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July 03, 2008

Comments

This is just unsupported assertions. Where are the citations to the case law in proper Bluebook form?

This is pure Bush administration wishful thinking as policymaking

I think, seriously, that our foreign policy for the last 7 years has been based on a deliberate and conscious refusal to consider facts on the ground. There seems to be an assumption in play that we can somehow recreate the world into a form we like better, at will, rather than deal with it as it is.

That's the only sense I can make of things. Either that or the principals are stone cold right out of their minds.

Actually, thinking you can just make the world be the way you want it to be, because that's the way you want it to be, may well be a form of being right out of your mind.

Six months and counting. Can't wait.

Thanks -

Because the Sadrist movement opposes certain of the Bush administration's objectives, Bush administration policymakers assume they can be targeted, marginalized and/or dismissed.

Well I think the Sadrists are bad guys. They opposes liquor, dating, music, women exposing their hair, and various other freedoms and they will impose their preferences on the rest of the Iraqis. When Basra was under Sadrists' control, kidnapping, and extortion were the order of the day. And now recently the Sadrists are doing the suicide bombings. What is so good about Al Sadr except that he hates America? Why do you prefer him to run things in Iraq?

I think, seriously, that our foreign policy for the last 7 years has been based on a deliberate and conscious refusal to consider facts on the ground.

I think this is right, but I also wonder if we're not seeing the logical conclusion of Harvard Business School thinking. The classic HBS feature was case study analysis: students show up, read a few pages of background information about some company along with a description of the challenges facing senior management. Then the students formulate strategies to deal with the problems faced by management. In this setting, knowledge is harmful since you're not allowed to reference anything outside the case study; the presumption really is that any MBA can swoop in, read 20 pages and then be equipped to make major strategic decisions. No history needed.

From that perspective, what differentiates a good leader from a bad leader? It cannot be knowledge or hard work. It cannot be the quality of subordinates or the organizational infrastructure a leader has built. It cannot be anything beyond sheer strategic vision and moral certainty. That's it. In Bush's mind, the thing that separates him from Bill Clinton is his moral superiority, his ability to stand firm and refuse to accept evil. We are ruled by people who think that success comes from quickly reaching an opinion and then boldly repeating it, no matter what happens.

I don't think this explains everything about Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and friends, but I think it helps. If you're a very stupid person with no real skills confronted by the tremendous challenges of high office, you have no choice but to assume that leadership boils down to innate qualities like your personal morality and ability to stay the course and toughness.

I stole much of this analysis from Henry Mintzberg, the management professor who writes (very amusingly) about how MBA programs are awful for society. His short article on Bush's leadership style and how some of its defects might derive from Harvard Business School is here.

@ DaveC:

"They opposes liquor, dating, music, women exposing their hair, and various other freedoms and they will impose their preferences on the rest of the Iraqis"

Uhh, Dave: just out of curiousity, which elements of the Iraqi governing structure (current OR potential) - do you think won't be minded to "oppose" these cultural "freedoms"?* Any particular reason you know of why the present Government is any more inclined to social libertarianism than the Sadrists?

Oh, and if you have ever read any amount of Eric's writing about the Sadrist movement and its impact in (and on) Iraq, you'd know that writing stuff like:

"Why do you prefer him to run things in Iraq?"

is just so much tripe. AFAICT Eric's point (which he has belabored mightily on the trolletariat for quite a while now) isn't so much that he "prefers" Sadr to "run" Iraq, but merely to point out that the Sadrist movement is highly popular among a highly non-trivial portion of Iraqi Shi'ites: and that attempts by the US or the Maliki Government to discredit/marginalize/eliminate it as a social/political force in the country are (or likely to be) a) counterproductive and/or b) failures.


*outside Kurdistan, that is

Well I think the Sadrists are bad guys. They opposes liquor, dating, music, women exposing their hair, and various other freedoms and they will impose their preferences on the rest of the Iraqis.

They sound a lot like most fundamentalists I've ever known.

The blowing people up part, I agree, not a good thing. But the country is at war.

The point, to me anyway, is that Sadr represents the interests of a lot of Iraqis. Ignoring him, or trying to marginalize him politically, because we don't like him, is going to result in the folks he represents having no vested interest in whatever solution we leave behind in Iraq.

And, of course, there is the question of how much our dislike of him is due to his position on Iraqi mineral rights.

We can insist on whatever we like. The rest of the people in the world will respond according to what they see to be their own best interests. The world isn't our toy.

Thanks -

I knew this post would be here before I clicked the bookmark. ;)

Oh well, we’re wrapping it up:

Heading into the holiday weekend, Obama and his advisers repudiated that pledge, saying he is reevaluating his plan and will incorporate advice from commanders on the ground when he visits Iraq later this month.

A top Obama adviser said he is not “wedded” to a specific timeline, and Obama said Thursday he plans to “refine” his plan.

From Insty: With all these changes, Obama's morphing into a candidate I could support!

As he would say, Heh.

DaveC:

Ironically, Sadr represents that faction of Iraq that stands strongly against Iranian influence in Iraq. Maliki and our "allies" in Iraq openly seek closer ties with Iran. Our current policy guarantees heavy Iranian influence in Iraq.

There is nothing uniquely thuggish about Sadr -- all of the factions in Iraq use their thuggish militias to hold onto power. The only thing distinguishing Sadr is that he is also strongly anti-American, whereas Maliki and crew find it useful to avoid conflict with the US.

The point is that no one is really our friend over there, and we have no policy that seeks to further our own long term goals in the region. Current Bush policy is to guarantee a permanent US military presence in Iraq, but even Maliki finds it impossible to agree to that.

When we leave Iraq, we will leave behind a regime that is strongly anti-US (or at least closer to Iran than the US) whether it involves Sadr or some other faction being part of the government. It is probably in our interest to see that Sadr has a voice in Iraq since that would diminish Iranian influence, which is probably the best we can hope for long term.

@DaveC
When Basra was under Sadrists' control, kidnapping, and extortion were the order of the day.

Um... as opposed to the rest of Iraq?

@Turb

Your link is slightly broken.

Thanks Nom!

DaveC: I don't understand why you love Iran so much. Is it because you're a traitor or is it because you think the Iraqi people should be subjugated under Iranian control? Did you really learn nothing from 300?

Sadr represents that faction of Iraq that stands strongly against Iranian influence in Iraq.

I do not believe that.

Just saying.

Mugabe represents the interests of a considerable minority of Zimbabweans.

A top Obama adviser said he is not “wedded” to a specific timeline, and Obama said Thursday he plans to “refine” his plan.

I think what everybody needs to acknowledge and accept at this point is that events in Iraq aren't really under our control. We have a very significant input, but we're not the only relevant actors.

One consequence of that is that nobody can really say how long we will, or will not, have troops there. Even assuming Obama's intent is to withdraw, as opposed to McCain's likely intent to stay indefinitely, "as soon as is practically possible" is a pretty squishy time line.

Not squishy due (at least necessarily) to bad faith. Squishy due to reality.

It's just the way it is. IMO we'll be there for a long time yet.

Thanks -

"When Basra was under Sadrists' control, kidnapping, and extortion were the order of the day"

Back on planet earth, Basra has never been under the control of the Sadrists, but under the Fadilah Militia/Party.

It helps to have the faintest clue what one is talking about, when one is talking about something.

JAM was in Basra, too.

Look at the 2nd article in your 1st link:

Though elements of Basra’s most powerful militia, the Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM), are financed, trained.....

,he said faintly.

Oddly, I am in Baltimore, though I do not control it...


Oddly, I am in Baltimore, though I do not control it...

IIRC nobody was in control of Baltimore when crab was in season. Or at least that is how it worked when I used to live there back in the 1980's. It may have changed since then, and now I have to make do with keeping a can of Old Bay handy as a reminder of how things used to be.

But I am not aware of all Baltimore traditions...

To get back on topic:

Eric,

What does your crystal ball see regarding the scheduled regional elections this fall in Iraq?

Do you think the Maliki govt. will cancel/postpone them, or go forward with them hoping to sufficiently suppress turnout on the part of the Sadrists to squeak through and continue to hold power as the dominant Shia coalition?

First of all, Jay C pretty much summed up my position. Thanks for that.

Gary and others point out quite correctly that: 1. Sadr was never in control of Basra; and 2. fundamentalist parties like ISCI and Fadila are, well, fundamentalist parties! Such that they too enforce strict religious codes. And either way, um, I thought we were supposed to be bringing democracy to Iraq? Doesn't that entail letting Iraqis choose their leaders?

As for regional elections, they will almost certainly be postponed somewhat. October 1 isn't going to happen. My guess is that Maliki et al will eventually let them occur, but only after they feel as though they've sufficiently shaped the space such that they can suppress Sadr turnout or, more importantly, take control of the vote counting aparatus such that they can ensure victory.

As Boss Tweed is rumored to have said, "The ballots don't make the results, the counters make the results."

The Iraqis are gonna love us for that.

Eric,

I disagree that the U.S. military is specifically targeting the Sadr movement. It's more like we were going after people who are shooting at us or killing civilians (of which Jaish al-Mahdi was doing plenty, even after the ceasefire in August 2007). From the last testimony:

I think the way -- the best way to characterize Muqtada al-Sadr is that he is the face and the leadership of a very important and legitimate political movement in Iraq, one that, in fact, was part of the coalition that elected Prime Minister Maliki, has 30 votes in the council of representatives, is a movement that has to be not just acknowledged but addressed, dealt with, reached out to by the government of Iraq. -Gen. Petraeus

As for Maliki and ISCI targeting the Sadrists, what do you want us to do? It's their country. Same thing with the Iranian diplomacy in Iraq. How did we feel about Iraq being on good terms with Iran? It's their country. Their cultural ties and economic ties are immense. I actually have an Iranian rug sitting in my living room that I brought back, which I purchased in the IZ. Call me a traitor if you must.

With regards to OCSteve who mentioned this:

What's the deal? Are the netroots going to change tunes on Iraq like Obama said he might? How does this whole partisan political process work. I was deployed last election and missed all the shenanigans.

Good grief, people. Obama didn't say anything about Iraq today that he hasn't been saying for months.

Obama didn't say anything about Iraq today that he hasn't been saying for months.

"Let me be as clear as I can be. I intend to end this war. My first day in office I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in, and I will give them a new mission, and that is to end this war — responsibly, deliberately, but decisively. And I have seen no information that contradicts the notion that we can bring our troops out safely at a pace of one to two brigades a month, and again, that pace translates into having our combat troops out in 16 months' time."--Obama, today

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2008_07/014031.php

It's more like we were going after people who are shooting at us or killing civilians (of which Jaish al-Mahdi was doing plenty, even after the ceasefire in August 2007).

Wait, are you saying that the US Army goes after people that kill its soldiers or civilians? Huh, that's funny, because I thought that the US Army's official policy is that if you kill enough American soldiers or Iraqi civilians, the US Army will start paying you large sums of money while giving you weapons. Why aren't we doing that with Sadr? Did he not kill enough American soldiers to qualify for the buyout option?

I look forward to local police departments throughout the country adopting this technique. I can't wait until we start paying off the mafia with taxpayer funds!

What Turby said.

There was a cease fire with Sadr's folks that we violated repeatedly, until Sadr's hand was forced by internal pressure.

If we stop targeting Sadrists, a cease fire is possible, as with the Anbar crowd.

Eric:
Assuming that by "we" you mean the US:

"If we stop targeting Sadrists, a cease fire is possible, as with the Anbar crowd."

But in that case, why the substantive American assistance for PM Maliki's "Charge of the Knights" campaign (or campaigns - aren't they still going on?) and the semi-official demonization of Moqtada al-Sadr and his movement by all and sundry? Since it seems "we" are backing the "legitimate" Dawa/ISCI Government in their operations against the Sadrists, how likely is it that we are going to acquiesce in inviting Young Mook and his crew to the dance - whenever the elections will (finally) be held? Especially given that the Bush Administration seems increasing desperate to nail down an advantageous SOFA deal - regardless of what the Iraqis think - before their (or Maliki's) mandate(s) expire?


PS: You're welcome ;)

But in that case, why the substantive American assistance for PM Maliki's "Charge of the Knights" campaign (or campaigns - aren't they still going on?) and the semi-official demonization of Moqtada al-Sadr and his movement by all and sundry?

Because Sadr refuses to say uncle? Because no matter how hard we hammer him, he still keeps insisting that we have no right to be in Iraq and that we should get the frack out now? That'd be my guess.

Alternatively, it might be that because Sadr commands more popular legitimacy than many other actors on the Iraqi stage, he is less dependent on America, and if its one thing we cannot abide, it is an actor with the freedom to tell us to frack off.

how likely is it that we are going to acquiesce in inviting Young Mook and his crew to the dance?

My guess is "not very likely". Maybe Obama will do something different, but under Bush I imagine we'll continue doing Maliki's dirty work for him. I guess that's why people go to Westpoint these days, so they can work as hired guns for a bunch of local thugs taking out other local thugs. God Bless America!

As for Maliki and ISCI targeting the Sadrists, what do you want us to do?

Do not use US troops and air power as the point of their spear, which is what we have been doing.

Thank you Gary for pointing out the facts on the ground in Basra. As I understood it, JAM had been in control of the government machinery in Basra but the Sadrists had been taking de facto control of a number of areas and are predicted to win regional elections. A murky situation, but clearly not one in which the Sadrists ran Basra.

For an area that has been under Sadr control, look at Sadr City in Baghdad if you want to see how they run things. Also not a pretty picture, but not the criminal chaos of Basra.

I think a key is the upcoming elections and how they are handled -- not just the regional elections, but the Kirkuk election and the national elections. A tremendous amount has changed in the country since the last elections in 2005. Will election pressure increase sectarian violence amongst all groups, as well as intra-Shia violence?

It is a bad thing when the faction in power is already using its military power to marginalize election rivals.

"And either way, um, I thought we were supposed to be bringing democracy to Iraq? Doesn't that entail letting Iraqis choose their leaders?"

For the benefit of those, unlike Eric, who aren't too familiar with the various Iraqi factions (hint: it's not "the government, Sadr, and Al Qaeda"), it's worth pointing out how Fadilah came to control Basra, and it was through those wonderful purple-thumbed elections that some once cheered heartily, paying not attention at all to the fact that it was fundamentalist parties who won almost all the power in Iraq, including in Basra. Democratically. Through elections.

[...] Carroll would have done his readers a favor to have mentioned who won the provincial elections in Basra on January 30. Of 41 seats, 20 went to the Shiite Islamists of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Another 16 or so went to the Virtue Party or Fadilah, which follows the late ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. Carroll, it seems to me, is likely confusing Fadilah with the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr. In fact, they follow Muhammad al-Yaqubi, a more low-key rival of Muqtada's who studied with Muqtada's father. Fadilah controls Basra city hall because it put together a coalition that gave it 21 seats, so it can outvote SCIRI. The two victors of the democratic elections, in any case, are now appointing the police, which are obviously loyal to the parties rather than to an ex-Baathist police chief installed by the widely disliked ex-Baathist and old time CIA asset Iyad Allawi.
The "Sadrist movement" is not, of course, the movement of Moktada al-Sadr, but that of his father and uncle. Fadila is a breakaway from that movement, not Moktada. This is basic stuff which anyone with a clue about Iraq knows.
Saturday, September 24, 2005

Fadilah Calls for Defeat of Constitution

Ayatollah Muhammad Ya`qubi, the leader in Najaf of the Fadilah (Virtue) Party--which has a big political and social base in the southern port city of Basra--has called on his followers to reject the new constitution because it does not go far enough toward consecrating Islamic law as the law of the land. The Fadilah Party is a branch of the Sadr Movement, founded by Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (d. 1999), which is known for its puritanism and zealotry. Ya`qubi is a rival of Muqtada al-Sadr, the son of the slain Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, who leads a much bigger branch of the Sadr movement.

Fadilah did well in the Jan. 30 elections in Basra, and at one point, at least, had put together a coalition that gave it 21 seats on the 41-seat provincial council. The Telegraph seems to say that Fadilah was subsequently outmaneuvered and that Ya`qubi has been somewhat marginalized. (His main rival in the city is the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its paramilitary, the Badr Corps). Ya`qubi has a serious and somewhat bitter rivalry with Sistani and the Telegraph is mistaken to suggest that Sistani might talk him out of his opposition.

Back in 2003, we knew that:
He mentions that the Sadr Movement is still fragile, and that Ya`qubi, one of Muqtada's father's students, has founded al-Fadilah, a political party aimed at organizing the Sadr Movement as a voting bloc. Al-Fadilah is not loyal to Muqtada but to the principles of his late father, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr.
If you didn't follow this stuff in 2003, that's five years of having no clue what's going on with Iraqi factions.

Al-Fadhila Party.

I'd love for DaveC to explain why he applauds and cheerleads these guys and these guys instead forming the Iraqi government and being our "allies." Why do you like these Iranian-backed fundamentalists, DaveC? They oppose liquor, dating, music, women exposing their hair, and various other freedoms and they have impose their preferenced on the rest of the Iraqis, using power drills, decapitating, kidnapping, and torture. With much of Iraq under their control, kidnapping, and extortion have been the order of the day.

Why do you like that, DaveC? Why?

I don't like these people, myself. But you do; I guess you just love Islamic fundamentalist torturers, and the Iranian mullahs.

I love America. God bless it.

I never liked the Taliban even when they had more popular support. I don't like the Iranian clerics, Hizballah or Hamas very much either. Al Sadr reminds me very much of these types, against "secular thoughts", Western ideas, etc., and will stop at nothing to try and establish a grim theocratic state. I don't want the future of the Muslim and Arab world to look like that. I believe that there is better way than that, and that we should encourage the guys that are the most good and least bad, because this is going to be a decades long struggle against the bad guys. Remember, for years and years the world left the Taliban alone to have their precious burka party, and they still came after us.

Bollixed the first link here: I'd love for DaveC to explain why he applauds and cheerleads these guys and these guys instead forming the Iraqi government and being our "allies." Why do you like these Iranian-backed fundamentalists, DaveC? Why do you support Dawa and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, and their horrific murdering, kidnapping, torturing, militias, Dave? Why do you cheerlead for the Iraqi government they control?

See, Dave, if you were an honest interlocuter, you'd answer these questions as to why you support these guys. You know, the ones in charge of the Iraqi government?

Why do you support them?

You never answer; instead, you make up sh*t about other people supporting the Taliban. Can you link to anyone here ever saying they favored the Taliban, or like the fundamentalist values of Hamas, or the thuggish nature of Hezbollah? No, of course you can't; you just lie like a rug about it, instead.

That's why it's not worth "debating" you. Not until you change behavior, and change consistently for several months, at least.

"As I understood it, JAM had been in control of the government machinery in Basra"

No, I'm afraid that's wrong. JAM has never been in control of the government machinery in Basra, although they've had large numbers of their militia there; it was the rival Fadhila Party that won control of Basra in the elections, and held it via their militia and control of governmental offices and assets; JAM and Fadhila tend to shoot each other.

Let's go back to last August:

As British forces pull back from Basra in southern Iraq, Shiite militias there have escalated a violent battle against each other for political supremacy and control over oil resources, deepening concerns among some U.S. officials in Baghdad that elements of Iraq's Shiite-dominated national government will turn on one another once U.S. troops begin to draw down.

Three major Shiite political groups are locked in a bloody conflict that has left the city in the hands of militias and criminal gangs, whose control extends to municipal offices and neighborhood streets. The city is plagued by "the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors," a recent report by the International Crisis Group said.

[...]

As it prepares to take control of Basra, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has dispatched new generals to head the army and police forces there. But the warring militias are part of factions in the government itself, including radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr -- whose Mahdi Army is believed responsible for most of the recent attacks on the airport compound -- as well as the Fadhila, or Islamic Virtue Party, and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the country's largest Shiite party.

In March, Fadhila pulled out of Maliki's ruling alliance of Shiite parties in Baghdad after it lost control of the petroleum ministry to the Supreme Council. Last week, under pressure from the council, Maliki fired the Fadhila governor of Basra. Fadhila has refused to relinquish power over the governate or over Basra's lucrative oil refineries, calling the Maliki government "the new Baath" -- a reference to Hussein's Sunni-led political party -- and appealed the dismissal to Iraq's constitutional court.

Jockeying for political power in Baghdad has long since translated into shooting battles in Basra. The militias have shifted alliances with one another, as well as with the British and with Iran as they fight for control of neighborhoods and resources. With the escalation of street battles and assassinations, much of the population is confined to homes and is fearful of Islamic rules imposed by militias.

September 17th, 2007:
A guide to the key Shiite players in Basra

Sadrists and Mahdi Army: The movement of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is a formidable force in Basra. The Mahdi Army is estimated to number 17,000 in the province. Security officials say that some of the Basra militia are infiltrated by Iran and beholden to Tehran. It opposes a super-Shiite region, but supports the ouster of the Fadhila governor.

The Council: The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, previously known by its acronym SCIRI, embraces four other affiliate parties in Basra:

• The Badr Organization – Once the council’s Iranian-trained paramilitary arm, known as the Badr Brigade.

• The Shaheed Al-Mihrab Organization – A nationwide movement headed by Ammar al-Hakim, the son of the Council’s chief.

• The Sayed Al-Shuhada Movement (Master of Martyrs Movement).

• The Hizbullah Movement in Iraq (no relation to Lebanese Hizbullah) and another small Iraqi party called Hizbullah al-Iraq (see below).

All five parties were previously based in Iran and have strong ties to Tehran. The Council and its affiliates hold 21 of the 40 seats in the provincial council. Badr still controls several police units, including customs.

The Pentacle House: The Council and its four party affiliates make up the Bayet al-Khumasi, or the Pentacle House. The goal: to create a nine-province Shiite group called the “South of Baghdad region.” Billboards in Basra tout the project as a “Shiite Renaissance.”

The Islamic Fadhila (Virtue) Party: Fadhila is a national party founded by Basra natives. Its spiritual leader is Najaf-based cleric Ayatollah Muhammad al-Yacoubi, who broke ranks with Moqtada al-Sadr in 2003.

The movement continues to espouse Sadrist ideas but has increasingly fashioned itself as a Shiite Arab Islamist party opposed to Iranian meddling in Iraq. It opposes the pro-Iranian Council and its affiliates over a number of issues, including the supersouthern region.

Fadhila holds 12 seats in the Basra provincial council, including the governorship and one of the two deputy governor slots in Basra. Fadhila dominates the 15,000-strong oil protection force.

Thaar Allah (God’s Revenge) Party: A small party based in Basra and headed by Yousif al-Mussawi. He is suspected by many city residents of being an Iranian agent. The party derives much of its funding from wealthy merchants who rely on it for protection. It has allied itself with the Council and its Pentacle House in the fight to oust the Fadhila governor. Mr. Mussawi blames the governor for the death of three members of his family during a raid on his party headquarters in 2006.

Hizbullah al-Iraq: A small party headed by tribal chief Abdul-Karim al-Mahamadawi, based in neighboring Maysan Province. The Prince of the Marshes, as Mr. Mahamadawi is known, has a large, armed tribal following and presence in Basra. He has tense relations with the Council and its affiliates.

Mahmoud al-Hassani al-Sarkhi: The cleric broke ranks with the Sadrists and is believed to be in the holy city of Karbala with the bulk of his militia. But he still has a following in Basra. His posters adorn many streets. The controversial cleric has challenged the authority of the marjiya, the Shiite religious authority dominated by the Najaf-based Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

[...]

300 assassinations

The council, previously known by its acronym SCIRI, and its affiliates were all based in Iran before Mr. Hussein's ouster. Its paramilitary unit, the Badr Brigade, was trained by the Iranians.

Badrists, as members of the Badr Brigade are known, now hold senior positions throughout central and southern Iraq as governors and commanders in the security forces. In Basra, a senior Badrist, Khalaf al-Badran, heads customs, after founding the police intelligence unit. All border crossings, including Shalamja to Iran and Safwan to Kuwait, are controlled by Badrists. Another top Badrist, Hassan al-Rashid, had been Basra's governor before losing out to Muhammad Mosabeh al-Waeli of the Fadhila Party in 2005.

Already the provinces of Maysan, Dhi Qar (Nasiriyah), and Muthana (Samawa), which had been handed over by the British-led coalition troops to Iraqis starting in 2005, have seen several episodes of pitched battles between the Mahdi Army and government forces beholden to Badr.

Last month saw the assassination of two top Badrists – Muthana Province Gov. Muhammad al-Hassani and Diwaniyah Gov. Jalil Hamza – with most fingers pointing to elements of the Mahdi Army.

"I expect the tit-for-tat assassinations to increase," says a Basra-based newspaper editor, adding that at least 300 partisans of Badr and its sister parties in the Supreme Council have been assassinated in Basra alone since the start of the year.

One resident of the middle-class neighborhood of Jazayer describes how he witnessed the drive-by shooting of a Badr official on his street on Aug. 19 that was promptly followed by the kidnapping, torture, and killing of a Mahdi Army operative in the same neighborhood.

"Facing the often invisible enemy, the terrorists that plague Basra, is not for the fainthearted," says Cpl. Ross Jones in a story posted last month by the British Army on the Ministry of Defense's official website.

God's Revenge

One Shiite party bears the brunt of charges by residents of Iranian influence: Thaar Allah, or God's Revenge. It's described by one Basra journalist as a "time bomb."

On a recent afternoon, the party's leader, Yousif al-Mussawi, stood in front of his SUV with its tinted windows in the courtyard of his headquarters. He spoke on a sleek mobile phone. The bearded Mr. Mussawi wore a shirt unbuttoned at the neck and black jeans. A large pistol was stuffed in his waist.

"Thaar Allah is a party founded by divine purpose," is scrawled on the outside wall. His party has a penchant for graffiti.

Heavily armed men in military fatigues guard the two-story building painted in deep green. In the hallways, men and women mill around waiting to see party officials for help in resolving disputes or landing government jobs.

Inside his office, Mussawi becomes slightly hostile when asked about the origins of his party. He finally relents and says that it started in 1995 as a guerrilla group that conducted operations against the former regime from its base in the marshes along the Iranian border. Mussawi, a former naval officer, was later imprisoned in Baghdad's infamous Abu Ghraib prison and was among the thousands released by Hussein in October 2002 ahead of the US-led invasion.

He does not hide his affection for Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and says that his party desires to establish in Iraq a wilayat faqikh, a state ruled by clerics along the lines of Iran. But he denies any military or financial links to the Iranians.

Mussawi speaks of plans to expand his party's presence throughout Iraq including Baghdad and the need to fight all coalition forces until they leave. "Coalition forces are usurpers, plunderers, and occupiers and must be resisted … by force. I am doing that," he says, refusing to give details.

He rolls out a classified map of Basra prepared by the British military showing the level of violence in July. Asked how he obtained it, he says with a laugh, "They steal it for us."

He denies accusations made by his opponents that the party is bankrolled by protection money paid by wealthy traders including the Ashour family, which dominates the port of Abu Flous, south of the city. He calls the money he receives from these families "donations from party members."

Mussawi has bolstered his position by forging an alliance with what's known in Basra as the Bayet al-Khumasi, or the Pentacle House.

The Bayet al-Khumasi comprises the council and its affiliates the Badr Organization – the new name for the Badr Brigade – the Shaheed Al-Mihrab Foundation, the Sayed al-Shuhada Movement, and the Hizbullah Movement (no relation to Lebanese Hizbullah).

They all want to oust Governor Waeli.

Mr. Waeli, who is a member of the Fadhila Party, is accused of mismanagement of public funds, corruption, and using the 15,000-strong oil facilities protection force, dominated by Fadhila partisans, in Basra and neighboring provinces as a paramilitary unit specializing in crude oil theft.

His enemies have a chant, making the rounds here on cellular phones, that derides Fadhila, which means virtue, as "Radhila," meaning sin.

Some of his detractors also charge that he's an agent for British forces and the Kuwaitis.

Fadhila follows the teachings of the late Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, Moqtada's father, but it does not believe the young cleric is fit to carry the Sadrist mantle. Fadhila leader Ayatollah Muhammad al-Yacoubi, one of the senior Sadr's disciples, has fashioned the party as a Shiite Arab Islamist party opposed to Iran.

This has made Fadhila's relationship with the Mahdi Army tense and put it on a direct collision course with the Supreme Council, the pro-Iranian heavyweight.

Waeli has accused Iran and the council of wanting to remove him because he tried to contain their influence and opposed a plan that would include Basra in a nine-province region friendly to Iran.

"In concert with its allies in Iraq, Iran wants to change the governor of Basra by hook or crook," says the portly Waeli, sitting in his enormous office. He has challenged a no-confidence motion passed by a majority of the provincial council members and a subsequent request by the central government that he quit.

"Arab countries have noticed my nationalist tendencies and have supported me," he adds.

Waeli regularly travels to Gulf Arab countries in what's billed as investment promotion trips.

Throngs of heavily armed bearded men in military pants and black shirts guard the perimeter of Waeli's provincial headquarters.

To up the ante against Waeli, Mussawi from Thaar Allah was tasked with organizing and leading a demonstration in April that degenerated into clashes. The governor himself took up arms to defend his office.

His rivals do not hide their desire for a super Shiite region comparable to the Kurdistan region in the north. They deny any military or intelligence links to Iran and say ties are economic and social in nature.

"Iranians are anxious to work with us, but the Arabs are absent and they keep labeling us as an extension of Iran. There is no truth to this," says Qassim Muhammad, a provincial council member from the Sayed al-Shuhada Movement, which was founded by Dagher al-Mussawi, a former anti-Hussein guerrilla fighter based in Tehran, who is now a parliament member close to Mr. Maliki.

Although Iran is closest to the council and its affiliate parties like Badr and Sayed al-Shuhada, it's also backing many other Shiite groups in southern Iraq including those that are openly using violence to oppose British and coalition troops, according to Ali Ansari, an Iran specialist at London's Chatham House.

"The Iranians are backing as many horses as they can," he says. "But there is a limit to their influence, given how fractious Shiites are in Iraq."

Hope this helps.

What I'd like to know is why anyone thinks it's a good idea for us to be supporting the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, and Dawa, aka "the Iraqi government."

Why do you think that's a good idea, DaveC? Do you think these are the folks we should be allied with, Lt. Nixon?

And how is that progress on political reconciliation between them, and the Sunni Awakening, coming? Found any cites to actual information, rather than Bush propaganda?

I was just stating how I see things Gary, but you have made this personal, so I'll back off which is what you want.

Have a happy Fourth. Burn a flag or whatever you do to celebrate it ;-)

DaveC,

I would argue that whatever marginal improvement there would be in backing Iran's main proxies (ISCI and Dawa) is completely washed away by the fact that by "backing" we mean killing thousands of Iraqis - some militia members, many if not most are not.

The recent actions in Sadr City were ugly. We killed more civilians than combatants. All to empower a political party that was formed in Iran, by the branches of the Iranian military that our government classifies as a terrorist organization.

That's not worth the blood of our soldiers, not worth innocent Iraqi blood and not worth 10-12 billion a month.

Gary: If you didn't follow this stuff in 2003, that's five years of having no clue what's going on with Iraqi factions.

That's me! Which is why I don't comment on such things.

DaveC: Al Sadr reminds me very much of these types, against "secular thoughts", Western ideas, etc., and will stop at nothing to try and establish a grim theocratic state.

On the off chance that you're still around, how does this not describe the fundamentalist evangelical movement in the United States? I'm assuming you draw some distinction between the two, but I'm not seeing it in your description here.

I was just displaying my obvious ignorance of the facts stating how I see things Gary, but you have made me look pretty darned silly made this personal, so I'll get while the getting's good hopefully retaining some semblance of relevance back off which is what you want.

how likely is it that we are going to acquiesce in inviting Young Mook and his crew to the dance?

What makes anyone think he is waiting for an invitation?

Thanks -

"I was just stating how I see things Gary, but you have made this personal,"

Ah, well, clearly if one should ever do that here, an apology would be in order.

You go first. You've got only about 500 vicious personal lies directed at endless numbers of people here to apologize for.

Y'know, all the endless stuff, repeated so many times, over so many years, about how we hate America, hate our troops, want them to lose, love terrorists, love Islamic fundamentalists, hate Israel, and so on and so forth. Would you like quotes and links? Did I miss your apologies?

But, I'll tell you what, DaveC: I'll apologize first, if you can quote to me my words above in which I attacked you as a person, rather than challenged you to support your opinions with facts, or used your own words.

Then you can explain how I wrote anything more "personal" than this, by you, above:

Well I think the Sadrists are bad guys. [...] What is so good about Al Sadr except that he hates America? Why do you prefer him to run things in Iraq?
I'll wait right here for you to quote whatever it is I wrote that's more "personal" than that.

[Gary looks up and waves from bench where he's reading his book, waiting patiently]

(I'm immensely hesitant to suggest this, but if you wrote all that stuff so many times in a state where you don't remember writing it, a non-normal/sober state, that might be one explanation for Crazy Vicious DaveC, followed occasionally by seemingly-puzzled-hurt DaveC, so if you clarify that that's the case -- and god knows I've written horribly regrettable stuff on drugs and/or booze at times, and wanted to melt through the floor the next day when I reread it -- I'll certainly be much more inclined to forgive you.)

[Gary looks up and waves from bench where he's reading his book, waiting patiently]

Gary's got wireless!

LT Nixon: I disagree that the U.S. military is specifically targeting the Sadr movement. It's more like we were going after people who are shooting at us or killing civilians

The Maliki government is certainly targeting the Sadr movement with this latest operation. What civilian-killing or anti-U.S. forces or anti-Iraqi Army attacks have been taking place in Amara and Maysan province that might conceivably justify these arrests?

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