Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Operation "Fix Muqty"


Lots of UPDATES
At last, we are witnessing the most serious attempt to break the back of the Mahdi Army (JAM) since August 2004 when Sistani pulled their fat out of the fire and Jeffrey shut down this blog in protest.

Talisman Gate is forwarding a report that Muqty has "cried uncle".



Just The Facts Roundup
Eye Raki has returned to blogging to report on the State of the Fight in places outside of Baghdad and Basra: in Najaf and Kut. If you're looking for a standard in Neutral Point of View, this is it.



Framing the Conflict

So far, I've identified 4 separate takes on the decision by the Iraqi government to finally bust the JAM gangs. I'll update this round-up as the bloggers post on it.

It's About Time
This seems like the most obvious position of any secular-minded Iraqi blogger. The hyper-religious, Hezbollah-backing, Shi'a Hammorabi would disagree with it, of that I have no doubt. But, I'm surprised at the bloggers who have managed to spin very this hopeful sign as something bad...including bloggers who have long presented Sadr and JAM as exemplary of all that's gone wrong in Iraq over the last five years. This advocates of this position are:
IraqTheModel: Mohammed posts at PajamasMedia:
If Sadr is to be cut down to size before the provincial election law can be passed, presumably his rivals would be able to compete in a relatively more civil way.
NIW: In my opinion, I am extremely glad this is happening. As in, this cleansing process. This should have happened way back in 2003. But its never too late. About time Maliki took the step. Seriously, although I dislike the guy, but this takes balls to do. And apparently he finally is proving to have some.
UPDATE! New post from NIW
I dunno, I have been here almost three years, but, this feels very different. And I hate to say it out loud but I have a very very bad feeling this time around. I dunno what it is, but its nagging the hell outta me...Im extremely surprised though that my Iraqi coworkers have actually been coming to work in the past few days, with all the chaos outside....Every single one of them is saying that this should have happened long time ago. A few also mentioned the fact that they distrust Maliki and his government and this gutsy move is definitely a ploy. I dunno, Im not in the Baghdad streets, so I cant really tell whats going on. Hell I don’t even think the Baghdadi’s themselves know whats going on here. But again, I will re-iterate the fact that Hakeem, Muti, Qaeda and all the other so called militia’s should fight it out, and I pray to god they all get burnt down and sent to hell!!!
Talisman Gate: Here’s a prediction: the Iraqi Army’s military operation in Basra will be a spectacular win against disorder and Iranian influence.

Actually, I remember assuring 24StepsToLiberty that this would happen shortly after the Al-Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency had been beaten. Now it's happening and...well, he's not in this category, is he?

Sadr: Iraq's Gandhi
This is the singular position of Raed Jarrar. He has been heralding Sadr's "civil disobedience" campaign. If you don't follow Raed Jarrar (and why should you?) he has had a surprisingly soft spot for Iran since he started blogging. He has never suggested that the Iraqi government is a stalking horse for "the turbans" in Iran as Riverbend and Zeyad and 24StepsToLiberty have. He has declared Iran to be the best chance for democracy in the Middle East (yes, he has). Basically, he's the Palestinian Juan Cole, consistently ignoring that Sadr is a sold-out agent of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG). Besides that, Raed is supports JAM the way Rush Limbaugh supports Sen. Hillary Clinton. He's for anyone whose interests lead to more chaos.

This proves the surge has failed
Naturally, this totally nonsequitor position was spearheaded by 24Steps to Liberty. His post does point out something quite relevant that Raed left out when he was trumpeting how everyone in Baghdad was staying home out of solidarity to JAM:

Sadr announced “civil” disobedience in Baghdad and Basra today. In Baghdad, Mehdi army members controlled the streets in western Baghdad and blocked the roads, they threatened to arrest anyone goes to school, work or the market. They paralyzed the western side of Baghdad today.

It Doesn't Matter
This is similar to the "Surge Has Failed" position, except that it is a little more intelligent. Both positions are founded on the theorem "It it happened in Iraq, then it is bad news". But rather than make an illogical leap, it settles for unarguable cynicism. It declares that the battle to crush JAM is just a Badr Brigade-Sadrist fight, a war between two scorpions, and that whoever wins Iraqis will lose. Who ought to win instead? That is a naive question. This position is best summed up by the default title of Abbas's last post: Iraq Is F**ked Up. Zeyad goes a little farther, implying that it is Maliki and not Sadr who is the real agent of Iran and the Sadrites are...well, he doesn't get into that. Hmmm...it would be a strange agent of Iran that demonizes Iranian influence to justify an attack on JAM, but go ahead and hammer that peg until it fits securely in the hole, Zeyad.

Last Of the Iraqis gives a very good blow-by-blow of the harrowing events in Baghdad. He doesn't really give a POV, but he paints this as a conflict between the Badr Brigade and JAM rather than between the Iraqi government and army and JAM. So I'm lumping him in with Abbas and Zeyad because I don't want to force him to share a room with 24StepsToLiberty.

Hammorabi has finally come out on the "It Doesn't Matter" side in a post with the typically dispassionate title "Iraq is burning under the America-British occupation!":
"This war for the last few days is in fact between warlords from different factions including the puppets of America and the puppets of Iran. Therefore it is a war between Iran and America. The losers are always the ordinary Iraqi people who have nothing to do with it but the warlords are forcing them into it as usual in any civil war."
I'm actually really suprised by this. I expected him to come out firmly backing the Madhi Army. But note the difference in his perception of the alliances in this fight from Zeyad's.

BlogIraqi announced that this is The Right Thing Done for the Wrong Reason. Rather than give Maliki an ounce of credit for doing what BI has been denouncing him for not doing, he has chosen to engage in some conspiracy wrangling: This is Hakim's war to split up Iraq and give himself control of the Souther Federation. If you can tick off the various Cheney-Halliburton Rube Goldberg schemes, then you'll have no problem understanding this one. It seems that BlogIraqi has been eading Anthony Cordesman whose analysis I will fisk later.

Background Perspective

Here are so tidbits mentioned in the comments at Cartharsis that are probably useful to know when following this new stage in Iraq's progress:

Abbas Hawazin said...
Sistani has no clout over the Sadrists, who often mock him as the "Sleeping Hawza". the rivalry between the Sadr and Sistani is long and deep.

Mayssam said...
You do remember that Sunni forces hailed Muqtada Al-Sadr as a national hero and true patriot for a very long time. I still remember how enthousiastic were my Sunni friends about him , they wouldn't let me say a word of criticism . Once Salah Almutlak [former Baathist Sunni Arab and leader of theAl-Hiwar Front list] said that "Al-Sadr is a true Iraqi and a true Arab hero, the others are Persians" .

Other News On Operation "Fix Mutqy"

Threats Watch: Iran, Not al-Sadr, Leading Shi'a Attacks In Iraq (h/t Mudville Gazette)
The Long War Journal: Iraqi security forces battle the Mahdi Army
BBC: Fresh clashes grip southern Iraq
US supports operation with air strikes
NPR: Clashes with Militants Test Iraqi Security Forces
Baghdad Neighborhood Reverts to Militant Stance

NYT James (Quagmire!) Glanz: Iraqi Crackdown on Shiite Forces Sets Off Fighting
Heavy Fighting in Iraq Continues Amid Crackdown
Iraqi Army’s Assault on Militias in Basra Stalls
Talisman Gate's Nibras aims for knees re: the NYT's and AP's reporting on the fight:
The NYTimes and the Associated Press (God their work stinks!) will report the Basra story in whatever biased manner that they see fit irrespective of fact. We’re dealing with neurotic journalists—“I’m unloved and **insert self-esteem issue here**, and it’s all Bush’s fault”—who are shamelessly promoting their narrow political agendas and who’re just winging the reporting by relying on unreliable sources. They’ll get away with it because the newsrooms they answer to are also populated with more of the same neuroses; they will never admit that their hasty forecasts about Iraq were wrong.

LT Nixon: Each day LT Nixon presents The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on news from Iraq. The Basra operation news usually ends up in the Bad to Ugly column
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