It was mighty Christian of Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr to tell his Mahdi Army to stop fighting in Basra. I’m afraid I would have taken a far more Old Testament approach to the recent violence in Iraq.
It’s not, after all, like al-Sadr and his followers were the ones who started this latest round of bang-bang. It was, in fact, al-Sadr’s self imposed moratorium on violence that gave President Bush’s “main man” General David Petraeus grist for his claim that the surge was “working.” You’d think maybe Petraeus would have wanted to leave the hornet’s nest alone; but no. He decided to target ”criminal” and “rogue” elements within the Sadr organization.
U.S. forces and the Badr Organization, a rival Shiite group, conducted raids for months on Sadr’s people. The Mahdis warned repeatedly that they would fight back, and they finally did. Shocking.
Predictably, Petraeus reacted to the March 31 rocket attacks on the Green Zone in Baghdad by blaming them on the Iranians. Blaming Iran for Shiite violence is his favorite method of trying to cover up the fact that he’s the one who armed the Shiite militias back in 2004 and 05 when, while in charge of training Iraqi security forces largely consisting of Shiites, he handed out Kalishnikovs like they were Hershey bars. (As overall commander in Iraq, he compensated for his earlier gaffe by establishing his Awakening program in which he armed Sunni militias.)
Somebody in what we laughingly refer to as the “chain of command” in Iraq decided that President Nuri al-Maliki would lead an offensive against the Sadrists in Basra. On March 27, Mr. Bush called Maliki’s operation “bold” and said that it showed the growing capability of Iraq’s security forces. Heh.
Al-Maliki gave the militants in Basra an ultimatum; if they didn’t surrender in 72 hours, they would face “severe penalties.” At the end of 72 hours, he extended the deadline. I guess that showed those pesky Sadrists. (I’m going to count to three. Then I’m going to count to ten. Then I’m going to count to a hundred. If I have to count to a million, I’m going to become very cross with you.)
Some of Malaki’s forces refused to fight or changed sides. One officer in an Iraqi commando unit said, "We did not expect the fight to be this intense." Four of his men were killed and 15 were wounded. "Some of the men told me that they did not want to go back to the fight until they have better support and more protection."
It must be nice to be in an Iraqi commando unit and have the choice not to go back to fighting until you get the support and protection you want. It’s too bad the troops providing the support and protection didn’t have that option, because those troops were U.S. troops who flew in air strikes on Basra positions and fought militiamen in the streets in Baghdad. I bet those guys are completely thrilled that their boss Petraeus let Maliki go off half cocked on an operation that they had to step in and bail him out of.
I also bet those U.S. troops were relieved to hear from neoconservative luminary and father of the surge strategy Fred Kagan that “The Civil War in Iraq is over.” Yep, Freddie the Freebaser really said that, on Monday March 24 at an American Enterprise Institute event titled “Iraq: The Way Ahead." Less than 24 hours later, Maliki went ahead and launched the growing capability of his troops into the bold operation that, apparently, only al-Sadr can put an end to.
Ali al-Dabbagh, an al-Maliki spokesman, said on the television channel Iraqia that the government welcomed al-Sadr’s call for a ceasefire. I guess so. It’s always a good thing when the guy who’s kicking your teeth in stops it. Whether or not the ceasefire continues depends on whether the government is grateful enough to al-Sadr to accept his terms, which include amnesty for Mahdi Army fighters.
One wonders how long al-Maliki will consider al-Sadr’s amnesty request, especially considering that al-Maliki first proposed amnesty for militia members in September of 2006.
Isn’t it simply lovely that the more corners we turn in Iraq, the more we paint ourselves into the same corners?
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword.
"So we can play war..."
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