January 22, 2007

Lay Low, Sweet Sadrite

Hatched by Sachi

President Bush's strategic change of course in Iraq was initially received with a lot of skepticsim. The Democrats' reaction was predictable; more disturbing are the craven retreats of a number of Republican senators -- the "Beltway Boys" (Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke) put up a graphic Saturday of some seven or eight squishy Republicans who indicate they will climb aboard one of the two defeatist resolutions circumnavigating the Senate: either Sen. John Warner's (R-VA, 88%) "surrender slow" or Sen. Carl Levin's (D-MI, 100%) "surrender swift."

The biggest disappointment has got to be "conservative" Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS, 100%): he announced his candidacy for president on Saturday, and they immediately joined the rat pack. That has to be some kind of a record: to inaugurate and immolate your candidacy on the same day!

Even some sevicemen in Iraq have voiced their concern; but in their case, the reason appears to be concern about our old "rules of engagement" (ROE) and whether they will actually change.

The problem in Iraq is not a lack of men; it's a PC driven set of cumbersome regulations that hogtie our soldiers and Marines. According to an active duty serviceblogger, Buck Sargent, the Mahdi Militia has been operating quite brazenly in recent days: They stage fake checkpoints to disrupt traffic and terrorize residents; they roam the streets of Baghdad in black uniforms and toting weapons openly; and they roust ordinary citizens, point guns at them, and threaten to kill them for the least bit of real or imagined "dissing." Buck Sergeant says that "residents call driving to work 'Iraqi Roulette.'"

Under the old ROE, even when known militia men walked around with military weapons on full display, American troops could do nothing unless Americans or Iraqi citizens were physically threatened:

[I]t's our own ROPE (Rules of Previous Engagements) that have us really tied down in the desert.... But they (Islamists) do recognize cultural squeamishness for what it is: a fundamental weakness to be exploited.

• Insurgent revolving door justice

• Mosque armory sanctuaries

• Politically connected untouchables

• Failure to identify, protect, and fully develop civilian sources

• Over-reliance on local sources with their own agendas

This is practically a ready-made recipe for how to blow a counterinsurgency war at the buzzer.

That is why we have argued that the actual "surge" of 5 brigades of Americans and 18 brigades of Iraqis is really the least important element of President Bush's plan: the main point is to change the restrictive ROE.

That change will serve as a "force multiplier" for the extra troops -- about 70,000 total focused in specific neighborhoods in Baghdad and thousands more in the al-Qaeda stronghold of Anbar province. Not only will we have many more forces to call upon, but they will be allowed to hit harder and won't have to get a "permission slip" from the Shiite government. Nor will they be released whenever a member of parliament calls and says "that guy is my cousin... let him go!"

However, the success of the plan still depends a lot upon Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's commitment. Fortunately, preliminary indications are that our ROE really has changed -- along with Maliki's attitude. In "the past few weeks," Multinational Forces - Iraq (MNF-I) captured 420 Mahdi fighters... including "several dozen senior members;" they were seized during 56 separate operations, starting three months ago.

The new "facts on the ground" are clearly rattling Sadr's men; they actually confess to developing a seige mentality:

Two Shiite militia commanders said Thursday that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has stopped protecting radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Madhi Army under pressure from Washington, while the fighters described themselves as under seige in their Sadr City stronghold.

Their account of an organization now fighting for its very existence could represent a tactical and propaganda feint [right -- they're trying to fool people into believing they're cowards and weaklings who will flee rather than fight], but there was mounting evidence the militia is increasingly off balance and has ordered its gunmen to melt back into the population. To avoid capture, commanders report no longer using cell phones and fighters are removing their black uniforms and hiding their weapons during the day.

And on Friday, Sadr's top aide was arrested... which is especially encouraging. We seized Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, whom Captain Ed has dubbed "the Mouth of Sadr" (it's a Lord of the Rings reference -- read the books or watch the movies!)

Here is the best part of that operation:

An adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, however, denied the government knew in advance about the raid, in which Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji was captured and said the detention was not part of the new operation aimed at quelling Baghdad's sectarian violence.

"There was no coordination with the Iraqi political leadership and this arrest was not part of the new security plan," the adviser, Sadiq al-Rikabi, told Al-Arabiya. "Coordination with the Iraqi political leadership is needed before conducting such operations that draw popular reactions."

In other words, we no longer feel bound to warn the Iraqi government before moving against a senior Shiite militia commander -- which before, inevitably resulted in the Iraqi government warning the target.

Speaking of Captain Ed, he reports this excellent piece of news:

The change has had an effect on the streets of Baghdad. Where the militias operated openly as late as October, most of the militia members have faded out of sight. Checkpoints run by the Mahdis have disappeared, and weapons no longer get flashed on the street. The luckier ones now try to get passports to get out of Baghdad and Iraq altogether, and the poorer fighters have worked to stay out of the way. Most impressively, all of this has happened while hundreds of Mahdis sit in jails; normally, that would start street fighting and massive protests, but the Mahdis have suddenly discovered discretion.

And all this before the first troop of the "surge" has arrived.

Many skeptics have predicted -- as if this invalidated the entire operation -- that the militia members would "melt back into the population" until the new troops went away... then just move right back into their old positions of control. However, these critics beg the most obvious point: you pay a severe price for making yourself invisible for 12 to 18 months.

Groups like the Mahdi Militia or the Badr Brigades Organization have no natural hegemony; they rule by violence and intimidation. Like the Mafia, once gone, they're forgotten.

Even better, while the death squads are hiding out and laying low, the Iraqi Army and National Police -- and the local police, who are probably even more accepted in these neighborhoods -- will move in and establish themselves as the hegemonic authority. The longer they stay unopposed by the extremists, the more Iraqis come to perceive the elected government as having "fitness to rule," which is the actual definition of hegemony.

When we start withdrawing troops, and the militiamen pop out of their holes and caves and saunter down the streets to take back what they see as rightfully theirs, they're going to get the surprise of their lives: the cops and soldiers aren't going to give up the power, and the citizenry is going to resent the return of the swaggering bullies. More than likely, such a long interregnum will destroy the last shred of legitimacy the militias now enjoy. They'll probably be ridden out of town on a rail.

We cannot let Republicans acting like lily-livered cowards (and Democrats acting like, well, Democrats) to throw away our best chance for actual victory in Iraq. When Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 96%), Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 32%), Susan Collins (R-ME, 32%), Sam Brownback, John Warner, and the rest of the fleeing-rat pack stop quaking in their boots, we absolutely must hold their feet to the grindstone: they must give the president's plan time to work; if they sign aboard either of the two surrender-resolutions, we will no longer consider them Republicans.

They can go join the ghouls, the eaters of the dead, over in the other party.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, January 22, 2007, at the time of 5:32 AM

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» Funny Looking Cousin of 'Lay Low, Sweet Sadrite' from Big Lizards
Bill Roggio reports: Muqtada Sadr has left the building. In fact, he has emigrated from Iraq (again) for Iran (again). Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Shia Mahdi Army and the Sadrist bloc in parliament, has left Iraq and... [Read More]

Tracked on July 10, 2007 3:37 AM


The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Ghouls is a good word for it. I wonder what these people think this will gain them?

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 1:17 PM

The following hissed in response by: SDN

This is why NO ONE should believe that the President has ever had a Republican Senate majority to work with at any point in his terms.

The above hissed in response by: SDN [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 4:08 PM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

Crush the Mahdis,crush the Mahdis (sung to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries)

This may or may not work, but sheesh, let's at least give it a try.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 5:30 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

Why even have a Military, if one is going to place restrictive “rules of engagement” upon such a Military, during times of War?!? Perhaps such rules would work if one’s enemy followed the same. Besides, losing a War is not that important, when one is trying to save the Environment...so to speak.

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 4:27 PM

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