Audio: Michael Yon on Iraq's moment of truth

I’m giving this to you sight unseen, er, sound unheard since Instapundit’s one of the sites caught in my Internet twilight zone right now. The clip comes recommended by Goldfarb and it is, after all, Michael Yon, so that’s reason enough to click. If you missed WaPo’s report this morning on the fighting in Baghdad, read that as prep. What was supposed to be an Iraqi military operation in the south is now a U.S. military operation in the north, replete with airstrikes on Sadr City and mortars being fired into the U.S. Embassy. All part of Petraeus’s master plan? Er, no:

The U.S. military is sending advisers down to Basra to help the Iraqi army coordinate an operation which American officers say was “put together on the fly” and has degenerated into a stalemate.

These officers complain Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki acted “impulsively” in ordering an offensive his army was not prepared to conduct, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.

The Iraqis didn’t ask permission, they just went, which seems to have caught President Bush by surprise.

Residents of Basra tell the Times that the JAM controls half the city or more and has taken over at least one police station. How’d they do that? Simple — they are the police. An Iraqi security advisor tells WaPo that the IA is already calling on the U.S. and Brits for help, although whether that means air support, armor, or fighting their battle for them wholesale remains to be seen.

The question of the hour: What was Maliki thinking? Read the trenchant excerpt from “Abu Muqawama” at the end of this Danger Room post for a theory. It’s not so much that he’s trying to assert the central government’s authority, it’s that he’s doing his new pals in SCIRI a favor by crushing their main rival for Shiite supremacy. WaPo’s hearing the same thing:

Some officials have concluded that Maliki himself is firing “the first salvo in upcoming elections,” the administration official said.

“His dog in that fight is that he is basically allied with the Badr Corps [i.e. SCIRI’s militia]” against forces loyal to Sadr, the official said. “It’s not a pretty picture.”

Lurking behind the scenes here, as always, is Iran, which has ties to both the JAM and SCIRI and as such is playing both sides of the conflict. How curious that fighting should break out just a few weeks before Petraeus is set to give his next progress report to Congress.