Basra residents expressed gratitude for the actions of Nouri al-Maliki in clearing out the armed militia from the most critical city in the south, according to Agence France Presse. Far from a disaster, the military action has restored order to the city and made it safer for the residents. Residents in Umm Qasr echoed these sentiments after their liberation from the Mahdi Army:
Three weeks after Iraqi troops swarmed into the southern city of Basra to take on armed militiamen who had overrun the streets, many residents say they feel safer and that their lives have improved.
The fierce fighting which marked the first week of Operation Sawlat al-Fursan (Charge of the Knights) has given way to slower, more focused house-by-house searches by Iraqi troops, which led on Monday to the freeing of an abducted British journalist.
Residents say the streets have been cleared of gunmen, markets have reopened, basic services have been resumed and a measure of normality has returned to the oil-rich city.
The port of Umm Qasr is in the hands of the Iraqi forces who wrested control of the facility from Shiite militiamen, and according to the British military it is operational once again.
Once again, the American media got caught with its pants down and their, er, aspirations showing. They wanted the military operation to represent a breakdown of the government so badly that they reported it as a defeat even as the Iraqi Army adapted and prevailed against the militia members. They still have yet to acknowledge that the Basra and Umm Qasr operations have largely met their goals, and have driven Moqtada al-Sadr even further outside the political arena.
And note that the Iraqi Army did most of the heavy lifting in Basra and all of it in Umm Qasr. The American forces contributed some air power and logistical support, but almost all of the ground operation fell to the IA. The training and guidance provided by American military advisers has paid off.
Basra residents had endured under gangster rule ever since the British began reducing their forces and falling back to their bases in 2005. The power vacuum allowed the Mahdis and the Badr Brigade to grab turf in the south. While the Badrs eventually accepted the authority in Baghdad and merged into the government security apparatus, the Mahdis engaged in typical gangster protection rackets and conducted assassinations to maintain their grip on street power. AFP reports that has all come to an end, and Basra residents couldn’t be happier — especially since it was Iraqi troops who liberated them.
Maybe next time, the American media will wait to analyze a battle until it’s actually over. Probably not … but maybe.