London Times: Brits had secret deal with Sadr to stay sidelined in Basra

posted at 6:30 pm on August 4, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The Times of London reports in tomorrow’s edition that the British had struck a secret deal with Moqtada al-Sadr to stay out of Basra and not to oppose the Mahdi Army. When Nouri al-Maliki ordered the Iraqi Army to take control of Iraq’s second-largest city, the British never responded — which forced the Americans to shift forces to the south to support Maliki’s play:

A secret deal between Britain and the notorious al-Mahdi militia prevented British Forces from coming to the aid of their US and Iraqi allies for nearly a week during the battle for Basra this year, The Times has learnt.

Four thousand British troops – including elements of the SAS and an entire mechanised brigade – watched from the sidelines for six days because of an “accommodation” with the Iranian-backed group, according to American and Iraqi officers who took part in the assault. …

US advisers who accompanied the Iraqi forces into the fight were shocked to learn of the accommodation made last summer by British Intelligence and elements of al-Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shia Muslim cleric.

The British strategy in the south has long been criticized for creating the power vacuum that Sadr exploited between 2005 and 2007.  The criticism assumed that the UK simply had failed to adopt the correct counterinsurgency doctrine, which the US also took too long to adopt.  This changes the parameters of the whole debate.

How long did the Brits take their orders from Sadr, and how many Iraqis had to pay the price?  One American officer hints at the costs:

Captain Eric Whyne, another US Marine officer who took part in the battle, said that he was astounded that “a coalition force would make a pact with essentially their enemy and promise not to go into their area so as not to get attacked”. He alleged that “some horrific atrocities” were committed by the militia in Basra during the British watch.

The British claim that the delay in entering Basra came from the lack of notice given by Maliki of his intentions.  With this kind of “accommodation” between the UK and Sadr, who could blame Maliki for wanting operational security?

The Brits have been excellent allies in the war against radical Islamist terrorists, but they have a habit of making “accommodations” that backfire.  Maybe they have finally learned that lesson.

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Relax folks – one article from the TImes of London and you are all screaming about Britain disappearing beneath the waves…The political establishment in Britain had a very strong investment in “everything is fine, lets leave” – hard to trun about into strong action. I think it was confusion and lack of direction, not active collaboration with the JAM.
This badly embarrassed the Brits – and I saw the support they gave to the IA when we went in and retook Basrah. Cool off a little, everyone.

BTW – “alphie” once earned the moniker “The Typing Telephone Pole” over at Protein Wisdom when he trolled there. You can only ignore it, you cannot talk to it.

major john on August 5, 2008 at 9:03 AM

Great Britain is indistinguishable from France when it comes to tenacity and grit. This is an girlish empire that, under Henry VIII, hid behind the skirts of empty reformation theology rather than face up in a manly way to the faith whose duty it was and is to profess. The result? It’s there for all to laugh at: it’s called the Anglican Church — or what remains of it anyway.

So Henry should have recognized that the pope was the word of god on earth? If he had done that there would have been no Elizabeth and without her support would the Age of Enlightenment have happened? Henry VIII was a tyrant, but breaking with the catholic church was his crowning achievement that help solidify the end of the dark ages. It was one of the defining moments in the history of the world. Without Elizabeth increasing England as a navel power we would probably have been a colony of Spain.

Ann NY on August 5, 2008 at 9:29 AM