Saturday, March 29, 2008

Is al-Maliki ready to compromise?

Four days after ordering Iraqi Security Forces into Basra to dislodge and disarm Shi'ite militias loyal to Moqtada al Sadr, and issuing a stern ultimatum that the militias disarm "or else" the ISF has faced stiff resistance from the Jaish al Mahdi and Maliki is backing off his "or else" puffery, deciding instead that maybe bribery will be more effective than that deadline he set and the militants mocked. He is now offering cash to militants who turn in weapons.

Yeah, I'm sure that is going to work. It isn't like ISF forces took off their uniforms, kept their guns and went over to the other side or anything. Oh...wait...yes they did.

McClatchy reports that 231 people have been killed in the fighting in Basra, with heavy casualties sustained by both sides. If not for the United States coming to the rescue of the Iraqi forces in Basra with American air power, it would have been a crippling defeat for the ISF. As it stands, it is merely humiliating.

In Baghdad, the United States had to take the lead in operations in Sadr City, New Baghdad and Kadhemiya, while Iraqi forces hung back in the rear. Americans, too, met stiff resistance - in spite of their superior weaponry and armored vehicles, air strikes were called in to tip the scales in their favor.

And on the other side of the world, the deluded dipshit who started this whole unholy clusterfuck waved off the unraveling of the tenuous situation in Iraq like it was nothing, good news even.
In Washington, President Bush praised Maliki's courage in attempting to quash "criminal elements" in the Shiite militias, and he declared the offensive to be a "defining moment in the history of a free Iraq."

But some U.S. military officials privately worried that the Iraqi government had underestimated the resolve of firebrand cleric Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias. The Iraqi government "may have underestimated how difficult this (launching an offensive against rogue elements in Basra) can be," said a senior U.S. military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The U.S. military in Baghdad reported an uptick in violence beyond the areas of heavy combat. "It's something that has spilled over from Basra," said Lt. Col. Steven Stover, the U.S. military spokesman for Baghdad operations. "We're not so sure that the (Mahdi Army operations) freeze is lifted. There's not been a public announcement. We're kind of hopeful that these are still rogue elements that are not adhering to it. We're also not naive."

A U.S. military official in Baghdad said the United States had little to no involvement in planning the Basra operation, which began some 10 days after Vice President Dick Cheney met with Maliki in Baghdad.

"The operations are Iraqi-conceived, Iraqi-planned and Iraqi-led," said the official, who said he wasn't authorized to be quoted by name. "Coalition forces were not involved in their planning or decision to go, but are providing advisers, logistics and air weapons teams. Additional quick reaction forces are on standby if needed."

The fighting receded somewhat in Basra, but there was no sign of the Mahdi Army being forced from its strongholds.

Casualties continued to rise, however.

"Defining moment," indeed. But the definition isn't the one that anyone was hoping for.

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