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On Sunday Nouri al-Maliki admitted defeat in his attempt to crack down on Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army in Basra. Maliki had begun the week demanding that Mahdi forces surrender within 72 hours, calling this "a decisive and final battle." Yet as the disastrous campaign backfired in Basra, Baghdad and elsewhere Maliki pathetically extended the rejected deadline until April 8th. As Patrick Cockburn noted, "Maliki's confident prediction that he would crush the Mehdi Army is turning out to be a dangerous gamble that is fast eroding his authority."

Today Maliki appears to have accepted a humiliating 'compromise' offered by Sadr (h/t Cernig).  The Iraqi government will leave the Mahdi militia alone, which in turn will cease patrolling the streets under arms. It's a return to the status quo ante, except that Sadr has demonstrated his power conclusively - and Maliki his weakness.

The hapless Prime Minister is trying to portray this as a climb-down by Sadr, naturally.

A spokesman for Mr Maliki, Ali al-Dabbagh, told Iraq television the statement was positive.

"As the government of Iraq we welcome this statement. We believe this will support the government of Iraq's efforts to impose security."

His government also is talking tough:

Ali al-Dabbagh...warned in a telephone interview broadcast on Iraqi state TV that security forces would continue to target those who don't follow the order.

"We expect a wide response to this call," he said. "After this announcement, anybody who targets the government and its institutions will be regarded ... as outlaws."

So far western news media have refrained from pointing out how thoroughly Maliki has been humiliated. But the idea that Sadr has given way under pressure is scarcely credible after the Mahdi Army's string of successes this week. The near disintegration of the Iraqi army sent to Basra has been the best possible endorsement of Sadr's political stature, whereas each day brings further disasters for the Iraqi government.

Dozens of Shiite gunmen stormed a state TV facility in central Basra before al-Sadr's declaration Sunday, forcing Iraqi troops guarding the building to flee and setting armored vehicles on fire.

One of al-Maliki's top security officials was killed in a mortar attack against the palace that houses the military operations center, officials said.

The terms offered by Sadr indicate that he is playing the stronger hand. He is offering Maliki a face-saving retreat while staking out the moral high ground.

Moqtada Sadr's statement said: "Because of the religious responsibility, and to stop Iraqi blood being shed, and to maintain the unity of Iraq and to put an end to this sedition that the occupiers and their followers want to spread among the Iraqi people, we call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and all other provinces.

"Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us."

The cleric also demanded that the government apply the general amnesty law, release detainees and stop what he called illegal raids.

The latter are the same demands Sadr was making before Tuesday's attack in Basra, so in effect he's standing his ground while offering an armistice and a cooling off of tensions. The Mahdi Army will not give up their weapons, as Maliki had demanded.

Furthermore, Sadr's offer included other terms as well, which the western media have not reported. Arab sources indicate that Sadr's nine-point proposal demands the withdrawal of Iraqi and US forces from Basra and, even more embarrassingly, the retreat of Maliki and his Defense and Interior ministers from Basra back to Baghdad within 48 hours. With the acceptance of his 'compromise', Sadr solidifies his power base in Basra.

This Iraqi press release shows the extent to which Maliki has lost face:

Spokesman for the Iraqi government Ali Al-Dabbag, in a press release, said the government welcomed this call which would serve to avoid bloodshed, adding that this reflected Al-Sadr's keenness for maintaining the safety of civilians.

Maliki may have difficulty in holding onto power now. He's shown the incompetence not only of the best military forces under his direct control, but also of the Prime Minister personally. For at least five millenia it's been a truism in Mesopotamia that leaders, if they want to endure, must always avoid implicating themselves in military defeat. By taking charge of operations in Basra, Maliki showed how woefully out of touch he is with Iraqi political wisdom. Of course, at this stage it should surprise nobody that Maliki is incapable of governing. That was almost fated from the moment his name was floated as a compromise candidate in 2006. For Maliki, a former exile under Saddam Hussein, had no political base in Iraq. The Bush administration's misjudgment in backing yet another returned exile as leader in that badly fractured country has had the predictable consequence that the Iraqi government cannot function. It's fair to say at this date that there is no government in Iraq, just the mirage of one.

Update: Fighting continues in Baghdad and Basra, and the truce may not be taking hold in fact. The NYT reports that "the substance of the nine-point statement, released by Mr. Sadr on Sunday afternoon, was hammered out in elaborate negotiations over the past few days with senior Iraqi officials, some of whom traveled to Iran to meet with Mr. Sadr". Sadr's spokesman earlier today told reporters that the Maliki government had accepted the deal in full.

"We confirm that there were guarantees taken from the Iraqi government to fulfill all the points in this statement. Thus, no more random arrests,"

But after Sadr announced the truce, a Maliki spokesman told Reuters that "the operation in Basra will continue and will not stop until it achieves its goals." Now Reuters is reporting also that Mahdi fighters doubt the Iraqi government will honor the terms of the truce. The LA Times, NYT, and Time all report that fighting is continuing, including further US air strikes in Basra. The truce may break down completely, then, before it could even take hold.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:02 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  this little disaster (13+ / 0-)

    has George W. Bush's fingerprints all over it. I guess Maliki know realizes he ought not to listen to little Georgie's advice.

  •  Wait, does Sadr hate us too? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, smintheus, Faheyman

    Because if he ends up controlling Iraq by the end of this whole debacle, we're basically back to square one.

    Dem Primary 2008: Decided by issues that won't help me pay bills or keep friends from going to Iraq.

    by bhagamu on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:06:27 AM PDT

    •  Worse (5+ / 0-)

      Sadr may turn into a Saddam with a rabid religious following.  Think Khomeini, and you'll be closer to the mark.

      Hanoi didn't break John McCain, but Washington did.

      by Dallasdoc on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:21:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Worse still (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dallasdoc, walkshills, drmah, MizKit

        Whether or not Sadr ends up in charge, Iran has gained significant influence that it did not have before in Iraq. In negotiations leading up to this cease-fire, Iran is said to have played a role as mediator. Not the US, Iran.

        •  I suspect that'll be temporary (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          walkshills, John2Luke

          Iran has a lot of utility to Shiite factions fighting for power, but once somebody wins the struggle Iran may well find itself out in the cold.  Once their usefulness wanes, so will their influence.

          Hanoi didn't break John McCain, but Washington did.

          by Dallasdoc on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:34:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  don't forget the Kurds (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dallasdoc

            If Iraq can solve its own issues relative to the Kurds in the north, they won't need Iran. It's a huge job and it's going to require strong people with mojo and a nationalist agenda. al-Sadr will be part of that. Iran doesn't want a strong Iraq.

            However, it's a big "if". Part of that "if" depends on getting people elected here who have the creds and attitude to work with all of these factions to facilitate a deal that lets us walk away without more damage to all concerned.

      •  I'm not so sure (7+ / 0-)

        From the beginning, al-Sadr has focused on the "occupier". The Mahdi was working in neighborhoods providing food and shelter to families that were being displaced and who the government was too disorganized to help. He clearly has an end game in mind but I feel it's not one of setting himself up as a brutal dictator. Look back over the last four years at how he has played  to keep a balance. The more extreme parts of the Mahdi split and formed gangs because they didn't think al-Sadr was rabid enough. It's an extremely complicated and fluid situation.  

  •  Sadr is an extremely able politician (9+ / 0-)

    ...and tactician.

    I actually predicted more than 4 years ago that Sadr would wind up running Iraq at some point, and that it was better we start working with him and ct a deal with him rather than drive him into the arms of Iran.

    •  Agreed. (5+ / 0-)

      I've been watching al-Sadr since the beginning of this, too. He's smart and his goal is to get the "occupiers" out. His people still control most of Basra after five days of fighting. al-Maliki accepted al-Sard's cease-fire to to save face after being bullied into this disaster by Cheney. If it were otherwise, al-Sadr's people would have turned over their weapons rather than having the local police offer the Mahdi theirs.

      People like Cheney do not have the slightest grasp of tribal loyalties and they certainly do not understand what many Muslims call "adab", a certain manner that is at the basis of the code of chivalry that the Crusaders brought back to Europe in the 1200s. T.E. Lawrence understood all of this. The neocons never will.

    •  you would have thought (6+ / 0-)

      that several years ago the Bushies would have figured out that they're not any longer able to defeat Sadr - at least not without military forces several times as large as are available. But evidently they're too stupid ever to learn from mistakes. And now, going after Sadr in Basra with small and underequipped IA forces in the lead? Almost insane.

      I'll be interested to see how Petraeus manages to come out of this smelling like a rose.

      •  Where do you think Iran comes in here? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cotterperson, smintheus, ElizabethAM

        Maliki is more identified with the pro-Iranian Shiite factions than with nationalist types like Sadr.  Do you think Iran has reached an understanding with Sadr and is cutting Maliki loose?  Where do you see them in this struggle?

        Hanoi didn't break John McCain, but Washington did.

        by Dallasdoc on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:23:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think Iran wants the US out (0+ / 0-)

          as much as al-Maliki does. Where it goes from there, I don't know enough to say.

        •  Iran will make sure it backs the winner(s) (4+ / 0-)

          It's backing virtually every plausible faction, to some degree, aside (evidently) from Sunni fanatics like al Qaeda. Iran's influence is far less with Sadr than with ISCI, but it looks like Sadr knows he can't afford to take on both the US and Iran simultaneously. Sadr resents Iranian meddling, but if Iran helps to get the US out of Iran, I'll bet Sadr will play along with Iran.

          •  yup. he just wants us out (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            walkshills

            and he's a pragmatist.

            I have friends in Iran. They're take is that if we get out, Iran's internal politics will move back closer to center. That trend showed itself in the recent election. As much as anyone, we're responsible for Ahmadinejad and his outrageous behavior.

          •  What is happening to the soldiers/police who (0+ / 0-)

            defected to the Mahdi Army this past week?  Who pays them, going forward?

            The way that this could make some tactical sense for Maliki is that he has smoked out the people who will give Humvees to al-Sadr, defect to the Mahdi Army at the first sign of a substantive clash, etc.  Now, I could imagine that he would prefer that he had not identified them, so that he could sleep more soundly.

            But it happened, so what do he and they do now?  Can they really just take up their old posts (and paychecks)?  If so, Maliki knows exactly who to arrest before the next push against Sadr.  If not, then not only are the government forces crippled, but the people who defected won't be getting paid anymore, unless by al-Sadr.  Do you have any idea how people see this being resolved?

            Posting a diary on the nomination? Pay your McCain Tax!

            by Seneca Doane on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 12:19:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  they're too arrogant (0+ / 0-)

        to admit they can "lose". These people judge their worth based on their performance, and they've created such an alternate reality that they believe their own lies as otherwise their sense of self-impoverishment would be overwhelming. In the Enneagram, Bush is a Three.

    •  Sadr is a nationalist at least (0+ / 0-)

      Iran doesn't scare me like the wussy right-wingers, but its best that We don't have an Iraq that is a puppet of Iran.  Sadr accomplishes that.

      Sadr, being Shi'a, would at least represent more of the population than the Baath regime, but since the Baathists were secular, this might not be a good thing.

      Regardless, if things get much worse in Iraq, and we're forced to back a side (what we've always done in the past when embroiled in a Civil War, Sadr might be the best (of bad) options.  

      If anyone disputes this, please let me know.

      •  no dispute (0+ / 0-)

        al-Sadr is, imo, more of a nationalist than anything else. It strikes me that he's trying to push various segments of Iraqi politics and sects in a direction of unifying against the US more than anything, but it's like trying to push against the end of a piece of string.

  •  So.... (5+ / 0-)

    Basically the mission is not accomplished? What? Bush misled us again?
    I love the diary, but I must admit about 1830 this evening it will enrage me.
    I can't wait to see how the 'liberal' media spins this-I think we all know GE stands to make some more money from this escalation so NBC should offer the best reports for rage.
    I am glad I read this, but once I see the spin I will be cleaning off my TV again from yelling at it.

    I think it is a bit unpatriotic to point out that a Bush crony could be incompetent. Sorry, I had to get a laugh in now before the news cycle pisses me off

  •  Remember the Shah in Iran? (8+ / 0-)

    Sadr is basically biding his time until the US pulls out, at which time he'll take over Iraq. There's not really anything we can do about it, and moves like this show it. He can put his people together at any time and show his power to remind the population he's there, then melt away.

    When the US pulls out, Maliki will quickly be deposed. Let's just hope Sadr is a better replacement, but with his multi-ethnic coaliation that reaches across sectarian lines, uniting Sunni, Shi'a and Kurd, it's entirely possible that this fighter will make a better leader for a democratic Iraq than the US could install. Ironic that the US forces that went in under the guise of delivering democracy are now basically preventing a popular overhaul of their own dictator.

    We'll see what happens in '09.

    •  Nothing ironic about it (4+ / 0-)

      "preventing a popular overhaul of their own dictator" has been the U.S. SOP for years.

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:14:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If he does it will be with the support of (0+ / 0-)

      the majority of the Iraqi people, as if it matters at all what they want:

      Much more in this article at ZNet by Joshua Holland and Raed Jarrar in which they write about Five Things You Need to Know to Understand the Latest Violence in Iraq

      U.S. is propping up an unpopular regime; Sadr has support because of his platform.

      One of the ironies of the reporting out of Iraq is the ubiquitous characterization of Muqtada al-Sadr as a "renegade," "radical" or "militant" cleric, despite the fact that he is the only leader of significance in the country who has ordered his followers to stand down. His ostensible militancy appears to arise primarily from his opposition to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

      He has certainly been willing to use violence in the past, but the "firebrand" label belies the fact that Sadr is arguably the most popular leader among a large section of the Iraqi population and that he has forcefully rejected sectarian conflict and sought to bring together representatives of Iraq's various ethnic and sectarian groups in an effort to create real national reconciliation -- a process that the highly sectarian Maliki regime has failed to accomplish.

      It's vitally important to understand that Sadr's popularity and legitimacy is a result of his having a platform that's favored by an overwhelming majority of Iraqis.

      Most Iraqis: Favor a strong central government free of the influence of militias.

      Oppose, by a 2-1 margin, the privatization of Iraq's energy sector -- a "benchmark towards progress according to the Bush administration.

      Favor a U.S. withdrawal on a short timeline (most believe the United States plans to build permanent bases -- both are issues about which the Sadrists have been vocal.

      Oppose al Qaeda and the ideology of Osama Bin Laden and, to a lesser degree, Iranian influence on Iraq's internal affairs.

      With the exception of their opposition to Al Qaeda, the five major separatist parties -- Sunni, Shia and Kurdish -- that make up Maliki's governing coalition are on the deeply unpopular side of these issues. A poll conducted last year found that 65 percent of Iraqis think the Iraqi government is doing a poor job, and Maliki himself has a Bush-like 66 percent disapproval rate.

      As in Vietnam, the United States is backing an unpopular and decidedly undemocratic government in Iraq, and that simple fact explains much of the violent resistance that's going on in Iraq today.

      Yep, that's the fellow the corporate media like to refer to as "radical cleric" Moqtada al-Sadr.

      "Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control people..." Henry Kissinger

      by truong son traveler on Mon Mar 31, 2008 at 03:50:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What will happen when we withdraw? (0+ / 0-)

    We obviously can't stay there forever, but can their government actually fight for themselves after we leave?

  •  Cheney went to Baghdad to push Maliki into this (7+ / 0-)

    John McCain was also in Baghdad to help Cheney put on the full court press for Maliki's new Army to take on Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army.

    A vote for Hillary will help to put a woman in the White House.....Cindy McCain

    by Lefty Coaster on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:11:46 AM PDT

  •  One thing is sure... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, RevJoe, MizKit

    The U.S. media won't get the story right - and they'll spin Iraq into the back pages again. Why? because no one dares talk about how Iraq is still a disaster for the U.S. Only positive news here. Besides - the civil war between Obama and Clinton is more fun to report - and easier to spin.

    Watch for the first idiot to claim that the cease fire and decrease in violence shows the surge is still working, and that the Iraqi people are finally coming together.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:12:16 AM PDT

  •  Why does our media (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sistersilverwolf, Inky99

    promulgate propaganda?  

    Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity. Horace Mann (and btw, the bike in kayakbiker is a bicycle)

    by Kayakbiker on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:12:18 AM PDT

  •  The Arab saying on Negotiations (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, Scubaval, Losty

    If I am strong, why should I negotiate.

    If i am weak, I cannot negotiate.

    Maliki has demonstrated he is not strong.

    That's death in Arabia

    Sadr just wanted to stop the fight, because he
    had already achieved his goals.

    he pushed Maliki back, he punched the americans in the nose
    and he is preventing major damage to basra and Sadr City.

    George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

    by nathguy on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:14:10 AM PDT

    •  Old culture, they are much more subtle (0+ / 0-)

      A it is, Maliki cannot eliminate Sadrists, and Sadrists cannot eliminate Badrists, so they have to go back to the chessboard and continue moving small pieces around.

      So, the ancient tradition suggest to make up for the differences, kiss each other and try to aim the next stab in the back better.

      •  al-Sadr will outlast al-Maliki (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nathguy, drmah, Losty

        al-Maliki is in a tenuous position as he relies on a political coalition in Baghdad. When you get out on the streets, al-Sadr has the support. That's why police were handing over weapons to the Mahdi and not vice-versa.

        al-Sadr's trajectory is upwards, one careful step at a time. al-Maliki's is potentially downwards fast as he is not his own master in this situation. His knowing that is probably the main reason why he let Cheney push him into such a bone-headed move as challenging al-Sadr in his own neighborhood.

    •  This is silly (0+ / 0-)

      Your comment conforms to stereotype, making it sound as though all Arabs are cutthroats.  There's a very long tradition of negotiation among "Arabians" (sic).  

  •  Media Spin.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Inky99

    doesn't matter..at all..the media is already spinning it toward the Iraqi government winning a hard fought battle..the McCain/Bush ass licking media..did i mention lazy..will fall in line and eat some more BBQ...

    •  Yup. Media: "Sadr backs down!" (0+ / 0-)

      The media's presenting this as Sadr backing down.

      This whole battle was manufactured by Cheney and Bushco for McCain's benefit.

      "The great nations have always acted like gangsters, and the small nations like prostitutes." - Stanley Kubrick

      by Inky99 on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 01:49:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Iraqi Civil War (0+ / 0-)

    Until the civil war betwixt and between the Iraqi cliques is allowed to run its course there will be no peace. With religious, ethnic and political divides as wide as the Grand Canyon, Iraq as a nation is barely held together with duct tape and baling wire. Unfortunately for the Iraqi people, it seems the only way to solve this mess is for the U.S. to get out of the way and let them have their civil war. We had ours, a long and bloody affair. It's time for Iraq to have theirs.

  •  The friend of my enemy is my friend! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, Phil S 33

    Pretty much sums up Bush administration policy in Iraq.

    As an Iraqi-American academic born and raised in New Orleans, this voter is not pleased.

    by naltikriti on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:16:58 AM PDT

  •  Uhhhh, not so fast. (4+ / 0-)

    Reuters:

    Iraqi troops will continue their six-day-old military operation in Basra despite a call by Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for his followers to stop fighting, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Sunday.

    "The operation in Basra will continue and will not stop until it achieves its goals. It is not targeting the Sadrists but criminals," Dabbagh told Reuters.

    I don't know what order these stories are supposed to be in.  But it looks like Maliki accepted the cease fire and then modified it.

    I think what happened here is that Maliki at first "welcomed" Sadr's cease fire and then remembered he wasn't supposed to be in Basra to fight Sadr in the first place.  Oh yeah!  

    This is turning into a sick joke.

    (h/t litho)

    Novelty grill? Fight's on!!! -- George Foreman

    by LithiumCola on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:18:05 AM PDT

    •  Well, part of the statement is demonstrably false (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LithiumCola

      Maliki has been targeting the Mahdi Army and almost nothing else all week. So, he may claim that he hasn't called the operations off, but it's hard to see anything but propaganda in that. If Maliki tries to force the surrender of Mahdi forces, or their disarmament - the original goal of the operation - then clearly the battle will resume. If it were to resume, then Sadr would gain credibility for trying to broker peace, and Maliki will wrong-foot himself.

      I don't think it will resume, anyway. Maliki can't win with the forces available to him, and he could be destroyed if he tries to continue.

    •  Maybe Maliki saw the writing on the wall (0+ / 0-)

      as smintheus described and he decided he was screwed either way, so he might as well press on militarily in the hopes of salvaging something politically.

  •  The key fact (8+ / 0-)

    Sadr did not hand over his arms.  His supporters are still armed to the teeth.

  •  Pimping my diary from earlier today on Iraq (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock

    I wrote about how coverage of the so called surge has been less than insightful and more or less amplifications of admin. talking points. Hope to get a few more readers.

    Stop bitching and start a revolution!

    by Randian on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:19:41 AM PDT

  •  War fact number one...no one quits when winning. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DefendOurConstitution

    Sadr knew he was going to lose and threw in the towel under the guise of compromise. Though I do find a lot of cheers going up in Kos land because they figured Maliki was going to lose.

  •  Nothing a Few Thousand Tons of Arial Bombing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Randian, Faheyman

    of neighborhoods can't wrap up.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:22:52 AM PDT

  •  He had great teacher - GWB. All talk, no results! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phil S 33

    "mission accomplished", "last throes", "a few dead enders", "six days, six weeks, I doubt six months", and now we are getting some local flavor with Maliki's "will battle Shi'ite militia in Basra to the end".

    Then they came for me - and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.

    by DefendOurConstitution on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:22:58 AM PDT

  •  WTH was this all about? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    episty, embra, Losty

    astounding how difficult it has been (not only for me, but also) for folks who do not closely follow the War, to figure out WTH this whole episode has been about. fwiw, this article was useful...

    http://www.alternet.org/...

    and IMHO: in retrospect, we can now see the military folly of General Petraeus, (and the political fantasy of BushCo), as American Occupation Forces hunkered down in seeming suspended animation in Baghdad for months, waiting for (Godot? :) something political to happen, Over There or Over Here ~ that would change military reality. . .

    . . .Perhaps because TheSurge = the General's "success" was measured only by the metrics of: (1) the number of insurgent / offensive attacks against his defense; and, (2) the KIA attrition rate of American forces ~ the idea of General Petraeus and the American Army serving any strategic purpose other than "reporting ‘good-news’ metrics" and "sacrificing blood and treasure to provide time for political progress" : had no strategic military vision. . .

    . . .when it was the General, himself who should have been doing something: in my humble opinion, re-deploying his forces from Baghdad to Basra; not only improving his logistical position, but also positioning himself against having No Exit by southern-route land lines or sea lanes.

    iow, IMHO if there was a ‘political purpose’ to TheSurge = waiting for something to happen; or, TheySurge = "going after al Sadr, et al" ~ it's all blown to hell now, because ~ without Basra, we will have to fight our way out of IRAQ; meaning that now any withdrawal, if not by airlift transport, could for our troops be equal to or bloodier than our invasion.

    nous sommes celui qui nous feignons pour etre

    by MonsieurGonzo on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:26:07 AM PDT

  •  Cockburn's reporting.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smintheus

    ...is a revelation...he's simply the best....as good a writer as he is a reporter and that's saying something...love the international posts...keep 'em running.

    What the hell's going on out here--Vince Lombardi -6.75/-5.85

    by Patrick B on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:26:26 AM PDT

  •  We control nothing in Iraq (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DefendOurConstitution

    The eventual outcome will not be determined by the U.S. this has been another pathetic example of wishfull thinking.  McBush et al are completely out to lunch.

    Time waits for no one, the treasure is great spend it wisely.

    by mojavefog on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:26:33 AM PDT

  •  a (0+ / 0-)

    "a decisive and final battle?"

    That could last fifty years, maybe a hundred!

  •  or is it just another case of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smintheus

    as the blog perrspectives (yes, spelled that way) called it, Premature Iraq Elation?

  •  It's not a defeat (0+ / 0-)

    when you're doing something stupid and you STOP doing it.

    It's a VICTORY!

    Note to Democrats.

  •  To Be Fair (0+ / 0-)

    Sadrists have agreed to withdraw; there will be no withdrawal from Basra by Iraqi forces nor cessation of American (and British) air strikes in pursuit of other than Sadraist militias and "criminal gangs."

    In return for Moqtada al-Sadr's promise to take his men off the streets of Basra, the Iraqi gov't has agreed not to pursue them unless it has a warrant for someone's arrest.

    The past six days was, effectively, a violent protest following the arrests of hundreds of al-Sadr supporters  for what US commanders say are ties to Iran and attacks on American soldiers.  As we see, the Iraqi government has not agreed to cease making arrests.

    Admittedly, the Sadrist perspective is a bit different.  Al-Sadr's followers accused rival Shia parties in the government of trying to crush their movement before provincial elections this fall.

    The fighting was not in response to any major offensive by the Mahdi Army to oust the British from Basra.  It did not represent an escalation of hostilities to levels of two years ago.

    As of now, it's a return to the status quo, a condition which the Iraqi government apparently has no real quarrel with.

    They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

    by Limelite on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:31:31 AM PDT

    •  Not sure what you mean (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Losty

      An essential part of the deal is that Iraqi and US forces withdraw from Basra.

      Wasat Online...says that among the points is the withdrawal of the Iraqi and American forces from Basra, stop the raids against the Sadrists, Maliki to return to Baghdad in 48 hour followed by the ministers [Defense and Interior].

      It looks as if Maliki is pretending that he hasn't agreed to withdraw, but without that there's no deal apparently. An aide to Sadr told reporters...

      "We confirm that there were guarantees taken from the Iraqi government to fulfill all the points in this [nine-point] statement."

      •  Since Maliki Insists Arrests Will Continue (0+ / 0-)

        I assumed that the "withdrawal" is a myth.  The only guarantee seems to be the agreement not to conduct warfare on members of the Mahdi Army in a concerted effort with the Coalition of Who's Left.

        They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

        by Limelite on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 07:01:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Does he say "arrests will continue"? (0+ / 0-)

          The Reuters report I saw had the vague statement that the operation would continue, tied to the falsehood that Maliki wasn't after Sadr's supporters in the first place. But it said nothing about making further arrests, or indeed anything specific.

          So the situation could be any number of things. Maliki could pretend to continue the operation, then quietly wind it down and declare victory against the "lawless" whoevers, and slink away from Basra.

          Or it could be that Sadr's spokesman was lying when he said that the government had promised to abide by all nine-points. It's unclear, though, why he would state unequivocally that Maliki would stop arresting Sadr's followers. That would just set up his followers to be arrested one by one.

          Or it could be that there was never any agreement. Except it's unclear why Sadr would unilaterally disarm, and why Maliki's government seemed so ready (at first) to make nice to Sadr.

  •  To bring up an old joke... (0+ / 0-)

    ...Maliki should just declare victory and go home.

    Then again, The Surge™ is working though, isn't it? At least that's what Codpiece Guy says.

    (1) D.I.E.B.O.L.D.: Decisive In Elections By Ousting Liberal Democrats.
    (2) R.A.T.S.: Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia.
    (3) -8.75, -8.10

    by Archangel on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:31:32 AM PDT

  •  Talking tough (0+ / 0-)

    After this announcement, anybody who targets the government and its institutions will be regarded ... as outlaws.

    We have an endless supply of sternly-worded letters, and we know how to use them!

    I believe that ignorance is the root of all evil. And that no one knows the truth. RIP, Molly Ivins. And thanks.

    by Nowhere Man on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:31:38 AM PDT

  •  I predict Maliki doesn't make it to May 1st. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drmah

    Then they came for me - and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.

    by DefendOurConstitution on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:32:52 AM PDT

  •  If the fighting indicated progress then what (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phil S 33, DefendOurConstitution

    does this indicate?

    I think it indicated the beginning of the end for John McCain. He said his electoral fate was tied to the war - those were his words.

    the shane life The story of a boy alone in New York City. God help the city.

    by Shane Hensinger on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:33:20 AM PDT

    •  The defeat of logic. (0+ / 0-)

      Then they came for me - and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.

      by DefendOurConstitution on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:36:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why is US still in Iraq? (0+ / 0-)

      If US is helpless in fighting radical Islamic extremist which John McCain said is the greatest threat to world and US security while still in Iraq,  and is tolerating these radical Islamic extremists to control the government and Iraq,  then why are we still in Iraq.

      What would be the difference between US out of Iraq and in Iraq?  In both times Sadr is exerting control in Iraq.

      We are just wasting blood and money. And US appears helpless and laughing stock---since these extremist elements are able to prosper under US watch.

      US will have better control of Iraq, if we leave Iraq,  then control them from the air.  Threaten to bomb them if they export terrorism outside Iraq.

      Fact check Obama spins on Hillary http://facts.hillaryhub.com/

      by timber on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 01:07:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Vichy regime (0+ / 0-)

    If your analysis is correct, and you are right that no other news supports your reporting, then Iraq can look for Alowi or Chalabi to take over the reins of the Vichy like regime of Iraq for Cheney/Bush.  This just keeps getting better and better.

    •  The perils of Vichydom (0+ / 0-)

      After  a while the Germans grew tired of the Vichy regime's inability to curb insurgents and malcontents and took over the whole country. Even the Vichy crowd's enthusiastic anti-semitism was not enough to satisfy their masters in Berlin.

  •  Granted, Maliki boy blinked... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drmah

    ... send Cheney to clean up the mess.

    Obama or amabO, looking great whatever which way...

    by galliano on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:36:20 AM PDT

  •  Proxy war (0+ / 0-)

    I think this clash was a bit of a proxy battle between the US and Iran, and since America never loses militarily our fair and balanced media must jump through hoops to keep the magic alive for viewers at home.

    One big irony here though is that Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army is probably Iraq's greatest defense against al Qaeda in Iraq. So when Sadr wins, Iran wins. But if he loses, al Qaeda wins.

    Mission accomplished!

    •  Huh? (0+ / 0-)

      Just look at some of the Shiite political parties in the current Iraqi government.
      SIIC (formerly SCIRI) with its Badr organization (formerly Badr Corps). The Badr Corps was founded in Iran and trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
      Add Dawa, Maliki´s party.

      See something?
      Both of them supported the Iranian revolution and were supported by Iran after 1979.
      Leaders of both parties were in exile in Iran till 2003. Do you really think these guys have less ties to Iran than Moqtada al Sadr whose family stayed in Iraq?

      Right now the US seems to support the Iranian allies here. :)

  •  Maliki's days are numbered as PM. al-Sadr will be (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drmah

    a major player in a future Iraqi govt.  His attempts to reach out to Sunni's may also yield him additional power.  Though I can't say he will eventually be PM, he certainly hasn't hurt himself.

    The only thing to fear is fear itself - FDR. Obama Nation. -6.13 -6.15

    by ecostar on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:38:11 AM PDT

  •  Language like this comes right from Bush: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smintheus, Nowhere Man

    "As the government of Iraq we welcome this statement. We believe this will support the government of Iraq's efforts to impose security."

    No different than Bush declaring:

    Bush also praised Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for launching a "tough battle against militia fighters and criminals" in the oil city of Basra, citing it as evidence that Baghdad is increasingly able to handle security without U.S. leadership.

    The puppet learns well.

    •  Agreed (0+ / 0-)

      I don't know if the statement was originally issued in English, or issued in Arabic and translated by the media.

      Maybe it's just the translation, but it's about the lamest statement possible.

      As the government of Iraq

      Oh, we thought you were the Dominos delivery guys.

      We believe this will support the government of Iraq's efforts to impose security.

      Why the third person? Are you still speaking as the government of Iraq here, or did you just get deposed? And, guys, poor choice of verbs here. "Impose" isn't something you do. It's something someone else does. As in, bush imposed this war on the people of Iraq (but you won't ever hear him say that.)

      I believe that ignorance is the root of all evil. And that no one knows the truth. RIP, Molly Ivins. And thanks.

      by Nowhere Man on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:50:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  what happened to the benchmarks? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CParis

    has the bar been lowered so far that they are no longer viable?

    Bush "is a yokel on the world stage . . . a Gilligan who cannot find his ass." Bill Maher

    by timbuck on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:41:58 AM PDT

  •  I remember hearing about the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nowhere Man, Eloise

    "ultimatum" on NPR while driving to work one morning.

    I almost wrecked my car, I was laughing so hard.  

    "Lay down your arms within 72 hours" he says.

    And I say, "Or WHAT??!?!?"

    Apparently, Sadr said the same thing.........


    Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room! - President Merkin Muffley

    by AlyoshaKaramazov on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:42:28 AM PDT

  •  No one could have predicted... (0+ / 0-)

    .....part 98765

    Wars not make one great. - Yoda

    by Volvo Liberal on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:53:23 AM PDT

  •  Hillary not paying bills in her highhanded way (0+ / 0-)

    Cash-strapped Clinton fails to pay bills

    Small businesses that serve campaigns are telling each other to get cash upfront when dealing with Hillary. The Politico quotes an event planner in Ohio I feel insulted by the way that the campaign treated this company and treated us personally

  •  Don't be naive (0+ / 0-)

    Maliki didn't call this. But plausible deniability suggests that he'll be one to take the blame.  And this post shows how that happens.

  •  They were supposed to go to Mosul (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smintheus

    clean up some unreformed Sunni militias there. Instead Maliki pointed out his need to take the Iraqi Army, go to Basra and open up the city and get the Mahdi army /splinters off his flank so the elections some months away will go better for him. This was a political move to improve his own standing.

    Notice the agreement says, they will carry weapons
    and not attack the government. That means raids for
    kidnapping, score settling will be more difficult.
    Also, the aim of arresting Sadrists, putting various Sadrists in Maliki's dungeons is going to remain difficult and chancy.

     Nothing was said about "foreign fighters". Only "government institutions" will not be attacked. To Sadr, that means alQueda, and US and US partner coalition forces. Brits, Blackwater all the rest are still unwelcome. Officially there is still a cease fire. But with whom? Other indigenous Iraqi forces.

    0/0 I really do not see the difference. Drgrishka1 3/24/08

    by Pete Rock on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 12:03:34 PM PDT

  •  I don't care what any of you say... (0+ / 0-)

    we're winning in Iraq!

    Oh wait...

    ~Doc~

    -7.88 -8,77 Just a wine sipping, brie eating, $6 coffee drinking, Prius driving, over educated, liberal, white, activist, male New Englander for Barack Obama.

    by EquationDoc on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 12:06:15 PM PDT

  •  Good review (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smintheus

    I heard a news report on NPR which painted this as if Sadr had unilaterally retreated, which sounded absurd given the situation. I guess they forgot to mention the government's acquiescence.

    I wouldn't say going after Sadr hard was a bad move. With the previous lull in violence, the government could only gain credibility by crushing the militia-- let Sadr hang himself in the eyes of the public as a criminal. In fact, if Sadr instigated this, Maliki was obliged to attack.

    That  of course requires that the government could actually beat Sadr, which is sadly not the case. Not surprising though-- it's no secret how many soldiers and police officers are really loyal to Sadr. It doesn't take a particularly devious mind to look at the Iraqi Army as a free AK-47 program. About the only bright spot for Maliki is that this event served as a loyalty test and his remaining forces in the South should be relatively clean right now.

    Sadr gained quite a bit. The idea that the recent relative calm in Iraq was due to the US escalation or Sunni Awakening or to the sidelining of Sadr has been laid to rest is the rubble of Basra. He's the guy you have to deal with in Iraq-- not Hakim, not Maliki, not the Sunnis.

    For the US, this is nothing good, though I am sure McBush will spin it as better than  VE Day. US forces appeared subservient to Maliki during the operation. In addition to looking ineffective, US airstrikes killed a lot of civilians which could re-ignite general hostility.

    •  Where do you get this from? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Captain C, Losty

      Nouri has been arresting Sadrist commanders for months now, taking advantage of the cease fire. There are a lot of angry Shia with Malikis attempt to consolidate and extend his reach through military force.

       The Sadrists boycotted the last round of provincial elections, they stated they will contest and participate this time. Maliki will get smaller,
      probably lose his coalition/majority.

       This is primarily a move to bolster himself ahead of these elections because if Mahdi Army/el Sadr isn't marginalized they will swamp him in the South and around Baghdad where he won by default formerly.

       The trad media portrays this as an attack on "Iran backed militias". No,this is DEFENSE of Iran backed militias (Badr Corp, old SCIRE, Dawa,others).

      0/0 I really do not see the difference. Drgrishka1 3/24/08

      by Pete Rock on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 12:23:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

        •  Probably this: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          smintheus, Losty

          I wouldn't say going after Sadr hard was a bad move. With the previous lull in violence, the government could only gain credibility by crushing the militia-- let Sadr hang himself in the eyes of the public as a criminal. In fact, if Sadr instigated this, Maliki was obliged to attack.

          Problem seems to be that they were going only after one single militia, the Mahdi army of Sadr. Basra is governed by the Fadilah party with its own militia. And of course SIIC (formerly SCIRI), Maliki´s coalition partner has its own Badr Corps militia. So it looks like Maliki was trying to use the army to remove/weaken a political opponent who might gain in the October elections.

          That  of course requires that the government could actually beat Sadr, which is sadly not the case. Not surprising though-- it's no secret how many soldiers and police officers are really loyal to Sadr. It doesn't take a particularly devious mind to look at the Iraqi Army as a free AK-47 program. About the only bright spot for Maliki is that this event served as a loyalty test and his remaining forces in the South should be relatively clean right now.

          Read that the Iraqi army division used in Basra is composed primarily of former Badr Corps militia men.  If that´s true I suspect that they´re not really loyal to Maliki but to his coalition partner SIIC.

  •  Cheney proves as incompetent as shrub. (0+ / 0-)

    The two of them managed to screw up what tenuous little control was established in Iraq.
    Now that Sadr is basically in control of the oil fields, I have to guess that Condi is stuck on an endless loop of:
    "Nobody could have imagined."

    St. Ronnie was an asshole.

    by manwithnoname on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 12:11:07 PM PDT

  •  Maybe another reason. (0+ / 0-)

    Petraeus and Crocker are due to "testify" on April 8 and 9 in Congress. This stunt might have been an attempt to show progress beyond the partition of Baghdad into sectarian enclaves.

    "Look the surge worked so well, we are now extending it to Basra! It is great I tell you, wonderful!. All my parrots,ventriloquist dummies, embedded press tell us so!"

     It is not the votes, but the ability to control counting of votes: it is not the facts on the ground but the control of the reporting of the facts on the ground that matters!

    0/0 I really do not see the difference. Drgrishka1 3/24/08

    by Pete Rock on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 12:13:28 PM PDT

  •  this is what I've been waiting for: (0+ / 0-)

    Finally, someone in Iraq said this, and it should be hollered from the rooftops there and here.  I give Sadr credit for saying it, and the sooner the Iraqis understand this, the sooner they'll ask us to leave:

    ... to maintain the unity of Iraq and to put an end to this sedition that the occupiers and their followers want to spread among the Iraqi people

    The Iraqi people need to take their country back.

    Republicans: Your history has earned you a new mantra: "War and waste." ~~ Marta Jorgensen (CA-24 in '08)

    I am an Edwards Democrat!

    by Scubaval on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 12:23:43 PM PDT

  •  big points in my book, mcjoan, for (0+ / 0-)

    No shit, Sherlock.

    awsum!

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -Mohandas Gandhi

    by ezdidit on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 12:26:26 PM PDT

  •  Moqtoddies all around...straight up, please... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler

    Watch the MSM miss the real story once again like a bad, clutch free throw.

    Sadr keeps proving that he is much more savvy than his opponents anticipate.  McCain has precious little understanding of the nuances here, and he is stuck standing by a myopic set of Republican policy options that apply military hardware to social, political, and infrastructure challenges.  That has not worked from Day 1, and it will not change.

    Conservatives of all stripes should reach out for help before they go down with the ship.  Conserving all of zero still leaves you with zero.  Unfortunately, stay the course screws everyone, not just conservative political hacks.  Soldiers, civilians, and taxpayers will continue to have to pay the price until we get sweeping political change in our leadership.

  •  Can anyone explain (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smintheus, drmah

    how American forces in Bagdad are being supplied? If they are still sending trucks up the road from Kuwait, wouldn't this new fighting in Basra interrupt the supply line? I never seem to hear of any attacks on those convoys any more, even before the latest round of mayhem.
      I've been wondering for some time if the major players (Sadr, his rivals, the Sunni insurgents, Iran) might not have an interest in continuing to allow a US military presence as a justification for their own violence and as a recruiting aid. Is it possible that the various factions treat US commanders as suckers who can be manipulated to attack one's enemies, as in the current US air support for Maliki's goons, or in earlier US attacks on the guys who now serve as those same goons.

  •  Who Won? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smintheus

    from swimming freestyle:

    "So, who did win this week?  It's probably fair to say losers don't issue demands and winners don't accept those demands so readily."

    http://swimmingfreestyle.typepad.com

    •  al-Sadr (0+ / 0-)

      He extended a hand to stop the fighting that Cheney bullied al_Maliki into, still has control of most of Basra, still has all of his weapons, has acquired a nice new vehicle with more weapons courtesy of the local police surrendering them to him, demonstrated that he commands loyalty among others besides the Mahdi, and the Mahdi walks away to fight another day.

  •  More proof the surge is working (0+ / 0-)

    At least I'm sure that's how Bush, McSame, and Dana Perino will spin it.

    "At least the war on the environment is going well."

    by RenMin on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 02:26:33 PM PDT

  •  and/or (0+ / 0-)

    The truce may break down completely, then, before it could even take hold.

    ... or it could succeed - yes?  

    Hopefully everyone here would agree - and hope that the truce holds and that the violence slows ... or is al Sadr terrorizing the Iraqi countryside a good thing?

    al Sadr is, after all, murdering real people - mothers, fathers, grandparents ... and children!

  •  Wonder if this story, by William H. White (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Losty

    at OpEd News, may be pertinent to this discussion.

    "War with Iran May Have Begun with Offensive in Iraq"

    This feels very disturbing; is White a reliable source? And if so, now what?

  •  We continue to be played (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler

    by all sides in this quagmire. Where is the media?

    McCain: "I think that clearly my fortunes have a lot to do with what's happening in Iraq" ... Buh-bye!

    by RevJoe on Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 06:34:53 PM PDT

    •  The media (0+ / 0-)

      they're busy spinning, editing, hiding the truth, publishing planted news and propagandizing for Cheney, Bush and the usual powers that be, the ruling elite in corporate America that they work for. It's a team effort and has been for years.

      These people specialize in getting the word out there for their clients - the CIA and earn $$ millions for their propaganda efforts and they're not the only people in the business.

      The Chicago Tribune reports that the Rendon Group has garnered more than $56 million in Pentagon work since September 2001.

      "Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control people..." Henry Kissinger

      by truong son traveler on Mon Mar 31, 2008 at 04:03:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Looks like somebody forgot to ask Shotgun Dick (0+ / 0-)

    But after Sadr announced the truce, a Maliki spokesman told Reuters that "the operation in Basra will continue and will not stop until it achieves its goals."

    It looks like this offensive was manufactured in the United States of Cheneyville.

  •  US says Iran could do more to help end violence (0+ / 0-)

    http://news.yahoo.com/...

    Strange asking for help. Perhaps already denied.

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