« Read It And Weep | Main | Weekend Bleg - To Mac or Not to Mac »

March 28, 2008

Comments

I'm not so sure this is bad news. I've been rooting for Maliki for a while now. He wants US forces out of Iraq now, which is what I want to. I think US forces stuffed the balot boxes in the last election to keep him from taking over, but they may not be able to pull that off next time.

It's ...

I was going to write "astonishing", but nothing is anymore. "Instructive" doesn't work, either since we all know this stuff already. Maybe "depressing"? OK, we'll go with that.

It's depressing that none of the pro-Bush echo chamber mentions that Maliki started this without consulting or even notifying the US, or stops to think for a second what it means that in this case, at least, American troops there are effectively under his command, not ours.

Frank: did you mean 'Sadr' when you wrote 'Maliki?

Mike S: I just updated with a link to a piece by Eric Martin, who says: don't be so sure we weren't informed. I think he's right (certainly to say skepticism is warranted.)

Hilzoy- Yah I meant Sadr. Oops I even scrolled up to cut and paste the name so I wouldn't mispell it.

Yeah if this leads to the collapse of the current Iraqi regime, and the exit of US forces we'll all be better off.

Gosh, if only there were a single, strong leader in Iraq who we could keep contained with regular inspections or something while he kept a lid on all these factions who want to kill each other.

Oh, wait...

Yeah if this leads to the collapse of the current Iraqi regime, and the exit of US forces we'll all be better off.

Frank,

First a terminological nitpick - personally I would hesitate to use the phrase "better off" in connection with any of this. Least-bad outcomes are the most we can hope for IMHO.

Be careful what you wish for, re: Sadr coming out on top. His rhetoric in the past suggests he would offer greater resistance to Iranian influence in Iraq than most of the other Shiite parties. On the surface this sounds appealing from a US-centric standpoint if you view Iran as an enemy, but I think it might lead to greater trouble than we think.

If Sadr is successful in taking over and uniting Iraq it might revive the geopolitical rivalry between Iraq and Iran, with the additional wrinkle that both of them would then be competing for influence over and patronage ties with the other Shiite groups in the region (e.g., in Lebanon). This could be a very unstable combination, since the path-of-least-resistance strategy for winning a regional hearts and minds competition would be to stress their superior radicalism in confronting both the US and the Sunnis. Compare for example the Sino-Soviet split in the 1950’s, and the de-moderating effect this had on policy in Maoist China.

Having Iraq under the control of a Shiite party which is a dependable Iranian proxy may be less bad than the alternative, if establishing some sort of stable balance of power in the region is something we want.

LeftTurn- That wouldn't surprise me. I've been waiting for the middle east to get more representative of it's common folk, as the neocons promised, for years now. It's the one promise of theirs I think they will actually deliver on. Naturaly a more democratic middle east will be openly hostile to American interests.

Sometimes justice stings, but we can't live without it.

Hilzoy:

Amidst an excellent and clear sighted round up of events, I find this passage a bit puzzling:

But recent developments should make it clear that while we are undoubtedly helping to keep a lid on things, it's not at all impossible that a civil war could break out while we're there.

While there was a respite from the worst of the civil war between last September and last month, it is hard to call pitched battles (with tanks and military aircraft bombing cities) between political factions over who will be better positioned in next Fall's elections anything other than a civil war.

If the Republican militias, the US army, and the occupying Iraqi army had just launched a massive tank and bomber attack on Cleveland, OH to try to break the back of the Democratic militia, and the Democratic militia in DC had responded by holding massive street protests and attacking the occupying troops there, I don't think we would be talking about how it might be possible that a civil war could start even before the Iraqi occupiers left. We would be talking about the current civil war.

Yes, the civil war just got worse, and it could get even worst still (either if we leave or if we stay), but it is a civil war right now, and has been for years.

I'd like to ask everyone commenting here and writing on their own blogs or elsewhere to avoid using the phrase "uptick of violence".

First, the phrase is another in a long line of denatured euphemisms to keep us from facing what is happening in Iraq.

Second, the kinds of events for which the phrase might be appropriate are not the events of this week: U.S. planes bombing urban neighborhoods; militias firing RPGs at each other within city blocks; daily mortaring of the Green zone; the blowing up of a major export pipeline in the south; etc.

I could have lived without that bit from IraqSlogger. Color me skeptical; I imagine the term originated not with and was spread not by Iraqis but by the many Republicans populating the occupation -- in the Green Zone and out, and by the U.S. press.

The actual news from IS is very worth knowing, and I appreciate your passing it on:

the gunmen who kidnapped the official spokesman for the Baghdad Security Plan yesterday were dressed in Interior Ministry uniforms, and arrived in official vehicles.

Charles S.- Actually its really not. Its the Americans and a handfull of their hated puppets on one side, and the mass of the Iraqi people on the other.

I lifted this from balloon juice:

During the Second Battle of Fallujah, the US attacking forces were composed of a composite division as six battalions led the main attack, another battalion as a diversion force, and two battalions as local reserves. Additionally an Iraqi Army brigade was present as a mop-up/press release force. The defending forces would have been the equivlant of two or three battalions of light infantry and local insurgents/neighborhood militias. Fallujah was a city of roughly 300,00 residents before the assault. And this assualt was supported by theatre level artillery and air support. And despite this large armored and heavy infantry force with excellent air support, plenty of helicopter mobility and firepower, superior logistics, the defending force was able to inflict heavy absolute and proportional casualties—- roughly 10% of the US force was wounded or killed, and many infantry companies saw 30% to 50% casualty levels.

The Iraqi Army force in Basra is a single division of lightly supported infantry with some US/UK locally controlled air support, minimal artillery, minimal aviation support. Basra is a city of 2.6 million people (2003) and it is overwhelmingly Shi’ite. If one assumes that one half of one percent of the male population are available to be called up for Mahdi Army fighting units, the defenders have numerical parity with the attacking force. That is never a good thing, especially when the defenders are on their own grounds, fighting from prepared positions in dense urban networks and have higher morale and more firepower than the attackers.


I forget where I was reading about the Iraqi soldier getting rid of their uniforms, keeping their rifles and switching sides, but you all should be used to hearing stories like that by now.

What I can't figure out is why Maliki and the government forces felt they had to initiate such a hopeless attack. Maybe Bush pushed them, but that seems unikely, all the pushing has gone the other way for the past few years. My best guess is that the collaborators feel their only hope is to make the Americans kill as many of their enemies as possible while they still have Americans around.

I better get going. Later.

I agree with Eric Martin. The administration saw this coming. There were reports weeks ago that Basra was out of control and that Maliki was thinking of going in. I don't think it's a coincidence that both McCain and Cheney conveniently happened into Iraq a week before the carnage.

"Prime Minister Maliki's bold decision -- and it was a bold decision -- to go after the illegal groups in Basra shows his leadership, and his commitment to enforce the law in an even-handed manner. It also shows the progress the Iraqi security forces have made during the surge. Iraqi forces planned this operation and they deployed substantial extra forces for it. They're leading the operation. Prime Minister Maliki has traveled to Basra to oversee it firsthand.

This offensive builds on the security gains of the surge, and demonstrates to the Iraqi people that their government is committed to protecting them."

In fairness to Bush, almost everything he said here is true (just not in the way he meant). "even-handed" is about the only factually challenged part. Read it again with intercalated footnotes:

"Prime Minister Maliki's bold decision -- and it was a bold decision

[bold and wise are not the same thing]

-- to go after the illegal

[the militias were not sanctioned via a formal process like elections, which does not change the fact that in some locations they may be much more popular and enjoy greater informal legitimacy than Maliki's govt.]

groups in Basra shows his leadership

[i.e., this was his stupid idea]

, and his commitment to enforce the law in an even-handed manner

[this is the BS part]

. It also shows the progress the Iraqi security forces have made during the surge

[which is to say very little progress at all]

. Iraqi forces planned this operation

[something we may all soon regret]

and they deployed substantial extra forces for it

[which means that if it fails they are in deep fertilizer]

. They're leading the operation

[in other words we are being led around by the nose]

. Prime Minister Maliki has traveled to Basra to oversee it firsthand.

This offensive builds on the security gains of the surge

[which were slim to none]

, and demonstrates to the Iraqi people that their government is committed to protecting them."

[He doesn't say protecting them from what. Perhaps the pernicious economic effects of too much oil revenue.]

Frank: I've been waiting for the middle east to get more representative of it's common folk, as the neocons promised, for years now. It's the one promise of theirs I think they will actually deliver on.

I'm gobsmacked. I mean:

1. Sure, the neocons talk a lot about democracy, but in practice they never support democracy, because a democratic government won't reliably support US interests over the interests of the people who elected it.

2. Even if the neocons did support democracy for the Middle East, instead of just talking about it, they have no way to "deliver".

3. While it is to be hoped that countries which are run by a largely unrepresentative government become more representative, there are plenty of other countries in the Middle East which have less democratic governments than Iran: Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, for two.

"It's going to take awhile, but it's a necessary part of the development of a free society,"
-President George Bush

“Of Mohammedan good faith we have had memorable examples ourselves. When our gallant Decatur had chastised the pirate of Algiers, till he was ready to renounce his claim of tribute from the United States, he signed a treaty to that effect; but the treaty was drawn up in the Arabic language, as well as our own; and our negotiators, unacquainted with the language of the Koran, signed the copies of the treaty in both languages, not imagining that there was any difference between them. Within a year the Dey demands, under penalty of the renewal of the war, an indemnity in money for the frigate taken by Decatur: our Consul demands the foundation of this pretension; and the Arabic copy of the treaty, signed by himself, is produced, with an article stipulating the indemnity foisted into it, in direct opposition to the treaty as it had been concluded. The arrival of Chauncey with a squadron before Algiers silenced the fraudulent claim of the Dey, and he signed a new treaty, in which it was abandoned, but he distained to conceal his intentions.

“My power,” said he, “has been wrested from my hands; draw ye the treaty at your pleasure, and I will sign it; but beware of the moment when I shall recover my power, for with that moment your treaty shall be waste-paper.” He avowed what Mohammedans have always practised, and what he would without scruple have practised himself.

Such has been the uniform character of the Ottoman Porte towards their Russian neighbors; and such is the spirit which governs the hearts of men, to whom violence and treachery are taught as principles of religion.”

-John Quincy Adams’ words from a more intelligent time, keyed in from the Cornell archives:

http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moa/pageviewer?root=%2Fmoa%2Fusde%2Fusde0036%2F&tif=00395.TIF&cite=http%3A%2F%2Fcdl.library.cornell.edu%2Fcgi-bin%2Fmoa%2Fmoa-cgi%3Fnotisid%3DAGD1642-0036-95&coll=moa&frames=1&view=50

Frank: "While there was a respite from the worst of the civil war between last September and last month, it is hard to call pitched battles (with tanks and military aircraft bombing cities) between political factions over who will be better positioned in next Fall's elections anything other than a civil war."

That this is a civil war, occurring while our troops are there, was sort of my point. I probably should have been clearer.

Any chance that Charles Bird will show up in this thread and explain why American strategy is working in Iraq?

Any chance that Charles Bird will show up in this thread and explain why American strategy is working in Iraq?

I just had a look at Redstate and could not find a single article or blog about Iraq. So what is happening there cannot be of any importance.

So what is happening there cannot be of any importance.

Where, Iraq or RedState?

Frank, before you get too enthusiastic about Sadr and the Madhi Army, don't forget that before their cease-fire they were responsible for the bulk of the sectarian cleansing. They were the ones who killed any man of military age whose name sounded too Sunni (up to 100 a night). They were also the ones who drove power drills through their rivals' skulls. So don't let their talk of national unity fool you.

Yes, everyone meant Sadr 'cause we don't want to be demoically possessed by luciferian females who don't like guys, you know, for, like, making babies or whatever.

The US is always going to be there for support. There is no way around it.

The civil war is the division of Iraq. The US started to agree with that kind of.

Of course the US was notified of the offensive beforehand - Americans drove them to Basra. The Iraqi government does not have the capability to mobilise and maintain in the field 20-30k fighters. end of.

Yes, Cheney gave the go ahead. As I wrote in the other thread on this subject a few days ago, I suspect Ahmedinajad gave Baghad the go ahead to move against Sadr when he visited (or in the wake of). Washington is over the barrel - help Maliki do this thing, or watch the Iraqi government openly go over to the Iranians (which they effectively have anyway) before Bush has even left the White House. So what can you do? Help them do this thing, keep them sorta onside for a while, do as they always done: hope tomorrow is better.

Shoulda courted Sadr from the beginning.

i reckon.

Wait, the surge isn't working?

WHY DIDN'T SOMEONE TELL ME!

The Sadrists have been pretty vicious so we don't want them to win. On the other hand the government Shias are almost Iranian puppets. Quite a dilemma. Pretty bizarre that the US Army is taking sides so strongly.

Peripherally,The Torture Team by Scott">http://snipurl.com/22wg7">Scott Horton. I haven’t yet been able to bear reading it all the way through.

Weblink's broken, but this one works: Scott Horton: The Torture Team.

I agree with every word of it except the very last sentence.

Thanks, Jes.

Hilzoy, thank you for the post and all the links

A somewhat different viewpoint--

Link

Muqtada al-Sadr nails it . (via TPM)

Which kinda exposes, IMHO, the whole "Basra Offensive" for what it is: an attempt to eliminate any signifciant Shiite rivals of the ISCI/Dawa/Maliki bloc: i.e. any of those who might be overtly anti-American or (at the least) anti-Occupation. Hence the obsessive US frame of the whole mess as a simplistic Good Guys-vs-Bad Guys struggle - with us, of course, supporting the Good Guys (i.e. the "legitimate Government") vs the sinister, black-turbaned "rogue cleric with private militia" Sadr.

This puerile interpretation, of course, ignores most of the political realities on the ground in Iraq - but then, after five years of incompetent BS from the Bush gang, why should this be news?

Arthur Silber: Morality, Justice and Life Destroyed: Lies and Slaughter Without End

Of course the US was notified of the offensive beforehand - Americans drove them to Basra. The Iraqi government does not have the capability to mobilise and maintain in the field 20-30k fighters. end of.

Jeez byrnie, I hadn't even thought of that. Adding in an update.

from swimming freestyle on al Sadr's call to the Mahdi Army to lay down their weapons:

"So, who did win this week? It's probably fair to say losers don't issue demands and winners don't accept those demands so readily.

http://swimmingfreestyle.typepad.com

Eric: More from The Independent:

British commanders were unaware of the operation until just before it began, although the Iraqi government’s national security adviser, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, had spent half an hour discussing the plan with General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, on Saturday evening. This was followed by Mr Maliki ordering two extra Iraqi infantry battalions to Basra that night.

Thanks Matt.

Well, that explains why the Brits stayed back at the base...
FUBAR (in a word).

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad