March 27, 2008

Iran's Pawn Squirms Under Knights' Assault

Hatched by Dafydd

All right, we've got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?

Why am I asking you?

The good news is that Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is proving steadfast at taking the initiative and maintaining operational tempo (like the military-sounding buzz phrases?) against the Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Militia, ensconced in Basra, thanks to our British allies, and in the Sadr City slum of Baghdad. Basra is the second-largest city in Iraq and the center of its oil industry, according to Bill Roggio.

The bad news is that the elite news media still doesn't get it.

In the AP story, good and bad news crowd together like fans and hooligans jostling each other at a soccer match:

The Iraqi leader made his pledge to tribal leaders in the Basra area as military operations persisted for a fourth day with stiff resistance.

"We have made up our minds to enter this battle and we will continue until the end. No retreat," al-Maliki said in a speech broadcast on Iraqi state TV.

The events threatened to unravel a Mahdi Army cease-fire and lead to a dramatic escalation in violence after a period of relative calm that had lasted for months.

Let's get to the good stuff first... a line whose significance not even the reporter, Kim Gamel, realizes: "The Iraqi leader made his pledge to tribal leaders in the Basra area..."

What's significant about Maliki's audience is that he is talking to Shiite tribal leaders in Basra... the very people who would have been Sadr's strongest supporters just a year or so before. I highly doubt he would give a speech to his enemies; in Iraq, that's tantamount to suicide (without martyrdom). Thus the logical conclusion is that "salvation councils," by whatever names, are sweeping Shiite Iraq as they did Sunni Iraq, causing the Shia to reject Muqtada Sadr and his Iranian masters just as the Sunni turned on al-Qaeda this year.

Neither in the AP story nor the New York Times version do we find any recognition of this major breakthrough. Nevertheless, it presages a complete defeat of the Shiite insurgents; just as al-Qaeda in Iraq has been driven from pillar to pooch, to the point where they have but a single stronghold left, in Mosul... and in a few months, they will have none.

I anticipate the same fate for Iran's insurgents in Iraq; but the elite media doesn't understand that this is the real lede, not the fact that 5,000 Sadrites paraded around Sadr City with balloons and banners, protesting the crackdown.

Here is a naturally arising example, by the way, of the Argument by Tendentious Redefinition so beloved of the Left:

The demonstrating Sadrists are angry over recent raids and detentions, saying U.S. and Iraqi forces have taken advantage of the August cease-fire to crack down on the movement.

They have accused rival Shiite parties, which control Iraqi security forces, of engineering the arrests to prevent them from mounting an effective campaign after the Iraqi parliament agreed in February to hold provincial elections by the fall.

U.S. commanders have insisted the fight is being led by the Iraqi government and was not against al-Sadr's movement but breakaway factions believed to be funded and trained by Iran, which has denied the allegations.

The word "cease-fire" has two definitions: the order to stop shooting, or a negotiated truce between warring parties. Clearly this putative cease-fire was not the latter sort; neither we nor the Iraqis engaged in any negotiations to craft a truce with the Mahdi Militia.

But if all AP means is that the leader of the militia ordered his people to stop resisting, then what is the problem with "taking advantage" of that partial surrender to go after the holdouts who refuse to lay down their arms? That's a perfectly normal response -- not just here but in the Middle East, as well. Yet the protesters react as if Sadr's declaration of a unilateral cease-fire created a bilateral truce, which the Iraqis have violated.

It seems clear to me that this is the take-away AP pushes: Those dastardly, Bush-backed Iraqis took "advantage" of the trusting Sadrites to violate the cease-fire in a surprise attack!

But of course, a unilateral cease-fire is just that: one-sided. It imposes no moral or ethical obligation on anybody else, so long as a state of hostilities still exists (as clearly it does).

And of course, it's not as if even the Mahdi Militia itself were keeping this so-called "cease-fire." From Bill Roggio's post:

Basrah has seen an uptick in Iranian-backed terror activity since the British withdrew from the city late last year. Political assassinations and intimidation campaigns have been on the rise as the Iranians work to extend their influence in the oil-rich city....

Sadr's Mahdi Army has been formed by Iran's Qods Force along the lines of Lebanese Hezbollah. Imad Mugniyah, the senior Hezbollah military commander who was killed in Syria in February, was among those behind the formation and training of the Mahdi Army. Iran established the Ramazan Corps to run weapons, fighters, and support to the Special Groups, which include significant elements of Sadr's Mahdi Army.

With Sadr himself having, in his own words (per Roggio), "isolat[ed] myself in protest" of his own failure to conquer Iraq, drive out the Americans, and Islamicize the Iraqis, many of his former commanders have left Sadr behind and led their own attacks against the Iraq government and against the Coalition. Maliki had ample reason to go after them hammer and tooth.

Back to the protesters. The Times has more detail on their complaints, since that -- not the successful extension of the counterinsurgency by the Iraq army to Iran's proxies -- is the focus of the story:

In Baghdad, close-packed crowds numbering perhaps 5,000 demonstrated in Sadr City, the focal point of the capital’s protests, taking over the main street, chanting, dancing, holding up banners, and declaring their readiness to continue to oppose the Iraqi Army’s attempt to wrest control of Basra from Mr. Sadr’s Shiite militiamen, a major onslaught that began on Tuesday....

Some of the protesters criticized the United States -- Mr. Sadr considers the Americans occupiers -- but most of their criticism was aimed at Mr. Maliki and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Mr. Hakim leads the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which has emerged as a rival political force to Mr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army and also commands a rival militia, the Badr Organization. [Which, however, has not been attacking anyone lately.]

The protesters criticized what they said was a strengthening alliance between Mr. Hakim’s political group and the Iraqi government to squeeze Mr. Sadr from power. Mr. Maliki’s government depends on support from Mr. Hakim’s party, reducing the need for alliances with the Mahdi Army and making it easier for Mr. Maliki to move against it.

(That shift in support from Muqtada Sadr -- Maliki's original patron -- to Hakim is a direct result of the Mahdi-Militia bloc boycotting the Iraqi parliament for several months last year. Smooth move, Ex-Lax.)

The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on; the Times disgorges the self-description by the protesters themselves, then makes no further comment. My sense is that they side (as usual) with the protesters but are cagey enough to realize that wouldn't go down well with most Americans; so they stand, silent and smug.

But let's ask ourselves: Don't we want "the Iraqi government to squeeze Mr. Sadr from power?" Isn't this the answer to exactly what war critics have decried, that radical Shia would turn Iraq into a theocracy? The Iraq army's Operation Knights' Assault, which (per Roggio) follows a troop buildup that began last August, is precisely aimed at the Iran-backed theocrats in the Mahdi Militia; what more could the Left ask for?

Oh, I forgot; they're only against theocracy and sharia where its allied with America, such as the UAE... where they're the wrong kind of theocrats. When theocracy is anti-American, as in Iran, then the Times is all for it.

Everything the protesters say should make a real American more supportive of Iraq, Maliki, and Operation Knights' Assault; yet by their refusal to take sides between Iran-controlled terrorists and ordinary Iraqis who just want to live their lives, the elite media in fact side with the Sadrites.

Finally, although they're forced to admit it's going fairly well so far, the media wants to assure us that it will all end in tears and defeat. Again from the Times:

American officials have presented the attempts by the Iraqi Army to secure Basra as an example of its ability to carry out a major operation on its own. But a failure there would be a serious embarrassment for the Iraqi government and for the army, as well as for American forces eager to demonstrate that the Iraqi units they have trained can fight effectively on their own.

During a briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday, a British military official said that of the nearly 30,000 Iraqi security forces involved in the assault, almost 16,000 were Basra police forces, which have long been suspected of being infiltrated by the same militias the assault was intended to root out.

I'm not sure I can take seriously such denigration coming from an official of our allies... who sadly failed in their task in Basra, even while we were succeeding in the rest of Iraq. Rather than switch to a counterinsurgency strategy and finish the job, as soon as Tony Blair passed the torch to Gordon Brown, the new prime minister pulled all the British troops back to the Basra airport. From the Guardian in September 2007:

The Iraqi flag flew over Basra Palace today as British troops completed their withdrawal from the city in a move Gordon Brown said was "pre-planned and organised" and not a defeat.

The removal of 550 British troops to the city's airport leaves Basra largely under the control of Iranian-backed Shia militias.

The move came as the US president, George Bush, made a surprise visit to Iraq in an attempt to win support from an increasingly sceptical US public for his "surge" of troops....

The 550 soldiers began handing over control of the palace, the last British stronghold in downtown Basra, to the Iraqi army shortly before 1am local time (2200 BST yesterday), the army said. They then joined the 5,000 other British troops based at an airfield 13 miles away on the fringes of the port city.

And now Basra has become the last redoubt of the mighty Mahdi Militia... and some British bloke sniffs that the operation to clean up the mess the Brits left won't work, because the Basra police are fatally compromised. Thanks, mate.

The hidden assumption is that all members of the Mahdi Militia are true believers who actually declare Muqtada Sadr to be the Mahdi Himself. But as we all know (or ought), a hallmark of powerful political movements is that they force everyone to join the party, literally.

Oskar Schindler likely joined the Nazi Party because it was the only way to do business in Nazi Germany. He obviously had no serious objections to Adolf Hitler -- at first; but by the same token, he was no Horst Wessel either.

The same is likely true for many Shia in Basra or Sadr City who "joined" the militias (Mahdi Militia or the Badr Brigades -- now the Badr Organization). There is no doubt that many members are fanatical fighters; but in addition, a great many are "fair-weather" members. The significance is that the latter can be turned.

Erstwhile "members" of AQI, tribal leaders who supported Musab Zarqawi in 2006, turned against the terrorist leader and against al-Qaeda in general in 2008, once they had a lingering, dyspeptic taste of the caliphate. So too can many "members" of the Mahdi Militia who have "infiltrated" the Basra police forces (alternatively, people who want jobs as policemen in Basra who discover that one of the de facto job requirements is to swear fealty to Muqtada Sadr) will turn, once they see that the federal government really is a government for all Iraqis, as Maliki and George W. Bush have been saying... and not under the leash of the Americans, as Sadr has said (from under the leash of Iran).

That is what counterinsurgency is all about; and that's what our eternal friends the Brits should have been doing in 2007 and 2008, instead of fleeing to the airport and prematurely handing over the province to "the Iraqis," without first inquiring exactly which Iraqis were reaching for it.

But better late than not at all. Let Operation Knights' Assault continue and the good news roll!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 27, 2008, at the time of 6:11 PM

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The following hissed in response by: cdquarles

Oh wise and mighty Lizard,

Interesting take, Dafydd. I wonder why I didn't hear anything about this in the drive-by media? Oh, nevermind.

Btw, what shall be the Badr Organization's future, oh wise one?


I have a request. How hard would it be to add a comments feed?

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 27, 2008 8:31 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I have a request. How hard would it be to add a comments feed?

I'm reluctant for three reasons:

  1. I don't know how to add a comments feed to the RSS feeds; I would have to figure it out.
  2. I always read every comment that goes up here; occasionally, I have to censor one -- or delete one entirely -- that violates one of Big Lizards' arcane standards. But were there a comment feed, they would go out before I could even see them (since I don't hold comments the way I hold trackbacks).
  3. Finally, wouldn't that cause a drop in the SiteMeter stats, as a bunch of people who might come here to read comments get them by RSS instead?

Any thoughts?


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 27, 2008 9:25 PM

The following hissed in response by: Jones2008

This is the best thing I have ever seen!

The above hissed in response by: Jones2008 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 28, 2008 2:21 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

In Baghdad, close-packed crowds numbering perhaps 5,000 demonstrated

Out of a population of what? 7 Million? I know I am impressed.

That is like 85 or so people protesting in the City I live in,

Not what you call an attention getting turn out

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 28, 2008 2:53 AM

The following hissed in response by: Seaberry

Good analysis. Certainly more going on than the MSM realizes…

The above hissed in response by: Seaberry [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 28, 2008 5:08 AM

The following hissed in response by: cdquarles


A comments feed can be done two ways. You can add a separate RSS feed that includes a single post and its associated comments or you can add a separate RSS feed that includes every post that has a new comment (I prefer this kind, since the first way is a real pain if you want to follow more than a post or two).

People who read the comments feed will get the post and its comments in toto, so your SiteMeter should continue to count properly (it counts by ip address, does it not?). In Wordpress, you can add a comments RSS easily as an administrative option. I would think that you could set the comments feed update frequency to one that was not synchronous with the main feed. Even if you couldn't do that, comments that need censoring currently get published and archived before you have a chance to read all of them.

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 28, 2008 7:50 AM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

I would paraphrase Orwell, and say that since journalists have more freedom of action in democracies, "objective" journalism that is reporting on anti-democratic forces in fact supports the very forces that seek to destroy it. It is an odd form of suicide.

It is a strange world we live in, where it is considered brave and bold to be harshly critical of Bush and America, while the objective evil in or midst gets a disinterested shrug.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 28, 2008 10:46 AM

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