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Iraqi government says operations in Basra will continue
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Bill Roggio:
One day after Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army, called for his fighters to abandon combat, the fighting in Basrah has come to a near-halt, and the Iraqi security forces are patrolling the streets. While Sadr spokesman said the Iraqi government agreed to Sadr's terms for the cease-fire, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has said the security forces will continue operations in Basrah in the South. Meanwhile, the Mahdi Army took heavy casualties in Basrah, Nasiriyah, Babil, and Baghdad over the weekend, despite Sadr's call for the end of fighting.

Maliki was clear that operations would continue in the South. "The armed groups who refuse al Sadr's announcement and the pardon we offered will be targets, especially those in possession of heavy weapons," Maliki said, referring to the 10-day amnesty period for militias to turn in heavy and medium weapons. "Security operations in Basra will continue to stop all the terrorist and criminal activities along with the organized gangs targeting people."

The Iraqi military said it was moving in more forces into the South after admitting it was surprised by the level of resistance encountered in Basrah. "Fresh military reinforcements were sent to Basra to start clearing a number of Basra districts of wanted criminals and gunmen taking up arms," said Brigadier General Abdel Aziz al Ubaidi, the operations chief for the Ministry of Defense. "Preparations for fresh operations have been made to conduct raids and clearance operations in Basra ... [and] military operations would continue to restore security in Basra."
That supports the scenario I laid out below where the purpose of the operations is to clear Basra of criminal gangs, their influence and control.

Roggio continues, pointing out that in the clash between the Iraqi Army and the Mahdi army, it appears the Mahdi army came out on the worst end of it:
The reasons behind Sadr's call for a cessation in fighting remain unknown, but reports indicate the Mahdi Army was having a difficult time sustaining its operations and has taken heavy casualties. "Whatever gains [the Mahdi Army] has made in the field [in Basrah], they were running short of ammunition, food, and water," an anonymous US military officer serving in South told The Long War Journal. "In short [the Mahdi Army] had no ability to sustain the effort.

TIME's sources in Basrah paint a similar picture. "There has been a large-scale retreat of the Mahdi Army in the oil-rich Iraqi port city because of low morale and because ammunition is low due to the closure of the Iranian border," the magazine reported.
Those reports indicate a successful cordon was established isolating Mahdi troops and keeping them from being resupplied and reinforced. IOW, the handwriting was on the wall as to how this operation would end had the fighting continued.

The continuation of the security operation, talked about yesterday, seems to mean the IA has established control and is proceeding with its plans. Additionally, if the point needed to be made, IA reinforcements are arriving in the area. Most likely to tighten the cordon and be available should another round of fighting with the Mahdi army erupt. I would guess that will be most unlikely.

All the particulars of who did what to whom as far as brokering the cease fire will be sorted out I'm sure, but as far as I see it you have to work pretty hard to make this a victory for al Sadr and a defeat for Maliki. The side that is "continuing operations" is the side most reasonable people will consider to be the victor.

Fighting has also all but ceased in Baghdad's Sadr city and in Nasiriyah. An interesting nugget from Sadr city:
An unknown number of Mahdi Army fighters in the Iskan and Washash neighborhoods have gone against Sadr's demands to keep their weapons and have surrendered them to the military in accordance with the amnesty offer issued by Maliki.
And while the ISF is taking the lead in the Basra operation, it is also taking the lead in media operations as well.

From a second press conference held by Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the Iraqi government and Major General Lua Aziz, spokesman for the ISF. MG Aziz sums up the operation [again the wording is awkward in some areas because it is translated from Arabic]:

Show/Hide

The bold line again emphasizes that the operations continue in Basra.

Another interesting quote from Dr. Ali:
The guarantees for the Sadr Trend and for all Iraqis say that the Iraqi government has law and everyone should abide by the law. Regarding the general amnesty, and as I have said, we have—we are releasing a huge number of detainees. Regarding the investigation of those who have committed crime, there is also a commitment—as the statement says that there is cooperation so that those who committed crimes will be presented to court and prosecuted. And we will resort to the law. That’s why—so all the detentions will not target only—will not target a certain trend, but will target only the criminals. And this is what the Iraqi government is doing and what it’s committed to do.
The use of "trend" is more or less the same as we'd use "party" although, in this case, it has a armed branch as well. The discussion by Dr. Ali is about whether special demands were met for the "Sadr trend" to end the fighting. He's essentially saying "no". And, as is obvious, he's telling the reporter that the amnesty is a general one, not just one for the "Sadr trend". Also encouraging is the discussion of the rule of law.

And in answer to a question about reported complaints of "random raids":
We don’t have any random raids and search operations because the units and the Army, instead of endangering themselves by going out, they should—they sometimes stay in the bases so that they can train themselves. Just going out and conducting raid operation—random raids is something not possible because all the raid operations are based on intelligence reports. But sometimes mistakes could happen. I hope you give us the name so that we can follow up.
A question from an LA Times reporter as to how well al Sadr's instructions were being followed by his followers, Dr. Ali says:
I think that the decision and the call made by Muqtada al-Sadr—Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr are for those who follow up and abide by his statement. Anyone who use his weapon and raise weapon will be an outlaw. And anyone who targets the institutes of the government will be—he will be violating the law and also violating the statement made by Muqtada al-Sadr. That’s why the government is or will enforce the law on everyone. And this is what the government will do.
Pretty clear if you ask me.

Ali further clarifies it when answering a followup question:
We think that the decision made by Muqtada—Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr will isolate those criminal groups that tried to abuse and also break the law. And also they tried to abuse the Sadr Trend and the figure of the Sadr Trend. So after this statement, anyone who will carry weapon and anyone who will not or will continue to fight is a—will be considered as an outlaw. So anyone who will carry a weapon will be an outlaw. This initiative will also have a good contribution in stabilizing the situation. And we cannot deny that there were some groups that went to the streets because they thought the government is facing the Sadr Trend. And it’s not true because we are not facing or where they—with any political trend, especially the Sadr Trend. Because the Sadr Trend is not facing the government. That’s why we think that this statement will contribute in a good way in reducing the tension and also to stabilize the situation.
So again the claim is this continuing operation isn't and hasn't been about a confrontation between the government and al Sadr's group (which explains the hurried ceasefire much more reasonably than other scenarios).

But Ali makes it clear that there are some "criminals" within the "Sadr Trend" who, if warrants have been issued for them, will be arrested:
I’ve said in my briefing that the security forces in Basra cleared part of the areas in Basra and there are other parts [that] will be cleared. So, of course, we have the warrant for the arrests for all the wanted individuals and criminals so when the security forces find those people, they will be detained. But detaining members of the Sadr Trend, there are some criminals in all the parts like—parties like in the Sadr Trend and the Islamic Party. So the question is will there be any criminals in the Sadr Trend? There could be some criminals in the Sadr Trend. And there were some arrest warrants and if they are found, they will be arrested.
Certainly no backing down there and clearly that statement lends credence to the claim that the operation is aimed at "criminal elements".

Then there's this very revealing question and answer:
REP15: Sorry. We have heard you emphasize from the start, including today, that the operation in Basra doesn’t target any specific group. And yet the reports that we get of the clashes all seem to be concentrated in areas that are controlled by Jaish al-Mahdi. Have the government forces gone into the port, for example, or other areas that are controlled by other groups? Or will you be pursuing individuals belonging to other groups, are they on your list as well?

DR ALI:[Speaks in Arabic.]

INT: We think that no group should control any place in Basra. And it’s not—and no group has right to control any place. It’s the government and the government constitutes—according to the constitution, no one should share the government in establishing the law. That’s why the government, when it targets any group that tries to violate the law or breaks the law, they target them because they tried to break the law regardless of their political background. If people understood that we targeted a certain area or certain people because there were some wanted individuals in those areas and, of course, the operations extended to other places to include Basra. The operations will not be—will not [be] over unless Basra is stable so that the Iraqi citizen could live a normal life without any threats.
Note the bold line - per this reporter, the ISF and government of Iraq have "emphasized from the start" that this wasn't about any particular "trend" or militia. Anyone else remember that emphasis in reports coming out of there?

The answer too is both revealing and encouraging. Rule of law, security, etc.

The general reporting we've seen on this reminds me of much of the past reporting that has come out of Iraq - incomplete, uninformed and consequently painting the wrong picture. Reporting that seems aimed at describing a failed state, incompetent rulers, and a poorly trained and led military regardless of the actual situation. That's certainly not what I see being the case as I dig into this more and more. But I'm not at all surprised by what I've read previously and the doom and gloom it immediately spurred among the chattering classes, particularly on the left.

And, if you'll be mildly patient, you'll see it bloom, again, right here in our comment section. That said, once all of what I've outlined above is realized by the press, expect to see Iraq once again fade from the front pages of the newspapers.
 
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But McQ - Juan Cole says something completely different. Just ask Erb?

/snark

Yeah, I know. Consider the source.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Gee, Erb’s half full glass just became half empty.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Roggio’s body-count obsession is adorable, reminiscent of the Vietnam days. (You know, where we’d hear that Vietnam was going fantabulous because we’d killed X number of people today.) Apart from the fact that body counts can only be evaluated when you get them for both sides, even Roggio can’t deny that the Iraqi army was losing, just that they might have won at some later point ("Whatever gains [the Mahdi Army] has made in the field [in Basrah], they were running short of ammunition, food, and water").

Still, the Bush-cultists’ emphasis on dead Iraqis as a good thing (the Iraqi army killed X number of Iraqis = VICTORY!) is useful as a reminder that Iraq is, in fact, in a civil war and the purpose of the surge was to kill more Iraqis, not fewer.
 
Written By: Persoon
URL: http://
but as far as I see it you have to work pretty hard to make this a victory for al Sadr and a defeat for Maliki
What’s your point? That’s exactly how I’m seeing it spun.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Roggio can’t deny that the Iraqi army was losing, just that they might have won at some later point ("Whatever gains [the Mahdi Army] has made in the field [in Basrah], they were running short of ammunition, food, and water").
I know it violates the tasteful tone of this blog to call you a f**kwit, but I’m doing so anyway, apologies to the QandO community.

THAT’S HOW YOU WIN.

They closed the border and MADE them run short of supplies.

Japan was also "winning" for awhile in WW2...
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
shark:
I know it violates the tasteful tone of this blog to call you a f**kwit,
A mild reproach in the context of the stupidity involved.

This was a good outing for the Iraqi forces, a confidence-builder for them and the government. Probably a confidence-builder for a lot of people who are forced to sit by and watch the militia thugs have their way. Good to see them taken down and driven back.

Progress. One thing at a time.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Still, the Bush-cultists’ emphasis on dead Iraqis as a good thing (the Iraqi army killed X number of Iraqis = VICTORY!) is useful as a reminder that Iraq is, in fact, in a civil war and the purpose of the surge was to kill more Iraqis, not fewer.
Wow ... speaking of cultist, why not make up your own "facts"?

Hey, if that’s what you got out of that, then you’re easily ignored as you have absolutely nothing worthwhile to contribute to any discussion about what is actually going on there and apparently no desire to learn either.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
THAT’S HOW YOU WIN.
Kind of a laugher, eh shark? You are forgiven.

My goodness, how absolutely clueless can someone be to put such a statement up there and then expect to be taken seriously?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
THAT’S HOW YOU WIN.

They closed the border and MADE them run short of supplies.


Fine (assuming that’s what happened), but Roggio has been trying to spread the idea that the Mahdi army was taking tons of casualties and getting its butt kicked, and not only does he have no proof of this, his sources say the opposite (that they were the ones making gains, militarily, although they had no ability to sustain the fight).

Japan was also "winning" for awhile in WW2...

Someday you guys will realize that there are other wars than WWII (and thank God for that, since WWII was an existential battle, unlike Iraq, where the only threat to our existence comes from not pulling out and going home).
 
Written By: Persoon
URL: http://
My synthesis of this is that if the Iraqi government has demonstrated that they can logistically isolate Sadr at will, then they have won. Full stop. Using this as a springboard to give Sadr the opportunity to gracefully give up, rather than stomping him flat, is a political concern. I read Ali’s statements as leaning in this direction. Rather Western and enlightened of them, really.

I’m not seeing what other concerns trump this.

What’s that saying about amateurs talking tactics and experts talking logistics?
 
Written By: Jeremy Bowers
URL: http://www.jerf.org/iri/
Look, if the model emerges, where an increasingly experienced and confident Iraqi army can take on any of these groups at the time and place of their choosing and have the capacity to call for U.S. air support, then that will be the path for the government to take control in circumstances that are pathological for the purpose of establishing or maintaining order. It’s a pathway to a coherent national order.

American ground forces will watch the Iraqi army’s back, keep it on a learning track, and pull it out of tight spots.

Regretably, it won’t look like Massachusetts anytime soon, so The New York Times will need to call it a failure.

And speaking of the enemy within, I don’t think that I’ve ever seen it more clearly. Don’t think I’ve ever seen the enemy within more lit up, more clearly illuminated, more perfectly outlined, identified, and isolated.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
You guys are pulling the covers over your head. Maliki vowed to fight to the end and made ultimatums. He backed down. Sadr’s forces remain armed, and even the government forces depended upon the Iranian backed Badr brigades. Iran brokered this deal out of Iranian interests. Iraq is hopelessly divided, the "Sunni Awakening" only empowered Sunni tribal leaders, who continue to oppose the central government. The Kurds are defacto autonomous. The south is fragmented. (Psst, don’t forget that Maliki and the Dawa party are closer to Iran than they are to the US).

There is nothing for the US to gain here. It’s all been a pointless waste of life, money, prestige and power. The Iranians are smiling though. Seriously, this fiasco is pointless. It really is time to get out.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Boris Erb:
You guys are pulling the covers over your head. Maliki vowed to fight to the end and made ultimatums. He backed down. Sadr’s forces remain armed, and even the government forces depended upon the Iranian backed Badr brigades. Iran brokered this deal out of Iranian interests. Iraq is hopelessly divided, the "Sunni Awakening" only empowered Sunni tribal leaders, who continue to oppose the central government. The Kurds are defacto autonomous. The south is fragmented. (Psst, don’t forget that Maliki and the Dawa party are closer to Iran than they are to the US).
Oh, and there’s rats all over the place!

If Sadr withdraws his militia and Maliki keeps Iraqi troops in the streets, then it’s Maliki who backed down!

If hundreds of Sadr’s forces are killed, wounded, and captured, but remain armed, then it’s a victory for Iran!

Did you, Boris, report your earnings from Iran and register as a foreign agent?
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
I think that I’ve found some lines of dialog from the film Pork Chop Hill. If you’ve seen it, you know the scenes, where the North Korean guy in the cave or bunker talks into a microphone and his voice is blasted out over loudspeakers to the advancing American troops on the battlefield:
There is nothing for the US to gain here. It’s all been a pointless waste of life, money, prestige and power. The Iranians are smiling though. Seriously, this fiasco is pointless. It really is time to get out.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Those reports indicate a successful cordon was established isolating Mahdi troops and keeping them from being resupplied and reinforced. IOW, the handwriting was on the wall as to how this operation would end had the fighting continued.
The sources for this conclusion? Two: A US officer who chose to remain anonymous, and un-named sources whose reports TIME could not confirm.

That’s it. That’s the sum total of support for the conclusions that McQ draws.

Oh, and lets not forget the self-serving statements from the Iraqi government officials.

And then we get this:
An unknown number of Mahdi Army fighters in the Iskan and Washash neighborhoods have gone against Sadr’s demands to keep their weapons and have surrendered them to the military in accordance with the amnesty offer issued by Maliki.
The source for this conclusion? Again, the Iraqi government. How many fighters did this? Well, that figure is unknown.

What is the point of citing this?

Ultimately, Roggio (and by extension McQ)does not cite one named, indpendent reporter or journalist to verify any of the information he is passing on or any factual conclusion he draws about the reasons why Sadr told his forces to stand down.

This is a gang war between two mafia families. The US has decided to cozy up to and fight for the one that is more closely allied with Iran. Maybe wingnuts think that is a worthy cause for American troops to die for. The rest of us disagree.




 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
If hundreds of Sadr’s forces are killed, wounded, and captured, but remain armed, then it’s a victory for Iran!
Exactly. Heads Iran wins, tails the US loses.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Erb and MK disagree with everybody.

*YAWN*

So what else is new?
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
He backed down.
Example please.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Iraq is hopelessly divided
So is the Democratic Party in this country, but for some odd reason some demented people keep on voting for them anyway.

I guess it’s that gun ban in DC that keeps ’em in power.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
I know, some people would rather hear reports from self-serving reporters, or even self-serving insurgent/militia types. We can trust those reports FAR MORE than we can trust anyone else.

:rolleyes:

FACT: the Sadr militia no longer controls the streets of Basra
Life slowly returned to normal in Basra, where Sadr’s masked militia fighters were no longer openly brandishing weapons, witnesses said.
the government does...
Residents in the southern city of Basra on Monday reported an end to fierce fighting and said that Iraqi security forces were able to enter some neighborhoods controlled by fighters loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr.

"Today the life came back to our neighborhood, but it was not that normal," resident Raed Jawdat said. Drivers had to avoid bombs planted in the road. Residents went out in search of fresh water and food but found that some markets had been burned.

Munaf Jassim, who lives in the neighborhood of Tanouma, said that Iraqi forces arrived Sunday evening and launched an offensive against Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia. "It was a big battle all night," he said. "In the morning we noticed all the Mahdi Army fighters fled."
And I would dare say, the political effects of this wont be known for weeks or months. Politically, what happens next is more important then the fight itself.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
You guys... over your head... Maliki vowed to fight to the end... backed down... Sadr’s forces remain armed... Iranian backed Badr brigades... Iranian interests... Iraq... hopelessly divided... empowered Sunni tribal leaders... oppose the central government... fragmented... nothing for the US to gain here... pointless waste of life, money, prestige and power... Iranians are smiling... fiasco... pointless... time to get out...
 
Written By: Posting Robot ERB-1
URL: http://ailab.maine.edu
check out the roll the Iranian general that help broker the peace in basra. even more interesting is that he is on U.S. Treasury Department and U.N. Security Council watch lists involvement in terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear and missile technology.

this just show again and again how iran is entrenched in iraqi politics.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/20080331/wl_mcclatchy/2895724;_ylt=AofqulU0E9WtqHvQJ1_Hwx2s0NUE

 
Written By: slntax
URL: http://
Wait, was this operation not about Sadr at all, or did Sadr suffer a crushing defeat? Did Sadr suffer a crushing defeat from an operation that wasn’t about him at all? Kind of confusing.

Gee, I wonder if one possibility is the Iraqi government lying through their teeth. Do press spokesmen ever come out and say "hey, we got our butts kicked"?

I mean, this is really weak tea. The MSM is "spinning" this as a victory by taking reports of Iraqi police surrendering to the Mahdi army? When an Iraqi govt. Official says "we met a lot more resistance than we expected", that’s the MSM "spinning"?

Hey, I don’t know for sure what the situation in Basra is like, anymore than any of you do. But seriously, folks. Some of you have the capacity to think independently - looker, are you around? When Maliki’s government runs off to Qom to negotiate with Sadr - the head of the Badr Brigades, otherwise known as SCIRI, not some flunky - and the head of the Qods Force in Iran, is that what you do when you’re inflicting a crushing defeat?

I mean, did you *see* the list of demands Sadr made with his ceasefire? Of course you didn’t. You read conservative websites.

Allow me to drop a hint - the freaking Heritage Foundation put out a report on this about the urgent need for the British to re-invade Basra in a big way. Frankly, that’s what I expected to see here - an alarmist escalation proposal. That would be a foolish response to accurate information. What we have here instead is wishful thinking. Enabled by Iraqi government spokesmen who insist that the operation is continuing. Folks, when one half of your government is signing on to a cease-fire and other parts are insisting that there is no cease-fire, that’s not a case study of a strong, united government. That’s a chaotic government that doesn’t know what it’s doing, that’s internally at gunpoint with itself, or a government resorting to faking cease-fires to try and establish breathing room. None of these things are signs of strength.

Sure, I’m a defeatist liberal America-hating so-and-so, but you should try confronting the evidence of... conservative bloggers & institutions that you’re wildly inaccurate.

Start with James Joyner.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Gee, I wonder if one possibility is the Iraqi government lying through their teeth. Do press spokesmen ever come out and say "hey, we got our butts kicked"?
Who is continuing their operation? And, of course, then you get to explain this:
We have heard you emphasize from the start, including today, that the operation in Basra doesn’t target any specific group.
Occam’s razor.

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
We have heard you emphasize from the start, including today, that the operation in Basra doesn’t target any specific group.
I believe this was meant to pre-empt any opportunitists.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
To say whether Malicki won or lost this latest encounter with the Sadrists seems premature at this point. Some points I would like to make:

1. Malicki has Security forces in Basra and the south that are largely untested. The Surge operations have concentrated on Baghdad and surrounding provinces and currently is focused up North around Nineveh. Unless some of these units in the south has been cycled in and out of surge operations, they are largely untested. And the only way to really test the mettle of a unit is throw it into the fray. Malicki or anyone else in charge for that matter must hesitate to ask the US to depart unless he knows he can depend on his own troops. Better to find out now and fix it while you have cover than to find out later when you don’t. I would expect more of these kinds of operations in the near future.

2. The Sadrists cannot help but be hurt by taking 200 casualties a day in the encounter. There may have been some hesitancy among some of the Iraqi units, but by and large they were head and shoulders better than the Sadrists.

3. Even though representatives of the Malicki government went to Iran to broker a truce, the Iranians had to know the Sadrists were taking it in the shorts. You don’t agree to a truce when you are winning. It is just not the Muslim way of war - and it just does not make sense.

4. Now that Sadr has called for the Mahdi Army to disengage, the Iraqi army is continuing its operations. Now that is a strange tactic for a losing army to take. You would think they would at least stop for a while and lick its wounds.

5. Once again Sadr has shown himself to be a big man "in the rear with the gear." Sooner or later that has to grind on the troops in the front lines bleeding and dying for the man. Sooner or later you gotta see more and more of the Braveheart questions coming out like "Why are we fighting for the likes of him?" I’ll bet its more like sooner than later.

Again, it comes down to the political ramifications of the conflict just ending. Sadr claims victory, as does Malicki. Whose to say? Time will tell a better tale than anyone I know can tell for sure - today.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://

 
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