sake, but for the sake of the Iraqi people. As you point out, the US should not be fighting a counterinsurgency. We aren’t good at it. Small-scale, limited wars are not our thing. We rather excel as liberators, but fall flat on our face as occupiers. For the past four years, I’ve held on to the hope that I am wrong and the President is right. Now is the last chance for him to prove it. I honestly hope that his gamble pays off. As for me, I’m prepared to consider Iraq a learning experience and a strategic loss [much like Vietnam]. Time to head back to the locker room and get ready for the second half. Iraq is only the first battle. There will be more and we have to dust ourselves off, rework our play book and be ready to take on the next enemy. The biggest post-2005 mistake that the President has made is considering Iraq the line in the sand. The final game of the World Series, so to speak. It is not. To borrow a quote "This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. It is perhaps the end of the beginning."
Politically, probably not. Strategically and tactically? I can’t answer that other than to say, "we’ll see", but I can say that the strategic and tactical far out weigh the consideration of the political in my book.
Spoken like a true frontline soldier, McQ. In his prime, I daresay David Hackworth would have said the same thing (maybe not in his last few years, but that’s another story). I completely sympathize with your point of view. Tactical and strategic considerations [to borrow a term, positive goals] are the things that keep soldiers alive. Political considerations [negative goals] are the things that get them killed. Unfortunately for our warfighters, the administration must find a balance. That’s unfair to the people who put their lives on the line, but that’s how it is when you embark on limited wars.
OK ... so make them do that. Make them set a date. Make them take ownership. I’ll bet you they won’t.
Maybe not in so many words, no, but believe that the left wing of the Democrat party will absolutely intervene to shut this war down as soon as they possibly can. Have you read some of the sniping that they are doing against their own leaders over at, among other places, DU and Kos? Even the more "respectable" sources like Mother Jones and The Nation are starting to get up-in-arms. A tidal wave is coming. Wise Dem leaders will ride it rather than get washed away trying to oppose it. Republicans have nothing to gain by supporting it and, really, nothing to lose by opposing it. They have already nailed themselves to success in Iraq. Failing that, they fall. Pessimistic, perhaps, but very realist.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
" That is the absolute latest date that a Democratically controlled Congress will allow"

I suspect that depends on what happens in the intervening time.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
The POET OMAR has the most realistic reading of the situation. You can’t do these things as simple militry maneuvers. It’s the ’story’ that describes the militray action that lives on to haunt you.

I understand al Sadr’s forces number about 60,000. This is going to be a very long and bloody battle, lots there for myth making and fueling their cause for generations. Taking down a religious leader is much like attacking a mosque.

My hope is that the same threats used to make Maliki accept the new policy can be used to make him and the government deal with the political promises of oil-sharing, etc. and to deal with al Sadr and his death squads.

I hear a replacement for Maliki is even on a short list, an alternate Shiite cleric and al Sadr’s enemy. There is room there for political blackmail. I would give political strongarming a chance first.

So much better to sideline al Sadr than to allow him martyrdom. The question is: will he choose martyrdom?

 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://
As for me, I’m prepared to consider Iraq a learning experience and a strategic loss [much like Vietnam]. Time to head back to the locker room and get ready for the second half. Iraq is only the first battle. There will be more and we have to dust ourselves off, rework our play book and be ready to take on the next enemy. The biggest post-2005 mistake that the President has made is considering Iraq the line in the sand. The final game of the World Series, so to speak. It is not. To borrow a quote "This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. It is perhaps the end of the beginning."
Omar nails it. Iraq was a serious mistake, but it is not the end of the world. The more Bush rhetorically exaggerates the stakes the worse the actual consequences will be. When you are in a hole . . .
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://dsthinkingloud.blogspot.com/

 
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