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Old 03-25-2008, 12:20 PM  
Amnorix Amnorix is offline
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Iraqi Military Battling for Basra

Well, the good news is that the Iraqi military, on its own, is fighting to establish control over Basra, a major city in teh south and a major oil producer. If they win and take the city, it will enhance the military and government's prestige and morale.

The bad news is that I hadn't even realized Basra was lost. Apparently, the British drew down very fast, and left 3 militias to battle over the city, leaving many dead and basiclaly leaving it as an ungoverned city outside of US/Iraqi/allied control.


http://www.time.com/time/world/artic...0.html?cnn=yes
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Old 03-25-2008, 12:22 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Amnorix View Post
Apparently, the British drew down very fast, and left 3 militias to battle over the city, leaving many dead and basiclaly leaving it as an ungoverned city outside of US/Iraqi/allied control.
Isn't this what some want the US to do with our troops?
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Old 03-25-2008, 12:26 PM   #3
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key portions of the article:

Quote:
Maliki's government and the Iraqi Army desperately need a big military success. Most of the credit for the reduction in violence across Iraq over the past year has gone to the U.S. military's "surge" strategy, and to the Sunni tribes that switched sides to fight al-Qaeda. The Iraqi security forces have appeared, at best, mere spectators; at worst, they are seen as sectarian militias in uniform. A spectacular win in Basra would help give the army and police some much-needed credibility among ordinary Iraqis.

Failure to impose Baghdad's writ on Basra would have major economic repercussions — already, the oil pipelines are frequently bombed and large quantities of crude smuggled out. But there's more at stake: While he directs the fighting in Basra, Maliki must also prepare himself for a political backlash in Baghdad. Two of the militias have close ties to the government: Sadr controls a large block of the members of parliament, and the Badr Brigades are the military arm of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the largest Shi'ite party. If both political blocks withdraw their support for Maliki, that would doom his government.

The Iraqi capital, meanwhile, is bracing for a fallout from the fighting in Basra. Large parts of western Baghdad have been shut down by a strike called by Sadrists. Anticipating violence from the Mahdi Army, the Iraqi Army has increased patrolling in the city and reinforced police checkpoints.
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Old 03-25-2008, 12:28 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by pikesome View Post
Isn't this what some want the US to do with our troops?

Yes, and while I don't support that unless it's clear the situation is an irredeemable mess, the problem is that civil war may be the result of our leaving, no matter when/where/how we do it.

This has been the fundamental problem/concern all along, from my pov. "Iraq" is a fictitious nation -- always was.
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Old 03-25-2008, 12:31 PM   #5
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I said this in another thread but this should:

a) Be a good test to see if us giving the Iraqi army time to build paid off, and
b) A defining moment to see if the Iraqi's can stick together and not fall into a Civil war.

Two different issues IMO.
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Old 03-25-2008, 12:45 PM   #6
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Basra was 'governed' by the Brits using their N. Ireland 'softly softly' approach. Basically, that meant they didn't go to town, and the townies didn't pursue them into the desert. No bloodbaths occur since A doesn't see B very often. The US didn't want to step on our allies toes, so we've stayed away from Basra in droves. The Brits have now officially withdrawn from Basra so no one is 'in charge'. The Iraqi gov't knows that Basra is a big chunk of their revenue (oil + port) and they're not going to let Al Sadr (Al Wiser) have it. So the army is in there kicking Sadr's JAM force around. The JAM are actually pretty good militia troops (thanks to the Iranian Quds force training) Prime minister Maliki is there in person, I expect the govt. to prevail. The cynic in me thinks that they want to brush away the small fry so the serious corruption can begin in earnest. But I digress.

Michael Yon, who is reporting from Iraq points out - and I'm paraphrasing "Iraqi soldiers are mostly Shia (not exclusively, Kurds and Sunni are there as well) but it's now mostly a Shia officer corps. Long story short, a Shia army is actually battling Shia militias. This is NOT bad news."

If you don't follow Michael's Yon, you should. Here's his website, I think he's recently changed servers and there may be a newer website as well:

http://michaelyon-online.com/
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Old 03-25-2008, 01:20 PM   #7
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Good info in this thread. Why does it seem like this thread, despite reporting on a challenge we (and the Iraqis) face in Iraq, isn't the same kind of "bad news, haha, Iraq is failing" thread that some people post around here? Amnorix is clearly somewhat skeptical about our efforts there, but he doesn't seem to be bending over backward to assume the worst and presuppose our defeat. When he makes a negative comment, he expresses it as a reasonable concern not as a predetermined reality. Bravo, Amnorix.
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Old 03-25-2008, 01:45 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patteeu View Post
Good info in this thread. Why does it seem like this thread, despite reporting on a challenge we (and the Iraqis) face in Iraq, isn't the same kind of "bad news, haha, Iraq is failing" thread that some people post around here? Amnorix is clearly somewhat skeptical about our efforts there, but he doesn't seem to be bending over backward to assume the worst and presuppose our defeat. When he makes a negative comment, he expresses it as a reasonable concern not as a predetermined reality. Bravo, Amnorix.
Must be the Lombardis.
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Old 03-25-2008, 02:00 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by siberian khatru View Post
Must be the Lombardis.
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Old 03-25-2008, 02:18 PM   #10
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Old 03-25-2008, 02:24 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patteeu View Post
Good info in this thread. Why does it seem like this thread, despite reporting on a challenge we (and the Iraqis) face in Iraq, isn't the same kind of "bad news, haha, Iraq is failing" thread that some people post around here? Amnorix is clearly somewhat skeptical about our efforts there, but he doesn't seem to be bending over backward to assume the worst and presuppose our defeat. When he makes a negative comment, he expresses it as a reasonable concern not as a predetermined reality. Bravo, Amnorix.

I agree 100% A very refreshing post indeed.
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Old 03-25-2008, 02:25 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patteeu View Post
Good info in this thread. Why does it seem like this thread, despite reporting on a challenge we (and the Iraqis) face in Iraq, isn't the same kind of "bad news, haha, Iraq is failing" thread that some people post around here? Amnorix is clearly somewhat skeptical about our efforts there, but he doesn't seem to be bending over backward to assume the worst and presuppose our defeat. When he makes a negative comment, he expresses it as a reasonable concern not as a predetermined reality. Bravo, Amnorix.

I really, honestly, truly hope that **somehow** we can help to establish a stable, moderate, hopefully pro-Western government there. It is crucial to our long term interests in the region. The two most likely alternatives are civil war, which will disrupt oil supplies and destabilize the entire region (possibly disrupting oil supplies throughout the Middle East), and partial or total absorption by Iran, and/or domination by Iran, and it's hardly worth saying that that is a BAAAAD thing for US interests.

Unfortunately, my ongoing pessimism is based on my understanding of the ethnic and religious strife that is almost inevitable when you have a "coalition country" that suddenly has the strong leadership that held it together removed.

(please note that "strong leadership" isn't meant as a compliment to Saddam "massmurdering ****head" Hussein, but simply as a statement of fact).

We've seen the same result time and again in history. From the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Yugoslavia. Hell, even England, which has been a unified country for a VERY long time now, is having trouble with Scots and Welsh considering breaking off and becoming truly independent.

Given the uneven distribution of oil and the intermingling of Shittes and Sunnis (and that's ignoring the Kurds altogether), there's really no simple solution here. With Iran behind the scenes pouring gas on the fire, the volatility is only increased.

I'd like to hope we'll succeed, but I find it hard to see the path by which we get there.

But, you know, with three Lombardis banked, I can remain hopeful.
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Old 03-25-2008, 04:16 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amnorix View Post
I really, honestly, truly hope that **somehow** we can help to establish a stable, moderate, hopefully pro-Western government there. It is crucial to our long term interests in the region. The two most likely alternatives are civil war, which will disrupt oil supplies and destabilize the entire region (possibly disrupting oil supplies throughout the Middle East), and partial or total absorption by Iran, and/or domination by Iran, and it's hardly worth saying that that is a BAAAAD thing for US interests.

Unfortunately, my ongoing pessimism is based on my understanding of the ethnic and religious strife that is almost inevitable when you have a "coalition country" that suddenly has the strong leadership that held it together removed.

(please note that "strong leadership" isn't meant as a compliment to Saddam "massmurdering ****head" Hussein, but simply as a statement of fact).

We've seen the same result time and again in history. From the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Yugoslavia. Hell, even England, which has been a unified country for a VERY long time now, is having trouble with Scots and Welsh considering breaking off and becoming truly independent.

Given the uneven distribution of oil and the intermingling of Shittes and Sunnis (and that's ignoring the Kurds altogether), there's really no simple solution here. With Iran behind the scenes pouring gas on the fire, the volatility is only increased.

I'd like to hope we'll succeed, but I find it hard to see the path by which we get there.

But, you know, with three Lombardis banked, I can remain hopeful.
Great post.

Looks like it's spread to Baghdad. The "cease-fire" appears to be off.

Hopefully the Iraqis can handle it mostly on their own. Quite a bit depends on it.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0326/p01s13-woiq.html

Across Iraq, battles erupt with Mahdi Army
Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fought US, Iraqi forces in Baghdad and Basra on Tuesday.
By Sam Dagher | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Baghdad

The Mahdi Army's seven-month-long cease-fire appears to have come undone.

Rockets fired from the capital's Shiite district of Sadr City slammed into the Green Zone Tuesday, the second time in three days, and firefights erupted around Baghdad pitting government and US forces against the militia allied to the influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

At the same time, the oil-export city of Basra became a battleground Tuesday as Iraqi forces, backed by US air power, launched a major crackdown on the Mahdi Army elements. British and US forces were guarding the border with Iran to intercept incoming weapons or fighters, according to a senior security official in Basra.

The US blames the latest attacks on rogue Mahdi Army elements tied to Iran, but analysts say the spike in fighting with Shiite militants potentially opens a second front in the war when the American military is still doing battle with the Sunni extremists of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

"The cease-fire is over; we have been told to fight the Americans," said one Mahdi Army militiaman, who was reached by telephone in Sadr City. This same man, when interviewed in January, had stated that he was abiding by the cease-fire and that he was keeping busy running his cellular phone store.

Sadr City residents say they saw fighting Tuesday between Mahdi militiamen and US and Iraqi forces in several parts of the district. One eyewitness, in the adjacent neighborhood of Baghdad Jadida, who wished to remain anonymous, said he saw a heavy militia presence on the streets, with two fighters planting roadside bombs on a main thoroughfare.

Lt. Col. Steve Stover of the Baghdad-based 4th Infantry Division said that in the span of 12 hours Tuesday 16 rockets were fired at the Green Zone and nine rockets and 18 mortar rounds fell on US bases and combat outposts on the east side of Baghdad. A mortar round hit a US patrol in the northern Adhamiyah district, killing one US soldier. A roadside bomb set a US Humvee on fire in Sadr City but all soldiers inside survived. He said clashes broke out between American forces and militiamen when they attacked several government checkpoints in the district and that some of these posts are now manned by both US and Iraqi forces.

Almost exactly four years ago, American forces and Mr. Sadr's loyalists clashed on the streets of Baghdad's Sadr City and the holy city of Najaf shortly after the US shuttered his newspaper for allegedly inciting violence. That round of fighting lasted several months and at one point the Americans were aiming to arrest Sadr, a cleric whose religious credentials come from his father who was widely influential and loved.

The fighting burnished Sadr's standing among fellow Shiites wary of the US occupation. Over the years, the US has repeatedly accused elements within the Sadrist movement of having ties with Iran and even Lebanon's Hizbullah.

After rockets hit the Green Zone Sunday, US commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus said the weapons had been provided by Iran.

On Tuesday, Rear Adm. Greg Smith, spokesman for US-led multinational forces in Iraq, blamed the elite Quds units of Iran's Revolutionary Guards for supplying the 22 107-mm and 122-mm rockets that hit the heavily fortified area of Baghdad that is home to the US Embassy.

"We believe the violence is being instigated by members of special groups that are beholden to the Iranian Quds Force and not Sadr.... Although we are concerned, we know that very few Iraqis want a return to the violence they experienced before the surge," he says.

Admiral Smith says US and Iraqi forces were facing two distinct enemies in Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Iranian-trained and supplied special groups. But he adds, "AQI is still Iraq's No. 1 enemy."

There is growing concern, however, that Iran could respond to such US accusations. "This is pretty serious, and if the Iranians do not back down rapidly this will escalate," says Martin Navias, an analyst at Britain's Centre for Defence Studies at King's College in London. "The US has a number of problems with Iran, mainly the nuclear program and its behavior in Iraq. There are many people in the Bush administration who want to hit Iran."

While Iraqi troops fought with Shiite militants in Basra Tuesday, a contingent of Coalition troops, including British and US forces, mobilized at Basra's border with Iran to prevent militiamen from escaping or smuggling in ammunition and weapons, according to a senior security source in the city who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his remarks.

The US military refused to comment on this, citing "security reasons" during ongoing operations, while another spokesman, Col. Bill Buckner, said the Basra operation was Iraqi-led and that the US was providing "limited assistance" mainly in "intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and ... support aircraft."

The US military has regularly accused Iran of smuggling weapons into Iraq over this border, particularly armor-piercing bombs known as explosively formed penetrators (EFP) that have been blamed for the deaths of many US soldiers in Iraq.

"This is a major operation aimed at outlaws and removing all heavy weapons and explosives from the hands of militias inside the city. It has now escalated into fighting between the Iraqi Army and the Mahdi Army because they are resisting," the security official said by phone from Basra, a few hours after the start of the offensive dubbed "The Knights' Assault."

The Basra-based official said that fighting is now centered in Mahdi Army strongholds in the neighborhoods of Tamimiyah, Hayaniyah, and Five Miles, and that there was also fighting in the neighboring provinces of Nasiriyah and Maysan.

A curfew has also been imposed in Nasiriyah and other southern cities, such as Samawa and Kut, the scene of clashes involving the Mahdi Army over the past two weeks.

One Basra resident reached by phone said he was holed up at his office at the local branch of the ministry of trade, and described the sound of explosions and gunfire as "terrifying."

Two Iraqi Army battalions and five battalions of the National Police's quick-reaction force were dispatched to Basra, where an entire Army division is already stationed.

"The lawlessness is going on under religious or political cover along with oil, weapons, and drug smuggling. These outlaws found support from inside government institutions either willingly or by coercion ... turning Basra into a place where no citizen can feel secure for his life and property," said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a statement read on state television, which reported that Mr. Maliki along with the ministers of defense and interior were all in Basra to oversee the operation.

The reaction from Sadr's camp was swift. At a press conference in the holy city of Najaf, three of the cleric's top lieutenants condemned the government offensive and accused Maliki, a Shiite, of carrying out a US agenda. They also threatened a nationwide campaign of protests and civil disobedience if US and Iraqi forces continued to fight the Mahdi Army.

Smith, the military spokesman, said the US would not stop this campaign if it remained peaceful.

One of the movement's leaders, Liwa Smaisim, described as "preposterous" US claims that it was only targeting splinter elements of the Mahdi Army.

Hazem al-Aaraji, another leader usually based in Baghdad, said the current fighting was a continuation of a campaign by the movement's Shiite rivals in the Iraqi government to finish it off – a drive it began last fall in southern Iraq.

Sadr's influence was felt throughout Baghdad Tuesday, highlighting the risk that the fight in Basra may spread to the capital, home to a large segment of his supporters. On Tuesday, witnesses reported that gun battles broke out in the capital's Sadr City district between the militia and rivals from the Badr Organization, which is part of Maliki's ruling Shiite coalition.

The offices of one of the branches of Maliki’s Dawa Party was torched in Sadr City, according to the US military.

On Monday evening, pickup trucks filled with chanting Mahdi militiamen, within sight of Iraqi forces, were forcing shopkeepers in many parts of Baghdad's west side to close in protest of US and Iraq Army raids.

On Tuesday, all shops in the Mahdi Army stronghold neighborhoods – Bayiaa, Iskan, Shuala, and Washash – were shuttered. Leaflets saying "No, no to America" were plastered on each storefront. Anti-American banners hung right next to Iraqi government checkpoints.

Several people interviewed in the Amel neighborhood said they were forced by militiamen to return home when they tried to go to work this morning. "This is anarchy," says Ali al-Yasseri.
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Old 03-25-2008, 04:48 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by patteeu View Post
Good info in this thread. Why does it seem like this thread, despite reporting on a challenge we (and the Iraqis) face in Iraq, isn't the same kind of "bad news, haha, Iraq is failing" thread that some people post around here? Amnorix is clearly somewhat skeptical about our efforts there, but he doesn't seem to be bending over backward to assume the worst and presuppose our defeat. When he makes a negative comment, he expresses it as a reasonable concern not as a predetermined reality. Bravo, Amnorix.
Seconded.
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Old 03-25-2008, 04:50 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Amnorix View Post
This has been the fundamental problem/concern all along, from my pov. "Iraq" is a fictitious nation -- always was.
Hey, it's as real as Czechoslovakia and Yug-oh. ****.
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