Remind me again — who’s losing in Basra?

posted at 9:48 am on March 30, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

When the Iraqi government finally took the long-expected action to establish control of Basra after the British pullback left it in the hands of militias and gangsters, suddenly the media declared that the country had reached the brink of collapse. They highlighted stories of defections from the Iraqi military and opined that the surge had failed. Moqtada al-Sadr would finally achieve his goal of controlling the South and would expose the Baghdad government as a house of cards.

Guess which side just sued for peace?

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr offered Sunday to pull his fighters off the streets of Basra and other cities if the government halts raids against his followers and releases prisoners held without charge.

The offer was contained in a nine-point statement issued by his headquarters in Najaf.

An Iraqi government spokesman welcomed al-Sadr’s order, saying it was “positive and responsive.”

Al-Sadr demanded that the government issue a general amnesty and release all detainees. The statement said he also “disavows” anyone who carries weapons and targets government institutions, charities and political party offices.

Anyone who follows the news closely in Iraq knew this day would come. The British left a power vacuum behind in the south that the Baghdad government could not fill at the time, and Sadr and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council’s Badr Brigades filled it instead. They have fought each other and some smaller Shi’ite groups for control of the streets ever since 2005, as Steven Vincent tried to warn people just before they murdered him in Basra. The Iraqi government had no choice but to challenge the militias for control of Basra and the surrounding areas, but they waited until the Iraqi Army had enough strength to succeed.

Did our media give anyone this context? No. They reported it as some kind of spontaneous eruption of rebellion without noting at all that a nation can hardly be considered sovereign while its own security forces cannot enter a large swath of its own territory. And in the usual defeatist tone, they reported that our mission in Iraq had failed without waiting to see what the outcome of the battle would be.

Sadr now wants to disavow anyone with a gun. The Mahdis, which found themselves on the short end of the stick, have just watched their Fearless Leader surrender — again — and this time leaving them twisting in the wind. That isn’t the action of a victor. Perhaps our media would like to explain that in the context of their clueless reporting so far.

Update: Unilateral retreat:

 Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said Sunday that he was pulling his fighters off the streets nationwide and called on the government to stop raids against his followers and free them from prison.

And Nouri al-Maliki remains in Basra.  Buh-bye, Sadr.

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This story got linked to RCP.

Nice work, Ed.

moc23 on March 30, 2008 at 5:26 PM

If you don’t see the coffins, it makes it more just like a video game rather than reality.

MB4 on March 30, 2008 at 5:12 PM

Ain’t that the damn TRUTH!

J_Gocht on March 30, 2008 at 5:28 PM

If you don’t see the coffins, it makes it more just like a video game rather than reality.

MB4 on March 30, 2008 at 5:12 PM
Ain’t that the damn TRUTH!

J_Gocht on March 30, 2008 at 5:28 PM

I prefer to read BlackFive and other fine milblogs to learn the stories of our heroes in those flag-draped coffins and to honor their service and their sacrifice.

Never considered the video game-like aspect of it at all.

I could take you a bit more seriously, J_Gocht, if I could get around the apparent glee your posts exude as you toss out your negativity and cynicism and blatant BDS. But, to each his own.

techno_barbarian on March 30, 2008 at 5:43 PM

I could take you a bit more seriously, J_Gocht, if I could get around the apparent glee your posts exude as you toss out your negativity and cynicism and blatant BDS. But, to each his own.
techno_barbarian on March 30, 2008 at 5:43 PM

t_b I have no glee, only immense sadness in both my heart and soul.

As for negativity and cynicism and blatant BDS, you’re right! I’m going to begin PTSS counseling next week. It’s only 46 years after the fact and I’m paying for it myself!

It’s an “Army of One” isn’t it?

J_Gocht on March 30, 2008 at 5:56 PM

If you don’t see the coffins, it makes it more just like a video game rather than reality.

MB4 on March 30, 2008 at 5:12 PM

I’m so pleased HotAir has its very own truthers with the Vision of the Anointed keepin’ it real.

Django on March 30, 2008 at 6:29 PM

Not to worry. al-Sadr has Wolf Blitzer and CNN and the UN on his side.

Travis1 on March 30, 2008 at 7:00 PM

Politics can certainly make some olde soldiers delusional… Bravo13?

J_Gocht on March 30, 2008 at 5:09 PM

Yes, they certainly can.

We are in a clash of cultures, and in a war that has more to do with perception than military reality. If the enemy can convince enough of our people we’re loosing, and that they are winning, the American population will just plain give up…

If you don’t see the Propoganda value of that type of picture, I certainly can’t convince you.

Romeo13 on March 30, 2008 at 7:04 PM

“Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said Sunday that he was pulling his fighters off the streets nationwide and called on the government to stop raids against his followers and free them from prison.”

Once again he’s gotten his ass kicked, one again he sue’s for “peace”. The Iraqi central government should keep right on going until the job is done. They settle for “peace” with Mookie again, they’ll be back in another couple of months to address the same issues again.

GarandFan on March 30, 2008 at 7:36 PM

I could take you a bit more seriously, J_Gocht, if I could get around the apparent glee your posts exude as you toss out your negativity and cynicism and blatant BDS. But, to each his own.

techno_barbarian on March 30, 2008 at 5:43 PM

I wonder if over on “the other side” they talk about ODS or CDS or GDS.

MB4 on March 30, 2008 at 8:12 PM

Once again he’s gotten his ass kicked, one again he sue’s for “peace”. The Iraqi central government should keep right on going until the job is done. They settle for “peace” with Mookie again, they’ll be back in another couple of months to address the same issues again.

GarandFan on March 30, 2008 at 7:36 PM

If Maliki settles for “peace” after all his big talk, then Mookie has indeed won.

MB4 on March 30, 2008 at 8:15 PM

I wonder if over on “the other side” they talk about ODS or CDS or GDS.

MB4 on March 30, 2008 at 8:12 PM

Wouldn’t surprise me a bit. Everything’s relative and equal, huh?

techno_barbarian on March 30, 2008 at 9:03 PM

Everything’s relative and equal, huh?

techno_barbarian on March 30, 2008 at 9:03 PM

Equality may perhaps be a right, but no power on earth can ever turn it into a fact.
- Honore de Balzac

MB4 on March 30, 2008 at 9:21 PM

I’m sure that AP, Reuters, and the NYT will have page one above the fold stories on this.

jukin on March 30, 2008 at 11:11 PM

And the Governments reply:

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told FOX News that the decision is “positive and responsive.”

Al-Dabbagh said the move would “help the government confront those who are violating the law” and that it would help to “isolate those who are trying to destroy the government effort”.

He said Iraqi security operations in Basra would not end until the “criminal elements” operating there are removed.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,343231,00.html

Do not assume it is over just because one side claims it is over. It take TWO sides aggreing for it to be over…

DJ Elliott on March 31, 2008 at 1:49 AM

Wow. Some serious wishful thinking going on in this post and comments. Here is what actually happened:

The Qom discussions may or may not bring an end to the fighting but they almost certainly have undermined Maliki – who made repeated declarations that there would be no negotiations and that he would treat as outlaws those who did not turn in their weapons for cash. The blow to his own credibility was worsened by the fact that members of his own party had helped organize the Iran initiative. The delegation was from the United Iraqi Alliance (dominated by the Dawa party and the Supreme Council of Iraq), and the Prime Minister was only informed. It was a political maneuver by us,” said Haider al Abadi, a legislator from Maliki’s Dawa party. “We had evidence (that Muqtada and Iranian-backed militants were fighting security forces) and we sent people urgently…If we had been waiting for one year in Baghdad we wouldn’t have had this result.” The delegation is expected to return to Iraq Monday.


Maliki’s Generals worked behind his back to cut a deal with al-Sadr. Maliki is toast. He started weak and unpopular, now he is weaker and has no constituency left except for George Bush. The only thing that keeps him in office is the American military. And it won’t be al-Sadr he has to watch out for. It is his own staff.

mw on March 31, 2008 at 2:50 AM

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