Thursday, April 24, 2008

Al-P & The Sadr Fantasy

In the world of al-P, America and its allies are weak, those who stand opposed are strong and enjoy the support of the people. Thus, in the al-P narrative, Sadr holds the key to Iraq’s future. The mountain of facts that don’t fit the narrative are simply ignored or rewritten.

Today’s al-P story on Sadr defies reality. According to the al-P, Sadr is about to open the flood gates of his support in order to create “a shadow state protected by his powerful Mahdi Army.” Not surprisingly, al-P does not tell us where this shadow state will be imposed in Iraq. After the Iraqi Army took Basra and put down all the other Sadrist uprisings in March, Sadr has precious little real estate left to establish a mini-Iranian caliphate.

That notwithstanding, this today from the al-P:

The Mahdi Army is estimated to have about 60,000 fighters — with at least 5,000 thought to be highly trained commandos — and is emboldened by its strong resistance to an Iraqi-led crackdown launched last month in the southern city of Basra and elsewhere.

Al-Sadr's movement also holds sway over the densely populated Shiite parts of Baghdad and across the Shiite south by controlling vital needs such as fuel and running social services such as clinics.

. . . Any Mahdi Army offensive could have serious repercussions. Mahdi fighters engaged in fierce battles with U.S. forces in 2004 and then were blamed for waves of roadside bombings that were once the chief killer of American troops.

Mahdi militiamen also fought Iraqi security forces to a virtual standstill last month in Basra before an Iranian-supervised truce. . . .

Read the entire article. This is a rewrite of history - both old and recent. Sadr’s 2004 uprising was what amounted to an attempted coup – and it was shredded by U.S. forces in a month of fighting. There was precious little left of the Mahdi Army by the time hostilities ended. And indeed, Sadr survived only because someone very high up in the U.S. food chain told the soldiers surrounding Sadr in the Golden Dome Mosque not to pull the final trigger - a fact that cannot be lost on Sadr.

The recent uprising of Sadr’s militia in its Shia strongholds in the South, with the exception of Basra, were all put down by Iraqi forces within a matter of days. The resistance put up by Sadr’s Iranian backed militia in an attempt to retain control of Basra, Iraq’s economic prize, was very costly for the Sadrists. Overall, they suffered nearly 1,000 casualties to but a relative handful or Iraqi military casualties. As to the terms of “truce,” Sadr proposed the terms, the Iraqi government let his forces withdraw and kept on with its mission to retake Basra.

Basra is now completely in the hands of the Iraqi military. U.S. and Iraqi forces are in the process of imposing government control on Sadr City, isolating several blocks at a time. In short, in the face of Sadr’s repeated threats, the Iraqi government, with full U.S. support, has gone ahead at full speed with the dismantling of Sadr’s militia and the many criminal organizations that form it. While Iran clearly would like to turn Sadr’s Mahdi militia into a Hezbollah, Iraq is not Lebanon, and an entire U.S. army was never locked and loaded, sitting in the middle of Beirut with the mission of hunting down Iran's proxies. Or in the vernacular of the military, Sadr is one of those people often characterized as having an alligator mouth and a tweety bird ass.

Sadr has precious little popularity left and no allies – save the Iranian theocracy, a fact not lost on the average Iraqi. Iraq’s most senior and respected cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, along with the entire political structure of Iraq, has called for Sadr’s militia to be disarmed. This is the end-game for Sadr, and if he does pull the trigger and order another uprising against the democratically elected government, his fate in Iraq will be sealed. Sadr is unpredictable, but even he has to see this reality. That is, of course, unless he’s getting his information from the al-P.

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