The NYT reports significant progress in Basra, Iraq.
The principal factor for improvement that people in Basra cite is the deployment of 33,000 members of the Iraqi security forces after the March 24 start of operations, which allowed the government to blanket the city with checkpoints on every major intersection and highway.
Borrowing tactics from the troop increase in Baghdad, the Iraqi forces raided militia strongholds and arrested hundreds of suspects. They also seized weapons including mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and sophisticated roadside bombs that officials say were used by Iranian-backed groups responsible for much of the violence.
Government forces have now taken over Islamic militants’ headquarters and halted the death squads and “vice ‘enforcers’ ” who attacked women, Christians, musicians, alcohol sellers and anyone suspected of collaborating with Westerners.
Without doubt much of the active shooting and the religious persecution ending is a great relief to most citizens. The last time I mentioned Basra was in relation to the gun battles over the municiple position of the director of public works in the city, in particular electricity distribution. Deciding who provides services by gunpoint has got to be bad for ordinary folk.
Deep in the current report comes a quote from the General of Iraqi forces in Basra:
Gen. Mohan al-Freiji, the Iraqi commander in Basra, said the city was “75 percent” under control. He said the principal threat stemmed from rogue elements of the Mahdi Army and factions like the Iraqi Hezbollah (Party of God), Thairallah (Revenge of God) and Fadhila (Virtue).
I was somewhat confused because the fight over electriciy was said to be between the Mahdi Army and Fadhila army, so I assumed the Fadhila army was the main rival to Mahdi. Where did they go in the news?
The rogue part might very well be true, and I would not know how a reporter could confirm the allegation. Basra appeared to have blocks of fighters unable to consolidate their positions against opponents, and the harshness of the religious enforcement of this brand of Islam horrifying to my sensibilities.
My 2007 post’s source described this scenario:
The concrete walls that surround the Fadhila party’s compound in Sharish, north of Basra city centre, resemble the barricades around the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad.
Last spring, fierce clashes erupted between Fadhila and the Mahdi Army, a paramilitary group loyal to radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Several people were killed on both sides and offices and buildings belonging to the two parties were destroyed.
Mediators from tribes and other political parties managed to end the fighting but as Abu Ali al-Baaj, a mid-level Mahdi Army commander, put it, “The tensions were not buried for good.”
The reason for the battle was simple – as the governing party in Basra, Fadhila had replaced the head of the local electricity department, who happened to be a Sadr supporter.
Behind the façade of democratic institutions such as councils and the police force, Iraq’s second-largest city with about 2.6 million inhabitants, has fallen into the grip of competing militias who are as suspicious of one another as rival mafia families.
When the two militias began fighting over the post of electricity chief, the police force divided into factions which turned their weapons on one another. Police cars were used to transport militia members.
The Fadhila party runs the provincial council of Basra and controls most of the government institutions there. It was founded after Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled in April 2003, and holds 15 seats in the Iraqi parliament. With leading Shia cleric Sheikh Mohammed al-Yaqubi as its spiritual leader, the party also features Basra’s governor Mohammed al-Waili among its leading members.
Now tell me again how my posts shut the loyal opposition out, when the heavy lifting is also done here? If Basra has been going better and improving things, where was the hat tip to post over the last several weeks?
Update: The point being is where did the Fadhila group, king of the hill, go in the MSM and rhetoric of the fight for Basra?
Update 2:Here is another post with link.