Civil War in Iraq
What was that about the surge working again? Juan Cole reports on the fighting between Maliki’s v. Sadr’s forces:
The Times of Baghdad reports in Arabic that clashes continued on Friday between Iraqi government forces and the Mahdi Army in Baghdad and the provinces of the middle Euphrates and the south, causing hundreds of casualties, including among women, children and the elderly. The fighting also did damage to Iraq’s infrastructure, as well as to oil facilities and pipelines, damage that might run into the billions of dollars. The US got drawn into the fighting on Friday. US planes bombed alleged Mahdi Army positions both in Basra and in Sadr City in Baghdad (as well as in Kadhimiya). Kadhimiya is a major Shiite shrine neighborhood in northwest Baghdad, and the spectacle of the US bombing it is very unlikely to win Washington any friends among Iraqi Shiites. Despite the US intervention, government troops were unable to pierce Mahdi Army defenses or over-run their positions. Al-Zaman says that the police force in Basra suffered numerous mutinies and instances of insubordination, with policemen refusing to fire on the Mahdi Army. The government response was to undertake a widespread purge of disloyal elements … In the meantime, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for a decisive military victory and rejected calls by southern tribal sheikhs and a large number of Shiite ayatollahs for him to engage in dialogue and negotiation in order to reach a ceasefire and to save civilians who are threatened with a humanitarian catastrophe from shortages of water and food, as well as lack of medical care. At the same time, Al-Zaman maintains, the Sadrists stipulated that al-Maliki and his brother-in-law, who heads the emergency forces that have been sent down to Basra from Baghdad and Basra, must withdraw. The Iraqi minister of defense, Abdul Qadir Jasim, admitted in a news conference in Basra that the militiamen had taken the Iraqi security forces off guard. He added that the Iraqi government had expected this operation to be routine, but was surprised at the level of resistance, and was forced to change its plans and tactics.
While Maliki might have hoped to crush Sadr, things aren’t going so well. Especially given the fact that some of his forces refuse to fire on their countrymen. Well – at least Maliki can count on US soldiers to carry out his political goals. But remind me again – why the hell do we remain in this middle of this quagmire?