April 9, 2008

Between the Lines

Hatched by Sachi

It's never safe to take at face value anything written by the mainstream media about Iraq. You must always tease the real story from the misleading and sometimes completely fabricated "first draft of history" they publish. But even propaganda can reveal the deeper truth.

It's now clear that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi army and Iraqi National Police showed decisive leadership and initiative -- perhaps a bit too decisive! -- during the recent Operation Knights' Charge in Basra. Even AP is reluctantly reporting the latest achievement of Nouri al-Maliki... though of course they couch it in dismissive terms:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's faltering crackdown [!] on Shiite militants has won the backing of Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties that fear both the powerful sectarian militias and the effects of failure on Iraq's fragile government.

The emergence of a common cause could help bridge Iraq's political rifts.

The head of the Kurdish self-ruled region, Massoud Barzani, has offered Kurdish troops to help fight anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.

More significantly, Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi signed off on a statement by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and the Shiite vice president, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, expressing support for the crackdown in the oil-rich southern city of Basra.

The elite media used to criticize Maliki for not being able to bring other parties together and for not going after Shiite militias (that is, the Mahdi Militia, a.k.a. Jaish al Mahdi, or JAM). It's true that Vice President Hashemi and Prime Minister Maliki have been bitter rivals; but then, now that Hashemi has decided to support Maliki’s effort, how can the "crackdown" be “faltering?” Rather, shouldn't it now be called "strengthening" -- or even that other favorite media word, "mounting?" (I forgot for a moment: Only problems for Republicans are allowed to "mount.")

Political players in the Middle East are not known for backing the underdog; the best conclusion is that Hashemi has correctly assessed that the Basra crackdown is working, so now he wants to join the "strong horse." Of course, the Associated Press has its own defeatist tale of how the Battle of Basra ended:

The Basra crackdown, ostensibly waged against "outlaws" and "criminal gangs," bogged down in the face of fierce resistance and discontent in the ranks of government forces. Major combat eased after al-Sadr asked his militia to stop fighting last Sunday.

But al-Maliki continued his tough rhetoric, threatening to take his crackdown to the Mahdi Army's strongholds in Baghdad. Al-Sadr hinted at retaliation, and the prime minister backed down, freezing raids and arrests targeting the young cleric's supporters.

How can a campaign that ends with the enemy’s surrender be described as “bogged down?” (Thank goodness they didn't say "quagmired.") It's true that Maliki stated that he would halt offensive action for ten days, but not because he was afraid of Sadr’s revenge; if he feared Sadr, he would never have attacked in the first place -- or at least he would have stopped the moment he saw that the JAM was stronger than he expected.

But instead, Maliki responded to the fierce fighting by sending reinforcements into the battle and driving the JAM out of their entrenched positions. Now it's the Iraqi army that patrols the streets of Basra, not the Mahdi Militia.

There's more, much more that we now learn...

Here is what Bill Roggio (you knew he had to come into this debate somewhere!) has to say about the Battle of Basra:

Subsequent to the ceasefire, the Iraqi military announced it was moving reinforcements to Basra, and the next day pushed forces into the ports of Khour al Zubair and Umm Qasr. Iraqi special operations forces and special police units have conducted several raids inside Basra since then, while an Iraqi brigade marched into the heart of a Mahdi-controlled Basra neighborhood on April 2. And two days after Sadr called for a ceasefire, the government maintained a curfew in Sadr City and other Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad. None of this would be happening had Maliki simply caved to Sadr. [So much for the image of the PM cowering in fear of the sidelined Muqtada Sadr... who is himself still hiding in Qom, Iran, and afraid to show his face even in the Shiite areas of Iraq.]

Maliki's governing coalition did not revolt over this operation. When the Iraqi opposition held an emergency session of parliament to oppose the Basra operations, only 54 of the 275 lawmakers attended. AFP reported, "The two main parliamentary blocs--Shiite United Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdish Alliance--were not present for the session which was attended by lawmakers from radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc, the small Shiite Fadhila Party, the secular Iraqi National List and the Sunni National Dialogue Council." The fact that the major political blocs in Iraq's parliament ignored the emergency session is politically significant, and no evidence suggests that Maliki's governing coalition has been jeopardized since then.

(Roggio is now posting at a new website you should all bookmark, Iraq Status Report)

The ten days suspension of offensive operations in the south was meant to give militia members time to lay down their weapons and surrender. Operation Knights' Charge continues against those Iran-trained, Iran-led elements of the JAM that have not stopped their own attacks, according to Roggio, this time writing in the Long War Journal, which he edits.

One of the reasons cited by the elite media to prove that Muqtada Sadr won the Battle of Basra is that Sadr's followers listened to him and stopped fighting when he told them. But it has become increasingly clear that Sadr himself no longer has operational control over the JAM; those element who were actually fighting against the Iraqi army were under the direct leadership of Iranian Qods Force commanders (the so-called "Special Groups")... as is Sadr himself, as Bill Roggio notes in the Long War Journal:

Just as the new Iraqi forces began to arrive in Basrah and US and British forces were gearing up to augment the Iraqi military, Muqtada al Sadr, under orders from Iran’s Qods Force, called for his fighters to withdraw from the streets. Sadr issued a nine-point list of demands, which included that operations cease. Maliki refused and Iraqi and US forces continued to move into Basrah and conduct pinpoint raids against Shia terror groups. More than 200 Mahdi Army fighters were killed, 700 were wounded, and 300 captured during the six days of fighting in Basrah alone.

Despite Sadr’s so-called "order" for them to stand down, some of these Special Groups continue to fight... and continue to be driven out. Eventually, they will have nowhere left to flee to except back into Iran, where they came from.

The media have also criticized Maliki for "not making political progress." Several senators said as much to Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker during the hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But now, as Maliki successfully reaches out to Kurds and Sunni and gains their support, do the MSM praise his effort? (Is that a rhetorical question?)

Of course they don't. They accuse him of seeking short term political gain for his own interests:

But other motives may have played a role in the crackdown.

Provincial elections are scheduled to be held before Oct. 1 and Shiite parties are gearing up for a tough contest in the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq, where oil-rich Basra and the wealthy religious centers of Najaf and Karbala are prizes.

A successful crackdown in Basra would have boosted the election chances of al-Maliki's Dawa party and his Shiite allies in the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, whose Badr Brigade militia is the Mahdi Army's sworn enemy.

Let's pause a moment to ponder that last sentence. Nouri al-Maliki was originally a client of Muqtada Sadr. The Dawa Party has historically been associated with the JAM; opposing them on the Shiite side, as AP admits, has been the Badr Brigades (now Badr Organization and no longer functioning as a private militia), controlled by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (formerly the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq).

So AP says that Maliki attacked the militia associated with his own Dawa Party, rather than the one associated with the SIIC, in order to get more Shia to vote for both Dawa and the SIIC.

This is as creative an interpretation as their line that the Iraqi forces were utterly crushed, and Muqtada Sadr was on the brink of wiping them out and making himself Caliph of Mesopotamia... when he suddenly had a change of heart and surrendered instead.

If that makes perfect sense to you, you're probably a liberal.

And now, Maliki and the leaders of the other parties in the Iraqi parliament are taking a bold step to isolate the JAM even further -- by barring any party that maintains a militia from even contesting seats in the Iraqi provincial elections this coming October. From the same Long War Journal piece linked above:

Less than two weeks after Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki launched Operation Knights' Assault to clear the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backer militias in Basrah, the Iraqi government is moving to ban Muqtada al Sadr's political movement from participating in the election if it fails to disband the militia. Facing near-unanimous opposition, Sadr said he would seek guidance from senior Shia clerics in Najaf and Qom and disband the Mahdi Army if told to do so, according to one aide. But another Sadr aide denied this.

The pressure on Sadr and his Mahdi Army started on Sunday after Maliki announced the plans to pass legislation to prevent political parties with militias from participating in the political process. "The first step will be adding language to a draft election bill banning parties that operate militias from fielding candidates in provincial balloting this fall," Reuters reported on Sunday. "The government intends to send the draft to parliament within days and hopes to win approval within weeks...."

The legislation is said to have broad support from the major Sunni, Kurdish, and Shia political parties, and is expected to quickly pass through parliament.

This leaves the Sadrists in a pickle: If they disband the JAM, then they're just another (minor) political party in the Shiite alliance. But if they don't, they will be nothing but a militia. At that point, Maliki would have even more support for annihilating all trace of the mighty Mahdi Militia from Iraq: They would be the Iranian version of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

But of course, the elite media assure us that Muqtada Sadr won the Battle of Basra, while Prime Minister Maliki was politically ruined.

Yesterday and today, Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker testified on Capitol Hill to various congressional committees. As a glimpse into our political leaders' understanding of such a crucial issue of the Iraq war and how it relates to the larger war against global caliphism, the transcripts of those hearings are illuminating, frightening, and frustrating.

(The transcript for the House Armed Services Committee hearing can be found here; the transcript for Senate Armed Services Committee hearing here; and the transcript for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing here.)

Judging from the Democratic senators’ questions during General David Petraeus’s testimony before Congress this morning, their understanding of the Basra situation is little better than that of the MSM. For that matter, Democratic senators' understanding of Iraq itself, let alone the war, is completely outdated: They imagine it's still 2006, the "civil war" still rages, and a hundred civilians are being slaughtered each day.

But according to Iraq Coalition Casualities, during last month, civilian deaths averaged 27 per day, not 100; but that included the Battle of Basra. February saw only 19 killings per day across the whole country, a drop of more than 80% from the highs of late 2006, before we changed to the counterinsurgency strategy. This stunning turnaround has mostly flown below the Democrats' Iraq-success radar -- which, to be perfectly blunt, is rarely even turned on.

Some of the exchanges are laugh-out-loud funny, such as this between Gen. Petraeus and a certain senator with a "chest full of medals," during the former's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The good senator was trying to get Petraeus to admit that our continued presence in Iraq was the only reason that Iraqis have not stepped up to the plate; if we simply walked away, that would make everything much better:

SEN. KERRY: But isn't there a contradiction, in a sense, in your overall statement of the strategic imperative? Because you've kept mentioning al Qaeda here today. Al Qaeda -- AQI, as we know it today -- first of all didn't exist in Iraq till we got there. The Shi'a have not been deeply interrupted by AQI. The Kurds --

GEN. PETRAEUS: Oh, sir, they were. They were blown up right and left by AQI. That was the height of the sectarian violence.

SEN. KERRY: I understand that. I absolutely understand that. But it is not a fundamental, pervasive -- I mean, most people that I've talked to, Shi'a, and most of the evidence of what's happened in the Anbar province with the Sunni is that once they decided to turn on al Qaeda and not give them a welcome, they have been able to turn around their own security --

GEN. PETRAEUS: And we helped them, sir.

SEN. KERRY: (Inaudible.)

GEN. PETRAEUS: And we cleared Ramadi, we cleared Fallujah, we cleared the belts of Baghdad --

SEN. KERRY: And every plan I've seen --

GEN. PETRAEUS: -- (inaudible) -- Baqubah and everything else.

SEN. KERRY: Every plan I've seen here in Congress that contemplates a drawdown contemplates leaving enough American forces there to aid in the prosecution of al Qaeda and to continue that kind of effort.

GEN. PETRAEUS: That's exactly right, yes, sir.

SEN. KERRY: But then why doesn't that change the political dynamics that demand more reconciliation, more compromise, accommodation, so we resolve the political stalemate which is at the core of the dilemma?

GEN. PETRAEUS: Sure. No, that's -- sir, that's a great question. One of the key aspects is that they are not represented right now. And that's why provincial elections scheduled for no later than October are so important. The Anbar sheikhs, for example, will tell you "We want these elections," Senator, as they, I'm sure, did, because they didn't vote in January 2005. Huge mistake.

SEN. KERRY: (Inaudible.) [By this point, Kerry appears to be just making small squeaking noises.]

GEN. PETRAEUS: And they know it. They'll do much better this time than they did before. More important, even in Nineveh province, where because they didn't vote you have a different ethnic group, actually, that largely is the head of the provincial council. So again, all of those.

SEN. KERRY: (Inaudible.)

GEN. PETRAEUS: Yes, sir. Thank you.

Here is another exchange, this time with Sen. Barbara "Mrs. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" Boxer (D-CA, 80%): She seizes an extremely important, even urgent issue in her teeth; and like a deranged Pekingese, she won't let it go:

SEN. BOXER: If I could say, I agree with you that there are certain factions there that certainly support Iran. That's part of the problem. But my question is this. Ahmadinejad was the first national leader --


SEN. BOXER: Can you please cool it back there? Ahmadinejad was the first national leader to be given a state reception by Iraq's government. Iraq President Talabani and Ahmadinejad held hands as they inspected a guard of honor while a brass band played brisk British marching tunes. Children presented the Iranian with flowers. Members of Iraq's Cabinet lined up to greet him, some kissing him on both cheeks. So it's not a question about the militias out there. I'm saying, after all we have done, the Iraqi government kisses the Iranian leader! And our president has to sneak into the country. I don't understand it Isn't it true that after all we've done, Iran has gained ground?

AMB. CROCKER: Senator, Iran and Iranian influence in Iraq is obviously an extremely important issue for us, but it's very much, I think, a mixed bag. And what we saw over these last couple of weeks in Baghdad and in Basra, as the prime minister engaged extremist militias that were supported by Iran. is that it revealed not only what Iran is doing in Iraq, but it produced a backlash against them and a rallying of support for the prime minister in being ready to take them on. Iran by no means has it all its own way in Iraq. Iraqis remember with clarity and bitterness the 1980 to '88 Iran-Iraq war.

SEN. BOXER: Yes. Well, that's my point.

AMB. CROCKER: In which --

SEN. BOXER: And now he's getting kissed on the cheek. That's my point.

AMB. CROCKER: And there was a lot of commentary around among Iraqis, including among Shi'a Iraqis, about just that point; what's he doing here after what they did to us during that war? But Iraqi Shi'a died by the tens, by the hundreds of thousands defending their Arab and Iraqi identity and state against a Persian enemy, and that's, again, deeply felt. It means when Iran's hand is exposed in backing these extremist militias that there is backlash, broadly speaking, in the country, including from Iraq's Shi'a. And I think that's important, and I think it's important that the Iraqi government build on it.

SEN. BOXER: I give up. It is what it is. They kissed him on the cheek. I mean, what they say over the dinner table is one thing, but actually kissed him on the cheek. He got a red carpet treatment and we are losing our sons and daughters every single day for the Iraqis to be free. It is irritating is my point.

AMB. CROCKER: Senator, the vice president was in Iraq just a couple of weeks after that, and he also had a very warm reception.

SEN. BIDEN: Did he get kissed?

AMB. CROCKER: I believe -- (laughter) -- he did get kissed.

SEN. BIDEN: I want to know whether he got kissed. That's all. (Laughter.)

Perhaps the general and the ambassador can educate this sad crew of media manipulators in motley; but somehow I doubt it.

Dafydd adds: "The Lord helps those who help themselves." We should begin an urgent project of homeschooling Senate Democrats.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 9, 2008, at the time of 7:08 PM

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» イラク情勢好転に主流メディアの情報操作は続く from In the Strawberry Field
English version of this entry can be read at Biglizards.net/blog. イラク情勢に関しては主流メディアに真実を頼ることは完全に無理だ。アメリカの主流メディアも、そしてそれを誠実にコピペしまくる日本メディアも含めて、まるでかつてのバグダッドボブのように、アメリカは負けているイラク政府は混乱状態というニュース以外は流したがらない。しかし中国の大本営放送のように情報操作に余念のない主流メディアでも時々間違って真実を報道してしまうことがある。 こ... [Read More]

Tracked on April 10, 2008 11:49 PM


The following hissed in response by: cdquarles

Indeed, oh great Lizard, we do need to take the Dhimmicrats, er, Democrats to the wood shed for a good ol' fashioned board of education schooling.

Thanks also for the heads up about the Badr Organization (Roggio's two sites are now in my blog roll).

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 9, 2008 8:57 PM

The following hissed in response by: GW

Hello Dafydd.

Great post. Miss you at Watcher's.

While the hearings - and our MSM - are just surreal, there are some very real and good things happening back in Baghdad.

As to the what Maliki's offensive won him - it portends to be huge. Sadr is now politically isolated - completely - with all other blocs in Parliament behind Maliki for his calls to disarm the Mahdi Militia. But the big news - positively huge actually - is Sistani joining in the call.

In case you haven't seen it -


The above hissed in response by: GW [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 10, 2008 12:03 AM

The following hissed in response by: GW

Hello Dafydd.

Great post. Miss you at Watcher's.

While the hearings - and our MSM - are just surreal, there are some very real and good things happening back in Baghdad.

As to the what Maliki's offensive won him - it portends to be huge. Sadr is now politically isolated - completely - with all other blocs in Parliament behind Maliki for his calls to disarm the Mahdi Militia. But the big news - positively huge actually - is Sistani joining in the call.

The above hissed in response by: GW [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 10, 2008 12:05 AM

The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

A fine explanation, Sachi... but I don't know if the entire Military and Diplomatic communities COMBINED would change the minds of the Politicians who have decided to present the World (including the War on Terror and our front in Iraq) in a manner that makes themselves look good to their supporters. The necessary desire for "Truth" in its classical and not the current political forms is just missing with them.

In order to change their minds, you would have to convince them that doing so would result in them gaining more power/prestige. If, say, we were to find a way for the Democrat Party to claim responsibility for our success in Iraq, we could pull it off. Perhaps we could say that Baghdad Jim McDermott's pre-war meetings with Saddam have made it possible for Iraq to pull together against the common enemy of George W. Bush...? I don't personally care if they are allowed to claim credit, as long as our Nation is protected. It brings up the problem of empowering dangerous politicians, but that might be necessary in the short run. In any case, you just won't convince these types with mere undisputed facts, unless the implications those facts create are important to the listener.

However, Dafydd's idea of creating a resource of knowledge that they could study in private online... that just may get a few of the less power-hungry Senators to absorb some strongly needed knowledge. It wouldn't work with most, but if it only helps one... it would be well worth the effort.

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 10, 2008 1:30 AM

The following hissed in response by: David M

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 04/10/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 10, 2008 7:42 AM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

SEN BOXER: "Yes, the Vice President got kissed on the cheek as well, but I heard that Achmadinejad got the tongue! How do you respond to that, ambassador?

AMB Crocker: "Well...ahem..."

SEN BOXER: "The tongue! There is also mounting evidence of mounting..."

AMB CROCKER: "Mounting what?"

Sen BOXER: "Mounting of the Presdient of Iran! Please try to keep up Ambassador. So we seem to have a mounting gap with Iran..."

AMB Crocker: "Err... Gen Petreus? You want to take this?"

GEN PETREUS: "No Ambasador, I would not."

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 10, 2008 10:07 AM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

In all seriousness, it is becoming increasingly obvious that this was a "Tet" offensive instigated by Iran. Like Tet, we won, but the media and liberals declared it a failure.

Actually I think a Tet style offensive was long planned by Iran and their sock puppet Mahdi army. Malaki got wind of it and wisely went on the offensive first, probably a week or so before the Mahdi army was ready. Malaki was not completely prepared, but the surprise start put the Mahdi army at considerable disadvantage.

Imagine Petraeus and Crocker's testimony if there was no trouble in Basra? Basra was an intentional fig leaf for the media and the liberals, and all too conveniently timed.

Expect something similar a couple of months before the election. Assuming the Mahdi army still exists...

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 10, 2008 2:52 PM

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