Tag Archives: Basra

British General Defends Basra Military Policies

British General Sir Richard Dannatt sent an open letter to his troops in which he defended the miltary strategy employed in handling the Basra area. There is considerable unrest among British soldiers who now are confined to the Basra airport even as fighting rages inside Basra. “I can not deny that there are many who said that they would rather be at the forefront of the operations(as CGS I think I would be worried if I headed an Army that did not express such views), but those same individuals were all mature enough to understand it is right that the Iraqis are now taking the lead. Indeed, these are exactly the nature of operations that we have been pressing for some months-an Iraq solution to an Iraq problem.”

General Dannatt expressed his view that, while Iraq led operations made numerous mistakes, the overall conclusion is the Iraqi army did accomplish its goals of establishing its presence in Basra. “The Iraqi plan is working and is delivering what we sought.” He indicated the future role of British forces would be to “mentor the Iraqi Security Forces” and to avoid assuming a major role in military operations.

Ironically, many American political leaders are urging a similar policy on the part of American forces, but President Bush insists the Iraqis are not quite ready. Perhaps, if the British model of forcing them to get ready was utilized, the United States Army could begin to envision itself as a mentoring rather than a fighting force.

Killing Militants Or Killing Civilians?

An American plane destroyed a house in the southern cty of Basra which resulted, according to the United States, in the death of a militant. However, Iraqi witnesses and hospital officials claim that innocent civilians were killed in the air attack. Iraqi sources insist that three civilians were killed and others are still in the rubble. A neighbor, identified only as Jaj Juwad, told American reporters, “While we were preparing for evening prayers, US aircraft bombed this house, we rushed to save survivors. The father, mother and a young boy were killed and three others were buried under the rubble. We evacutated two people and one is still under the rubble.”

An airplane traveling at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour is capable, according to military sources, of spotting a house and bombing it with such accuracy that only the identified militant is killed. It is an interesting theory, one can only doubt if it is an accurate one.

Did Bush Speak Too Quickly On “Defining Moment?”

Rockets fall int he Green Zone, machine gun fire can still be heard in Basra, and the only reason relative calm is found in that war-torn city is due to the decision by Muqtada al-Sadr to issue a cease fire order to his troops. President Bush claimed the fight in Basra was a “defining moment” for the gvernment of Prime Minister Maliki. Maliki promised to crush criminal elements in Basra, but the real person calling the shots is al-Sadr. John McCain, who met with Maliki during his recent visit to Iraq, expressed “surprise” at the attempt to crush al-Sadr in Basra. According to latest figures about 1,247 Iraqis died in recent fighting including civilians as well as militants.

Where does Maliki go from here? The military approach which is favored so strongly by Bush is not working in Iraq. Al-Sadr will have to be recognized as an important force in Iraq politics. Maliki can boast his troops are in Basra, but he can not claim to have complete control of the city. If al-Sadr ends the cease fire, the chaos which has characterized Iraq will continue. The only defining moment is when all political parties in Iraq work together for peace.

What’s Impact Of Basra Fighting On US Troop Reduction?

General Petraeus has assured the American Congress and people the situation in Iraq is improving and there is an excellent chance troops dispatched for the surge would be able to return home. However, there is growing uncertainty how the current fighting in Basra will impact plans for reducing the size of the American armed force. During the 2004 election, President Bush emphasized the Iraq army had a well trained fighting force of over 140,000, but, of course, we know that was campaign rhetoric. The latest fantasy about the Iraq army has been replaced by the stark reality it is far from an effective fighting force and it is unable to dislodge Mahdi forces from Basra. Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered his troops to halt fighting provided the Iraq government stands down from its latest offense.

A constant ccomplaint by critics of Bush policies is failure to confront the entire range of military needs of Iraq. Retired General Bary McCaffrey notes: “Even now there is no Iraq air force, there’s no national military medical system, there’s no maintenance system.” During recent fighting in Basra the Iraq government had to call for assistance from British and American artillery since it lacks its own artillery force. Last November the GAO questioned Pentagon claims on the number of Iraq battalions able to operate “independently” since such units usually depend on U.S. fuel, ammunition, and other supples.

Eventually, there will be a lull in Basra fighting and al-Sadr will continue to exert his power. As always, Bush fails to grasp the political necessity in Iraq.

Bush- Iraq’s “Defining Moment!”

From day one of the war in Iraq, President Bush and his cohorts, Cheney and Rumsfeld, have proceeded on the assumption the fight was a military one, not a political. At his press conference on Friday, the president said the fight now raging in Baghdad and Basra represents “a defining moment in the history of Iraq” as its government endeavors to crush Mahdi militia who are loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr. “It’s going to take awhile, but it’s a necessary part of the development of a free society.” He noted “Basra has been a place where criminality has thrived… and yes, there’s going to be violence, and that’s bad.” For some reason President Bush failed to mention that Basra was under the control of British troops for four years and it was only a few months ago they left the city and are now stationed at the airport. If Basra was a place where “criminality has thrived,” is Bush attacking Great Britain’s role in the war?

The press conference comments once again demonstrated President Bush’s misunderstanding of the war in Iraq. He continues to believe engaging in military action which crushes an enemy in a city represents a “victory.” The only “victory” that will truly ensure peace in Iraq is building positive relations among the various constituents who make up what we term the country of Iraq. An angry Madhi militia could slip into the countryside and form another element along with al-Qaeda that fights the Iraq government. The only “defining moment” in the history of modern Iraq is some form of constitutional gathering which defines how various groups will function in peaceful cooperation with one another.

Iraq Government Offense In Basra Stalls

The Iraq army’s offensive against the Shiite militia of Muqtada al-Sadr apparently has stalled in its efforts to dislodge them from positions in Basra. The American military expected the Iraq army offense to demonstrate the success of US training efforts and make clear the government of Prime Minister Maliki was in control of the country. Instead of being a show of strength, the assault has encountered fierce opposition from opponents. Saboteurs blew up one of the two main oil export pipelines near Basra and cut by one-third exports of crude oil. In Baghdad, tens of thousands of supporters of al-Sadr marched through the streets shouting anti-Maliki slogans. “We demand the downfall of the Maliki government,” said Hussein Abu Ali, a demonstrator, “it does not reprsent the people. It represents Bush and Cheney.”

The main bastion of al-Sadr supporters is Sadr City which contains about two milliion people and the densely packed slum area has been sealed off by US troops. People are trapped inside without adqequate food, water, and electricity. In Basra, the Iraq army has cordoned off several districts but has failed in its attempt to dislodge Mahdi militia. The Iraq government says at least 51 are dead and hundeds wouonded as a result of the fighting.

President Bush offered congragulations to the Maliki government saying it faces a “tough battle against militia fighters and criminals.” The Iraq force of 15,000 soldiers and police is certainly insufficient to handle an area of two miillion people. At some point, the Maliki government will have to switch its efforts to the political arena since further military action is only bound to exacerbate the situation.

Fighting Rages In Iraq-Is The Surge Working?

Senator John McCain and Vice President Dick Cheney informed America after their recent trips to Iraq about the success of the Bush surge and that Iraq was headed for a final victory over exremists. Yesterday, Iraq’s Prime Minister was in the Basra area supervising efforts by the Iraq army to quell violence which has erupted in the oil rich area. He issued a three day deadline for Shiite militia to lay down their arms as groups fought over who would control the city. At least 55 are dead and over 300 wounded as fighting escalates between rival groups seeking to impose their will on the city. General Kevin Bergner of the US army noted: “This has been a difficult and challenging few days” for the Iraqi government.

The violence raises fears that radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr will end his unilateral cease fire and unleash his Mahdi army in a new outburst of violence which can only add greater strains on the Iraq government’s efforts to handle al-Qaeda forces. There are reports al-Sadr sent representatives who are askng Prime Minister Maliki to leave the Basra area and that no negotiation would take place until Iraq army forces cease their action against Shiite militias. The Sadr militia is angry at recent raids conducted by US forces and the Iraq army against them while they were obiding by the cease fire.

The Iraq government issued a rather interesting statement to the populace. “This is not a battle against the Mahdi army not is it a proxy war between the United States and Iran. It is the government of Iraq taking the necessary action to deal with criminals on the streets.”

Meanwhile in Baghdad mortar and rocket attacks hit the Green Zone and caused the death of at least one American. One assumes that Senator McCain will not be walking the streets of Baghdad claiming peace has been restored to the capital due to the surge.

Iraq Mahdi Militia Escalates Fighting

Violence continues spreading across southern regions of Iraq and into Baghdad after at least 12 people were killed in Basra. A spokesperson for British forces, which are at the Basra airport, said the Iraqi army had mounted a cordon around two districts of the city and the police were attacking rebel outposts. Meanwhile, five districts of the central Iraq city of Kut fell to followers of radical cleric al-Sadr. A police spokesperson in the city said they needed help in maintaining law and order. “We ask US forces to help us with aircraft and vehicles. the miltants have spread out through Kut,” said Captain Majid Al-Imara.

The situation in Basra continues to pose problems for the security of the city. About 4,200 British soldiers are at the Basra airport but they will not, at the present time, engage in land battles with Mahdi forces. However, they are providing some aerial assistance but avoiding involvement in the Iraq directed offense against militants in Basra. Observers have seen extensive firing between the factions vying to control the city.

Shiite Mahdi Army Battles US And Iraq Forces

Senator John McCain is boasting that his ideas to increase the number of American troops has produced the components of victory in Iraq. Usnfortunately, he forgot to inform the Mahdi militia of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr the surge was working. Armed Mahdi militia appeared on the streets of Baghdad for the first time in months as al-Sadr announced a nationwide campaign of strikes and demonstrations to protest a government crackdown on his movement. US and Iraq troops supported by helicopters fought Shiite militiamen on the streets of Baghdad and the city of Mosul in the north was also the scene of fighting between the groups. An escalation in fighting could end Sadr’s unilaterial cease fire and spark a major war that would make a mockery of Bush and Cheney claims the war in Iraq was headed toward victory.

In southern Iraq fighting continued for control of Basra as Shiite groups clashed with the Iraq army. It was unclear exactly who was in control of the city since Iraq police prevented reporters from having free access to areas where there was fighting. Brtish troops who had been occupying Basra for years, but had recently left the city in charge of the Iraq government, remained at the Basra airport and were avoiding becoming engaged in any fighting.

During the past several months there has been confusion as to the best way to handle the Madhi army and the Iraq government has probably decidede on a policy of confrontation. The result is more fighting. Were there other possibilities to resolve issues raised by the Mahdi army?

Iraq Cleric Warns Of Civil Revolt

Radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has imposed his own cease fire, has become furious at recent events in the city of Basra where Iraq army units attacked members of his Mahdi army. He is now calling for a “civil revolt” after the crackdown on his army resulted in the loss of 22 lives. Al-Sadr told the Iraq people: “We call upon all Iraqis to stage sit-ins all over as a first step. And, if the people’s demands are not respcted,by the Iraqi government, the second step will be to declare a civil revolt in Baghdad and all other provinces.” There was mention of a “third step” but not details were forthcoming as to what it would entail. Iraq General Ali Zaidan said his forces were engaged in dealing with “outlaw” and TV footage revealed firing in Basra and people getting killed. British forces which have been in Basra from the initial days of the Iraq war are not getting involved in the fighting.

Basra is being contested by several rival groups including al-Sadr’s Mahdi army, the Supreme Iraq Council and the smaller Fadhila party. If al-Sadr ends his truce there is no telling how it will impact the war in Iraq except to deepen divisions within the nation and escalate fighting. Fighting and killing in Iraq has begun to rise during the past few weeks after the decline that resulted from the surge. Perhaps, the Bush administration was too quick to claim a victory and the future is still clouded as to what will happen.