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March 28, 2008

Comments

nur al-cubicle

There are many who think the point of the Surge in the first place was not to create the political space for compromise but to defeat Sadr's forces. In the first few days after the Surge reached its complement (In July last year?), I seem to remember a big spike in US operations in Sadr City, with arrests, house to house searches and so forth, which then came abruptly to an end. This operation also follows cheerleading and complicity of the Administration in the Israeli offensive on Gaza a few weeks ago, which was also abruptly called off. Not to mention Bush's enthusiasm for Israel's war on Lebanon a couple of years ago.

Since Cheney and Bush love the idea of war but understand little about the situation on the ground, it would not surprise me in the least if Cheney had ordered Maliki to attack Basrah, because the move shows zero understanding of things on the ground in Iraq and the strength of the Sadr movement. Maliki should, at least, have some understanding, which may be evidenced by the fact that he was so swift to call a 3-day cooling off period.

The other question is who, exactly, is in the so-called Iraqi army? Is it not 60% Shi'a and 40% Peshmerga? How are you going to fight other Shi'ites on Shi'ite turf with a Shi'ite Army in a state under occupation to which no one owes loyalty? Not even Maliki is that crazy, but we know people in Washington who are.

No Preference

Oh, come on. The Iraqi army is completely dependent on the US for logistics. Unless they planned a two-day campaign, of course the US was informed beforehand.

Blue Sun

Cheney's visit on the eve of this military campaign is highly suspicious. I've always thought that Cheney has been playing a lone hand vis a vis the Iraq war. He is the black widow at the center of the web, the man who makes all the decisions, pulls all the strings.

It is quite possible that America was not informed in advance - at least people like Bush and Petraeus - but that Cheney was the one who, on his own initiative, pushed al Maliki into acting. It is only the latest in a long line of actions whose trail leads right up to the VP's door.

In 2003, when Bremer replaced Garner as head of the CPA, he announced two startling reversals of policy. One was the decision to de-Ba'athify the entire government and the other was the decision to disband the entire Iraqi army, not just the Republican Guard.

There are reports from their aids that both President Bush and SecDef Rumsfeld seemed startled and surprised when the news broke. There is considerable circumstantial evidence that neither Bush nor Rumsfeld dictated the two radical policy reversals.

When Bremer was first interviewed about his surprise announcements by reporters, they asked him whose idea it was. His only answer at the time was "I've got my orders."

If you take Bush and Rumsfeld out of the picture, the only person with the power to order these reversals was Cheney.

It is also telling that virtually all of the intelligence going to the White House during the buildup to the invasion went first to Cheney's office, not Bush's. Even before 9/11, when the FBI/JTTF team that investigated the Cole bombing made its first report concluding that bin Laden and al Qaeda were behind the bombing, the report was delivered first to Cheney, not to Bush or Rice, the two most appropriate recipients.

I worry now that Cheney is desperate to invade Iran and widen the war, and that he knows time is running out.


nur al-cubicle

The news that the US military, in March 2006, is launching air strikes on both Basrah and Baghdad as I write is appalling.

JHM

[Q] "Did the United States have advance notice of Maliki's decision to attack Basra?"

[A] I haven't spoke to the Prime Minister since he's made his decision, but I suspect that he would say, look, the citizens down there just got sick and tired of this kind of behavior. Most people want to have normal lives. Most people don't like to be shaken down. Most mothers want their children to go to school peacefully, and yet that wasn't the case in Basra. And so I'm not exactly sure what triggered the Prime Minister's response. I don't know if it was one phone call. I don't know what -- whether or not the local mayor called up and said, help -- we're sick and tired of dealing with these folks. But nevertheless, he made the decision to move. And we'll help him. But this was his decision. It was his military planning. It was his causing the troops to go from point A to point B. And it's exactly what a lot of folks here in America were wondering whether or not Iraq would even be able to do in the first place. And it's happening. Now, they're fighting some pretty tough characters, people who kill innocent people to achieve objectives. And, yes, there's going to be violence. And that's sad. But this situation needed to be dealt with, and it's now being dealt with -- just like we're dealing with the situation up in Mosul.

"President Bush Participates in Joint Press Availability with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia"

But God knows best. Happy days.

Andrew R.

You know, there's been a lot of talk of Cheney, but what about that *other* head of state who was in Baghdad not too long ago. The one who was sitting down over long chats with Maliki and Hakim? Much as a lot of folks would love to blame the Evil Neocons, this seems to me to be the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (or whatever the hell they're calling themselves these days).

History

They never learn. I was 14 when the Lebanese Army, backed by the US, tried to overtake the Southern Suburb of Beirut, a largely shia area. It resulted in the Lebanese Army fracturing, and everyone knows the rest of that story...
Same is happening more than 20 years later.
You cannot overtake a militia that has strong public support without killing tens of thousands of civilians. The solution to Mr Sadr is a political one. When can we ever learn?
BTW, I am not a Muslim, just a Middle East Christian watching US foreign policy blunders one after another.

rmd

Agree with Blue Sun, except that Cheney's style is more to sway Bush in private than to blindside him. Petraeus has consistently avoided taking the Jaish al Mahdi head on and used respectful language about al Sadr. His spokespersons (highly implausible) insistence that this operation is not aimed directly at the Jaish, but just rogue elements, might be an attempt to avoid getting sucked in any deeper than he has to. On the US side, this may well have been a closely held secret of the OVP and the Enabler in Chief.

No Preference

nur al-cubicle, thanks for that snippet. Bush's phrasing suggests that Maliki may have spoken to Bush (or vice versa) about the possibility prior to the attack. Bush has tremendous experience in misleading without actually lying ("I have no plans on my desk . . .").

Nur al-Cubicle

Erm, 2006, 2008, 2016 what's the difference?

Jay C

"When the fighting is over, I'd hope that Petraeus and Crocker would have a good long talk about this with their Iraqi counterparts, with the administration, and with the press."

"These might be excellent questions to pose to Crocker and Petraeus when they testify before Congress in a few weeks."

Well, good luck with that, AA! After five years of listening to mendacious crapola from this Administration about Iraq, what on earth would give you the idea that Gen. Petraeus, or Amb. Crocker, or anyone associated with the Bush/Cheney gang is going to have anything substantive to say? To Congress or anybody else?

AFAICT, the timing of Maliki's "Basra offensive" (vis-a-vis the upcoming testimony) is perfect for the Administration's warmongers. It allows them to fit the situation into their typical simple-minded Good Guys-vs-Bad Guys narrative, and provides a win-win scenario for the stay-in-Iraq-forever crowd. If Maliki
does crush Sadr and the JAM, so much the better: one less anti-occupation voice stilled. If not, well: still no great loss*: a perfect excuse to maintain a maximal presence in Iraq, and we still have Young Mookie and his gang to around to demonize and shift blame onto for any/everything that goes wrong. Win-win!

And AA, if you or anybody thinks we will be getting any sober, balanced, or even cogent analysis about Iraq from Petraeus/Crocker in April, or anytime, you're dreaming. No spokesman for this Administration has told the unvarnished truth about Iraq in five years, why would they start now?

*well, no loss except for dead, injured or homeless Iraqi civilians: but who cares about them?

luci

Agree with the others above that are doubtful that Maliki would move on Basra without explicit backing from the US.

The fact that the neo-con Washington Post is reporting the Bush admin's "total surprise" is more evidence that it was not, in fact, a surprise.

anna missed

Looks like Nguyen Van Maliki has got some fantasy of independence to prove. The reality instead being, his militia are independent of competence, motivation, and leadership - now telegraphed to all internal enemies and allies alike. With of course the Slot Machine in Chief making all the rounds crowing up the (heck of a job) expectations. What I wonder about is if Cheney (after a thumbs up) even bothered to tell Petreaus about the rush into Cambodia.

don

Can there really be any doubt that the move into Basra was anything other than coordinated with US forces? Would Maliki have done so otherwise? Of course not. Lets get realistic.

Non-Arab Arab

The Sadr interview has been posted on YouTube. Actually, I don't think it's the whole thing, but there's a bit under 20 minutes of it in these two clips:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=au5BKqwLNg4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDF1Xu-BBKI

greg

It is not only inconceivable that Maliki would have done this without US approval, and even encouragement, it's impossible that he could have made the logistical preparations to do so without US knowledge (or the Mahdi Army's, for that matter). Bush-Cheney needed provincial elections in October to give McCain a purple finger moment to campaign on, and it was essential that Sadr be weakened first to prevent him from winning. The reason Petraeus and Crocker are being silent on the matter is because they recognized the likely outcome -- a military disaster -- while Bush-Cheney are still drinking Kool-Aid by the gallon. So much for listening to commanders on the ground.

The silver lining is the operation exposes Maliki as an utter incompetent on top of being a puppet of the US. The only question now is where he will find his final refuge -- in the US or Iran. The answer to that question will be the best clue yet as to our intentions toward the Persians.

Eric Martin

Prof,

FWIW, I've updated my original post and
responded here
to Ilan Goldenberg's disagreement with my theory.

bb

Moqtada had five years to build the Mahdis into a disciplined force like Hezbollah, but clearly they are not! Every time the Mahdis have tried to challenge the Shia religious establishment they have been easily defeated. Moqtada himself has retired from the fray to undertake religious studies --- a necessary qualification if he is ever going to become a political leader in Iraq.

It will be truly astonishing if the Iraqi govt is unable to extend its writ over Basra now that the ISF is combat hardened, up to strength and has just routed AlQaeda from Baghdad and Diyala.

The fact that there has been no "insurgency" call for a general uprising against the "occupation" shows how dramatically the landscape in Iraq has changed since the Surge?

Enlightened Layperson

To me the biggest question is not who approved this offensive, but how anyone could have expected a quick and easy victory over a popular, entrenched force like the Madhi Army. (Did they say they expected it to be over in 48 hours??)

If anyone understands how whoever is behind this offense could have failed to anticipate fierce resistence, please explain it. Because I don't get it at all.

Tom M

As a fan of the money theory in Iraqi politics, Maliki was pissed at having to give Sadr's people a cut of the general oil revenue knowing that the black market in oil has financed Sadr for years. The decision may have been approved by Cheney (such is his shock and awe on his opponents) but what's the chance Cheney tried to talk Maliki out of the operation? There's nothing in this operation for the US, there are no troops stationed there so all we could do was hope the Brits might do more than provide artillery support. Air strikes have limited value in street fighting.
The final proof of the lack of US support is that Basra is still relatively intact. If the US truly supported the Maliki ambit, Basra would substitute for Fallujah in local lore.

JHM

The Second Muqtadan War was almost as much fun as the Second Mithridatic, but now that it is over, could somebody explain a few minor details authoritatively: (A) Who started it? And (B), Who won?

Even right here in Aardvark City there does not seem to be any consensus on elementary matters of fact.

Happy days.


-bwg

In fact, Maliki is not only "insulated from risk" he is rewarded for taking foolish and failing risks, as the Times reports today in "More Than 1,000 in Iraq’s Forces Quit Basra Fight" that "[t]he White House has conditioned further withdrawals of American troops on the readiness of the Iraqi military and police."

So not only does Maliki have no disincentive to take risks, he has an actual incentive to fail. Of course, the second part is not news: People have been arguing for a long time that the USA needs to set a deadline that it will adhere to for withdrawing troops or else the Iraqis will never get it together.

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