Thursday, April 10, 2008

Maliki Isolates al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army Politically

I have to say it - I'm still amazed at how much the present Iraqi offensive against Moqtada al-Sadr and the Iran controlled Mahdi reveals about the impressive amount of political progress in Iraq.

After giving Mookie and his boys an ultimatum to lay down their arms and surrender, Maliki laid down the law,stating that he would enforce preventing any political party with an armed militia running in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Not only was Mookie actually forced to cancel planned 'demonstrations' in Sadr City, but Ayatollah Sistani, the major Shiite cleric in Iraq called for al-Sadr to disband th eMahdi Army and lay down their arms, a major turnaround.

In short, Mookie has not only been militarily defeated on the ground, but politically defeated and isolated in Iraq. And the dinosaur media aren't reporting a word of it.

This is major stuff.

How Maliki got Sistani on board is an interesting story in itself. Sistani's militia is called the Badr Force, and there was a certain amount of rivalry between them and Mookie's boys. Overall, the Badr force was the more moderate element of the two (unless you were a Sunni or a homosexual) and thus less influenced by Iran, which concentrated on the anti-American al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army with it's special groups and the Qods Force.

What Maliki did was to outflank the Iranians and al-Sadr and essentially deputize the Badr Force, making them part of the Iraqi security forces. Maliki now has a consensus not only with the Sunni and Kurds but with the Shia, something that looked impossible a year ago.

One group Maliki didn't particularly want on board was the Brits,whom many Iraqis blame for their total failure to secure Basra from the armed gangs and militias and their retreat to their armed redoubt close to the airport.

Maliki actively snubbed the UK troops, refusing to meet with their commander Brigadier Julian Free, instead relying on the Americans for assistance when needed:

The withdrawal by British troops in September from their base at Basra palace to the relative safety of Basra airport outside the city has been blamed for the decision by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to call for American help fighting the Mahdi army two weeks ago.

The arrival of the US troops in Basra left British forces “miserable” as they watched American soldiers fighting alongside Iraqi forces "basically doing the work that we were supposed to do", a military source was reported saying.

Despite the apparent snub, which was described last night as a "catastrophic failure" in relations between Iraq and Britain, UK forces were soon involved in the battle in Basra, sending aircraft to patrol the skies above the city, while artillery was fired from the British base at Shia militia positions.

They should feel miserable about it. Between the fiasco in Basra and the retreat of the British fleet from the Persian Gulf after a few sailors got taken hostage by Iran,the British,frankly, walked out on their allies and left us to clean up the mess. It's to the credit of the British Army that they still have the capacity to be embarrassed about what their government ordered them to do.

One more thing...

Another little, seemingly minor development that went unnoticed here was the re-designing of the Iraqi flag, back in January. The original Iraqi flag from back in the Saddam days had roughly the same meaning for the Kurds and the Shiites that the Swastika banner had for the French or the Belgians, and it was simply not flown in some parts of the country. Now, a redesigned national banner is, even in Kurdistan.

A minor detail, but a strong symbol of one of the major benchmarks for us in Iraq - national reconciliation.

Like I said before, not the beginning of the end maybe, but certainly the end of the beginning.In spite of all the waste motion,graft and downright silly policy errors, things are looking up in Iraq.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The media coverage of the anti-Sadrist campaign drives me nuts. It's Tet Redux -- the enemy attempted an offensive, we made tremendous headway against them, and the media is spinning it as problematic. I am incredibly impressed that the fledgling Iraqi military was able to take the lead on an operation of this magnitude. . .