Archive for the ‘Dawa’ Category

Az-zaman, via Cole reports that the Iraqi government “honoured” SCIRI…sorry…ISIC militiamen for their role in the Basra fighting, and that some 10,000 of them were officially signed up to the Government’s own forces (I thought they already were). The reason for this step is apparently that large numbers – thousands – of men in the Iraqi Army and other forces deserted rather than take part in the offensive. There is more here; supposedly two regiments did so in Baghdad, but I’d warn that what they call a regiment may just be an example of unit inflation.

Now, over at Kaboom! (officially the Colby Buzzell of 2008), here’s some corroboration.

Day 2: I stand in the streets, looking at a building with a sloping roof and two cannonball-sized holes in the middle of it. We have spent many hours zigzagging through the various Shi’a neighborhood cores in Anu al-Verona, but it is only now, with the light of the morning, that the full scope of JAM’s resurgent spectacle is comprehended. The aforementioned holes are the gift of an Iraqi Army’s BMP (armored personnel carrier) main gun, and the aforementioned building is the local Sawha headquarters. The one Son of Iraq who bothered to show up for work today expresses his displeasure with the situation. I thank him for his devotion to duty and ask him where his coworkers are. He looks at me like I have a dick growing out of my forehead and says, “they are at home, of course. It is not safe here.” I ask him why he isn’t home then. “Because my father kicked me out and told me to go to work and I have nowhere else to go.”

My bold. OK, so not only did some members of the Iraqi Army go over to the other side, but these ones took their BMP with them – and immediately turned its guns on the ex-NOIA guys, with the result that they made themselves scarce (or possibly set off for the nearest concentration of Shia for some revenge). There have been reports scattered around of the Sadrists capturing armoured vehicles from the government, but most have referred to Humvees and such; this is the first heavy armour to be mentioned.

It can be pretty heavy, too; the BMP-3, despite ranking as an infantry fighting vehicle, carries a 100mm gun. I don’t know which version we supplied to the Iraqi government (I think the armour came from Hungarian stocks). Meanwhile, Des Browne says:

At one point, he said, British tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and ground troops were deployed to help extract Iraqi government troops from a firefight with Shiite militiamen in the city.

Extract; as in “cover the retreat of”, “aid in escape of”, or just “save” them. It’s Sadr’s move, it always has been; as far as I can see, the only meaningful exit strategy has always been to recognise the people with actual mass support, so NOIA in the Sunni sector and Sadr in the Shia sector. Half of this has actually been done, although nobody wants to admit it; the problem is that their territories overlap. Lieutenant G’s area of responsibility is exhibit A; he’s far enough north to have 1920 Revolution Brigade NOIA on his side, but this doesn’t mean he doesn’t also have a major Sadrist presence.

Extra points: did anyone else spot Chalabi claiming credit for the ceasefire?

Well, it’s not as if we weren’t warned; the Iraqi government had been threatening to move against Fadhila in Umm Qasr, and there had been increasing tension between the Iraqi government and the Sadr movement going back to Christmas. Not so long ago, there were demonstrations in Sadr City against Sadr; they thought the movement wasn’t standing up to increasing provocation from police/SCIRI as was//Badr Corps men feeling braver now they didn’t have to fight NOIA any more.

You can read the violence in a number of ways; the government/ISCI/Dawa probably briefed it to the Americans as an extension of their counter-insurgency plan to the deep south, with the added twist that this was an operation the Iraqi army would throw all by itself, hence good politics. Sadr of course will consider it an outrage by the collaborationist-Iranian bastards, eerily mirroring Petraeus’s response to the Green Zone bombardment; if you adopt Jamie Kenny’s policy of trying to think like Leonardo Sciascia, you’ll see it merely as a fight for oil rake-offs between (as Douglas Adams put it) rival police gangs. As always, SF leads the way into history.

Daniel Davies has apparently finally taken my much repeated advice and read A Bright Shining Lie, which has apparently led him to conclude that the Dawa-Sadr fighting is a good thing on the grounds that it strengthens the government, even if only as the biggest gang. Well, it has led the annoying look-at-me contrarian Daniel Davies to do so; what the real one thinks I don’t know. I don’t agree; the Sadr movement demonstrated its deterrent capability on day one, when it resumed rocketing the Green Zone and seized police stations across the Big Gap in southern Iraq, as well as the road between Amara and Basra, rather as they did in the first and second Shia risings in 2004. Further to its massive popularity, the Sadrists also have had at least a tacit alliance with some currents in NOIA – there’s a risk of the whole shithouse crashing down. Note that the Dawa and Sadrists, and ISIC, are on the opposite sides of one of Iraq’s worst territorial fights.

So inevitably, the US authorities seem to have swallowed the “southern surge” thing, and are now pressing for more British troops to be sent – not just that, but for an advance back into Basra. This is genuinely bugfuck insane and the Prime Minister has no choice but to reject it; there is literally no-one left. Army planners are already looking at calling out at least 2 TA battalions in their entirety to cover routine tasks; a mass of resources is going into Afghanistan; there is some question as to whether there is another brigade in the tubes for the next but one rotation in Iraq. The inter-allied shit just hit the fan.

Of course, nothing would do more for Gordon Brown’s polls than turning the fan right up…it’s worth noting that officially, the only support MNDSE is giving this operation is aerial reconnaissance; that could perfectly well be provided from Kuwait. However, maybe not.

Apparently the alternative to the Baker commission/TYR solution in Iraq – get the fuck out under a negotiated settlement with Iran – that the White House is floating is a “tilt to the Shia and Kurdish 80 per cent. I find it a little hard to work out how we are meant to tilt to them any more-after all, I’ve been saying since 2003 that our presence in Iraq is dependent on the continuance of a Shia-Kurdish alliance, and the Shia have the government of Iraq that is held up by British and American bayonets.

But anyway. In pursuit of this, apparently, urgent talks are underway with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of SCIRI, presumably with a view to throwing the Dawa guys like Maliki and Jaafari overboard. The obvious flaw in this strategy should be, well, obvious. SCIRI is the closest Iraqi actor to Iran. If you want Iranian and Shia power extended, this is just the right way to go about it. I suppose there is an argument that it’s better to talk directly to SCIRI, who are strong, than to talk to Dawa and the Allawi fan club and through them to SCIRI, but the benefits are marginal at best.

Mark Kleiman, and many others, point out that the implication of tilting even further to the Shia is essentially that we are going to take sides in the religious war, which they argue will mean genocide. I’m not so sure. NOIA looks like it can look after itself, and it is being repeatedly made clear that it will have official Saudi support. But there is another concern, even before we get to the mind-buggering prospect of getting the Magic Kingdom involved.

If we align explicitly with the (pro-Iranian) SCIRI in its war with the NOIA, what happens with the Sadrists, who are at least as strong as SCIRI? Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement frequently denounces SCIRI as an Iranian Trojan horse, little better than the Americans, although they have until recently cooperated in government after a fashion. The Sadrists are nationalistic and violently opposed to a) occupation and b) Iran, and they have on occasion cooperated with NOIA in the past. If we tilt the table towards Tehran, we risk bringing the whole thing crashing down on us as the Mehdi Army is called out along the MSRs to help the “besieged Iraqi resistance” fight the “Iranian invaders, American occupiers and their collaborator scum in Baghdad”.

Indeed, if we really must continue to behave as if there was any hope of a non-terrible outcome, we would be much better off tilting towards Moqtada al-Sadr. What his price would be I dare not speculate, but it would certainly involve getting troops off the streets in short order, and an accommodation with NOIA in its stronghold regions. (You say that like it’s a bad thing.) This post of Phil Carter’s on the Sadr movement’s civil-operations activities would argue strongly for it. David Hackworth would have said he’s the G who’s out-G’ing the other G’s. (Phil’s ten lessons from Iraq are highly recommended as well.)

And finally, can we please, please, please not do anything that is likely to get the Saudis involved? They do have some things that could greatly strengthen the NOIA, specifically an endless supply of cash and an equally endless supply of deranged takfiri killers who they are desperate to see explode, well, somewhere else. They also have no shortage of arms. This was, of course, their 1980s strategy of shipping jihadis to other wars so as to prevent revolution at home – call it the Anywhere but Abqaiq Approach. Unfortunately, they were left with an underutilised maniac industry after the Afghan campaign, and rather lost control. Doing it again is likely to have similar consequences, but much closer to home.

After all, as Michael Ledeen puts it in this criminally irresponsible tirade, They know their people hate them, and they know that revolution could erupt if we supported it. He’s talking Iran and Syria. Perhaps. But somehow three little words show up nowhere – “Saudi”, “Arabia”, and “oil.” Listen to this, too. Once we do, we will find that we’ve got many political and economic weapons, most of them inside our enemies’ lands. Indeed, habibi, we call them debt, energy inefficiency and the exhaustion of the US Army’s infantry. If they are fools enough to…where was I? What, this isn’t the head of the Revolutionary Guards Corps speaking?

Ledeen is intellectually dishonest, ignorant, mercenary, mendacious and more. But I ask of you – surely he knows that there are 2 US Navy carriers capable of operations, that practically all US Army and Marine manpower is committed to Iraq? So what is this madness, from an objective point of view? We know his old chum Manuchar Ghorbanifar is almost certainly an Iranian intelligence asset, and his mate Chalabi told them their ciphers were insecure. Has he never wondered if he’s being exploited?