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Posted by on Mar 27, 2008 in At TMV | 23 comments

(Updated) Iraq: It’s All Perfectly Clear Now

01aabasrah.jpgNow that the fog around the battle for Basra and upturn in violence elsewhere in Iraq is lifting a bit, we can conclude that:

* The Pentagon’s spin that the bloodshed is a consequence of the “success” of the Surge would seem to be silly on its face, but it isn’t.

* This is because the violence is the result of a carefully planned Al-Maliki government offensive to destroy the prime minister’s Shiite opponents in the advance of provincial elections in October.

This is especially important in Basra, the major city in oil-rich southeastern Iraq where government-militia clashes (photo) are in their third day, because it has been controlled by loyalists of radical anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr since the British cut and run.

Since Tuesday, clashes in Basra and throughout Iraq’s Shiite heartland have left more than 100 dead and many wounded in Basra, Baghdad, Hilla, Kut, Karbala and Diwaniya.

This state of affairs yet again puts the Bush administration in the position of backing the wrong horse, as Eric Martin puts it, but I don’t think there are any “right” horses because political fault lines, even within sectarian interest groups, run so deep.

And while the militiamen are lightly armed, they are highly motivated. There would be no amount of Pentagon spin to explain away an end to Al-Sadr’s seven-month-old ceasefire against U.S. troops since the Surge was supposed to give Al-Maliki the breathing room to bring warring parties together, not an opportunity to crush his opponents with U.S. troops and air support.

Then there is a biggest reason why there will be a major American presence in Iraq indefinitely: Oil.

Saboteurs blew up one of Iraq’s two main oil pipelines near Basra today, severely reducing exports and pushing the price of crude up by more than a dollar a barrel.

UPDATE

In another by-product of the success of the Surge, the Iraqi government spokesman for the Baghdad security plan has been kidnapped and his three bodyguards killed.

A PERSONAL NOTE

There are an especially pernicious pair of bloggers who delight at bashing The Moderate Voice who shall remain nameless.

One of them accused me of “joyfully claiming vindiction” in my post yesterday on the upsurge in violence.

This is a libel on two counts:

First, there was nothing joyful in my noting I had predicted weeks ago that Iraq was a hiccup away from sliding back into cyclical violence because Al-Maliki has had no interest in using the military success of the Surge as intended.

Second, I am a Vietnam War veteran who bleeds for the men and women fighting their hearts out in this never ending war. Yes, it is possible to support the troops and not the war, something that this blogger is unable to comprehend because he is so determinedly small minded.

I invite skeptics to read my 18-installment series on the Triangle of Death abductions as well as many other deeply personal and joy-free posts on U.S. troops.

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Copyright 2008 The Moderate Voice
  • Davebo

    Just ignore the sniping and post as you wish Shaun. The Poli kids will be the Poli kids regardless so I don’t think addressing them is worth the effort.

  • Marlowecan

    This is actually a very sophisticated analysis of the current violence in Iraq.

    The key passage in Shaun’s post is this one: “This state of affairs yet again puts the Bush administration in the position of backing the wrong horse, as Eric Martin puts it, but I don’t think there are any “right” horses because political fault lines, even within sectarian interest groups, run so deep.”

    One may disagree with Shaun stridently…but here he references the key dilemma of power (lost on those who see things through a simplistic “West Wing” lens): sometimes the choice is between a bad one, and a much worse one.

    This is analogous to the Clinton Admin. CIA/covert rearming and training of the Croats after they were badly mauled by the Serb/Yugoslav army during Milosevic’s launching of the Yugoslav War in the 90s.

    Unlike the Europeans, who wanted peace at any cost, the Clinton Admin (credit where credit is due) understood that peace in the Balkans required stability which required backing nasty characters and launching a bloody counteroffensive to hem in a nastier character.

    Today the Croatian coast is the new hot vacation zone of Europe, and – while everyone is still angry – things are far far more stable.

    Note, however, that al-Maliki is hammering at other Shi’a. The great success of the Surge lay in its calming the bulk of the insurgency, which were Sunni, in Anbar etc. The Pentagon is wisely backing al-Maliki, as Sadr is much too close to Iran for its liking.

    A good strategy. The Europeans, of course, are peeing in their pants…with the always perceptive Guardian declaring the Surge near total collapse.

    Whether the strategy works or not is something else.

  • From a government propaganda standpoint, it’s interesting to watch Bush, McCain, etc. breathlessly cry foul at Iran and talk about the inherent evil in Iranian backed Al-Sadr, while at the same time virtually ignoring the fact that Al-Maliki is also backed by Iran.

    • maetienne

      marlowe and chris,

      Just to make things absolutely clear, of all the Shiite factions in Iraq, al-Sadr’s is the one that is the most anti-Iranian. Al-Maliki’s faction is the one that is most pro-Iranian. I don’t think that I have ever seen a report on which Shiite factions receive training and equipment from Iran (John McCain just says “extremist” and the Bush admin just says that Iran is meddling), but I am sure that Iran-supplied weapons are falling into different hands everyday. I don’t even think that the Pentagon knows who they are backing or why among the Shiite factions; but even more disturbing is that I don’t think they care…

  • Hey Shaun,

    Remember this post? Care to provide an update?

  • Lynx

    “Poli kids”? That’s actually kind of cute, in it’s way.

    Poli kid here. The post you referenced has no such libel, because it doesn’t claim you hate the troops or are happy that they are dying. Feel free to provide any evidence of this. What it DOES say is that your position to the war and your hatred for the administration is so radical that you would rather see the US lose thw war than be forced to give credit. This is compatible with not wanting troops to die, just like supporting the war is compatible with not wanting troops or Iraqis do die. Insinuating that you’ve been accused of being happy our troops are in greater danger now is extremely misleading.

    Me personally, I think that we’ve long since lost, but I would love to be proven wrong.

  • shaun

    Andy:

    I haven’t forgotten. I’ll be putting up something in the next day or so.

  • shaun

    Lynx:

    A nice bit of artful twisting. You’ve learned well.

  • Lynx

    Twisting? Disagreeing with you is “twisting”? I was being very nice Shaun, considering the charge. By all means, show any evidence you may have that the post accused you of being against the troops?

    Libel is a very serious charge, not to be handled lightly. No, libel looks a lot more like this:
    http://kikoshouse.blogspot.com/2007/11/beware-blogger-who-dresses-in-drag.html

  • shaun

    Lynx:

    It is obvious that you are interested in starting a flame war, or more likely are a proxy. Please take your snark elsewhere and let us get back to the main event — talking about this latest turn on events in the war.

  • The relevant quotes from the “Poli Kids”

    MvdG: “I’ve got just one thing to say about Jason’s post: sometimes I can’t help but get the feeling that some members of the far-left are rooting for failure in Iraq.”

    Jason: “Heavy fighting has broken out in the southern Iraqi city of Basra and naturally many among the anti-war left are joyfully claiming vindication at what they see as the impending failure of the “surge”, linking it yet again to their own domestic partisan obsessions.”

    Reading the post of Shaun’s that Jason links to, it’s hard to make the case Shaun is “joyfully” claiming anything or rooting “for failure,” nevermind that there is no coherent description of success. Mind read much?

    My personal take: Just more sour grapes from the Iraq war hawks who keep getting it wrong, over and over and over and over and over again.

  • Lynx

    Suit yourself. I by no means wish to start a flame war, I don’t ordinarily find them interesting. I think that you are entirely too oversensitive to criticism.

    As for the subject at hand, though I’d love to hope that the Iraqis defending themselves is a sign of increasing stability, I’m inclined to doubt it. Then again, if this is still happening in a couple of months, or if it continues when we stop paying people not to kill us, I’ll be happy to change my mind.

  • shaun

    maetienne:

    Brava!

  • shaun

    Zayed, an Iraqi blogger, writes:

    “The US military, knowingly or not, is fighting Iran’s wars for them in Iraq, not against Iran. SIIC and Da’wa (Iran’s strongest allies in Iraq) are determined to retain control of the Shi’ite south, and the crackdown against the Sadrists, which caused them to revolt, is a feeble attempt to prevent them from taking over in the upcoming provincial elections. And to describe this ongoing intra-Shi’ite conflict as ‘the government of Iraq against criminals’ is ludicrous at best, as the so-called “government of Iraq” had no problem in the near past when those hordes of criminals were taking to the streets cleansing Baghdad and the south from Sunnis with the active participation of Iraqi security forces. But as we say in Arabic: ‘If you know then it is a calamity. If you don’t know then it is a greater one.’ “

  • Slamfu

    “of all the Shiite factions in Iraq, al-Sadr’s is the one that is the most anti-Iranian”

    Then how come his PR mouthpiece is always giving his updates from Tehran?

  • Marlowecan

    Matienne said: “Just to make things absolutely clear, of all the Shiite factions in Iraq, al-Sadr’s is the one that is the most anti-Iranian.”

    Sadr has family in Iran. Also, whenever he has been under pressure from the US, he has turned up in sanctuary in Iran…giving press conferences in Tehran.

    The US is backing Maliki simply because it makes sense, not because he is a good guy or “our son of a bitch” even.

    From the Council on Foreign Relations:

    Sadr, unlike Maliki, is “not going to make any concessions either to the Sunnis or to the other Shiite militias. And that is pushing both the Sunnis and the other Shiite militias to dig in their heels.” Also, Sadr has called for the immediate pullout of U.S. forces, which Maliki does not endorse. ”

    Maliki will at least talk with the Sunnis, and has not openly attacked the US. Sadr has refused any connection with the Sunnis, and attacked and threatened the US repeatedly.

    If the US took on Sadr openly…Shaun would be screaming bloody blue murder about the collapse of the Surge, the bankruptcy of the US etc.

    So the US is happy to let Maliki take out Sadr. Why not?

    • maetienne

      marlowecan:

      Half the clerics in Iraq have ties to Iran in some way; but does that mean they want to be ruled by Iran from afar? Sadr wants a Islamic government but he doesn’t want the same kind as Iran.

      The U.S. backing al-Maliki does not “make sense.” Sadr has the popular support of the majority of Shia. The reason is because he sees the U.S. as an occupier – a view that is shared by over 70% of Iraqis. In all the news reports, they write that the battle in Basra is being fought by both Iraqi and U.S. forces. If the Maliki government defeats the Mahdi militia with the aid of U.S. troops, the majority Shia Iraqis will turn against the Maliki government and he and his party will not be able to win the next democratic election unless is joins with Sunni and Kurd blocs. However, as you failed to mention, the Maliki government has failed to make any real concessions to the Sunni minority (being willing doesn’t count) and the Maliki government (and the U.S. for that matter) seem content to let Turkey bomb Kurdistan at will. How do you think Maliki is going to form a winning political bloc there.

      Why not indeed…

      • maetienne

        marlowecan:

        And, finally, if we back an Iraqi leader who doesn’t have the popular support of the people, and we find some way for him to stay in power because he is the best option for us, how is that any different than what we have been doing in the Middle East for the last 50 years. Why not just leave Saddam in place and save half a trillion dollars.

  • Marlowecan

    Lynx said: “What it DOES say is that your position to the war and your hatred for the administration is so radical that you would rather see the US lose thw war than be forced to give credit. ”

    I’m not going to get into this flame war…but I think Lynx’ comment applies well to many liberals across the board.

    Look, I did not think the Surge would work…and I wrote as much here months ago.

    However, I was happy to be proven wrong by Petraeus.

    Yet, even when the data started to roll in about Petraeus’ success…liberals rejected it. (Moveon.org anyone?). The NYT editorial at the time of Petraeus testimony rejected his claims of improvement.

    My god, even the BBC — no friend of Bush or the US — admitted the success of the Surge before the NYT.

    FInally, when the evidence was overwhelming…they conceded there was SOME improvement…the political settlement was a failure.

    Then, at any uptick in violence, liberals run about like Chicken Little: That’s it! Complete collapse! It is all over! Surge is a total failure!

    This is what Lynx is talking about. The pattern is clear and undeniable. Any sign of American success is dismissed and denied…when the evidence is overwhelming, it is grudging concession…when there is a uptick in violence, it is trumpted from the Heavens.

    Why can’t liberals welcome American success as reason to pull the troops home? Hatred of Bush is so great that nothing less than total American defeat is acceptable.

    As Prof De Genova declared in front of thousands of faculty and students at Columbia: “The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military. I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus.”

  • Slamfu

    “Why can’t liberals welcome American success as reason to pull the troops home?”

    Well for starters we’d like an actual success. We pansy liberals define that as something that actually brings this war closer to a conclusion. You conservatives are willing to call anything that makes a good soundbite a success, such as the surge. You call it a grudging concession by the left that the surge has worked and also mention that the BBC was on board. Thats a mistake, we acknowledged that deaths and fighting are down in Baghdad. But that was not the sole purpose of the surge now was it?

    You see, the surge didn’t actually root out and destroy the insurgents, it just got them to hole up. They are still there, ready to go back to business as usual as soon as we leave or stop paying them. The political factions haven’t done anything so nothing has in effect changed. We are like firemen pouring water on a fire, and as soon as we turn off the hose it flares up again because we are not doing anything about whats is generating the heat in the first place. Conservatives confuse that with actually solving the problem and hence we are in this endless loop where its is looking like we will be in Iraq forever.

    Now of course the fire has flared up again, and the folks that have been pleading for a change in tactics and saying “Look, the fire is somewhere else!” and you guys act like we are about to hold a we-told-you-so parade in our honor. All we want is for pro-war folks to open their damn eyes and see whats going on. The fact this surge is a positive talking point on the right despite its negligible impact on the overall war makes me see red. I’m beginning to wonder if there is anything you won’t swallow.

    Can one of you answer me this? At what point would you say we’ve been there too long, lost too many lives, spent too much money to justify what we are getting out of it? Is there any upper limit? Think about it. I want to know what you think we get out of this and justify it by whats being put into it. If you’re feeling really charitable you can even factor in the suffering of the Iraqi people. Show your work.

  • Slamfu

    “This is what Lynx is talking about. The pattern is clear and undeniable. Any sign of American success is dismissed and denied…when the evidence is overwhelming, it is grudging concession…when there is a uptick in violence, it is trumpted from the Heavens.”

    Well this is what Slamfu is talking about. The pattern is clear and undeniable. Any sign of American failure is dismissed and denied…when the evidence is overwhelming, it is grudging concession…when there is a downtick in violence, it is trumpted from the Heavens.

  • […] and you guys act like we are about to hold a we-told-you-so parade in our honor.

    One of those parades might not be such a bad idea.

  • rudi

    Secret TMV Squirrel reporting in, can’t we all get along. Give Lynx a break, I don’t think she’s being a proxy for the two “crazy editors”. But in JS post he dimissed the Iranian ties to ALL Shia groups and did get a little petty, maybe not libelous. But his problems with Shaun go way back. I posted a heads up about the snipe, and was ridiculed at the other post. So much for not burning bridges…

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