Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

May 20, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

SADR CITY OPERATION BEGINS....About 10,000 Iraqi troops entered Sadr City today and met little resistance:

Despite the heavy military presence, residents said the district remained calm and no shots were fired at the troops. Sadr's representatives in the neighborhood, which is named after the cleric's revered father, wandered the streets, welcoming the Iraqi soldiers and presenting them with Korans, the Muslim holy book....U.S. forces were playing no part in the operation, the military said.

....Lt. Col. Steven Stover, spokesmen for U.S. forces in Baghdad, said he was "ecstatic" about today's operation. "I think this is the turning point where we start seeing the Special Group criminals picked up by the Iraqi security forces and a lasting peace for the Iraqi people," he said. "And it will be because they did it, not us."

This is, tentatively, good news. And it's worth saying that the March operation in Basra looks better now than it did at the time too. The conduct of the Iraqi troops was spotty and the Iranian influence in bringing the fighting to an end was obviously problematic, but in the end government forces did take control of most of the city and have restored relative peace.

Add to that today's promising start to the Sadr City operation, the continued cooperation of the Sunni tribes, and the sustained reduction in overall violence, and Iraq's prospects look better than they have for a while. It's still true, among other things, that the status of Kirkuk hasn't been resolved; that arming the Sunnis poses long-term stability problems; that Sadr's intentions are murky and he may just be biding his time; that the Iranians seem to be calling a lot of the shots; and that Nouri al-Maliki still doesn't really have a functioning government. Only an ostrich would pretend that prosperity is just around a bend in the Tigris. Still, there's been some genuine progress over the past few months, enough to make me feel a bit of hope for Iraq's future for the first time in years.

It may all go to hell tomorrow. Who knows? For now, though, keep your fingers crossed.

Kevin Drum 12:36 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Good news indeed. A tank in every neighborhood. A soldier on every door. What more could an Iraqi ask for?

Posted by: gregor on May 20, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody know what a "Special Group" criminal is?

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

I'm glad they can all come together in peace. Keep this up and in a few months they'll join together as a nation in shooting at the Americans again.

Posted by: Wm. on May 20, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Wm. at 12:51 PM wrote:

I'm glad they can all come together in peace. Keep this up and in a few months they'll join together as a nation in shooting at the Americans again.

This isn't going to be the latest conservative bitch-out on Iraq, is it? "We fucked the whole thing up because we meant to"?

I'll definitely never believe that.

Posted by: on May 20, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

OT: yesterday, Kevin, you mentioned a couple of things that could lead to a successful first two years for an Obama presidency.

Conventional wisdom would have it that the 2010 elections would then see a swing back the other way, which has happened to the party controlling the White House in every by-election in US history (except 1998 and 2002).

But that would be mere technical analysis. In the Senate, where a filibuster-proof majority is the Holy Grail for the Democrats, the fundamentals look good.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on May 20, 2008 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Just a further move in assembling a united front to expel the occupiers. Consider it an ammunition delivery run; everyone got Korans too. Bravo.

"Special Group" criminals would I take it be persons trained by the Iranians in the arts and sciences of defensive warfare in cities. They would be cousins in arms of the skillful soldiers of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon who fought the IDF to a standstill in the Olmert War like the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae.

Posted by: anon on May 20, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

If the Americans in Iraq went to hell tomorrow, perhaps then there would be a bit of hope for Iraq's future for the first time in fifty years. Unfortunately, the Americans are concentrating their overwhelming power pressing Shiites into oil, which no god or devil or American citizen can prevent.

Posted by: Brojo on May 20, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, do you really think this is about anything other than both sides agreeing to wait and see who can rig the provincial elections best?

Regards, C

Posted by: Cernig on May 20, 2008 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

anon - thanks for the info.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 20, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Any reduction in violence is good news, for Iraqis and for the US.

But I think you're right to point out the influence Iran has had. Seems to me that a lid is being kept on potential civil war -- on more than one front -- by Iran taking an active, even leading, role in the political arrangements that avoid armed conflict. To that extent (and I don't know if this will extend to the Shia-Sunni front once the intra-Shia issues are taken care of), the lack of conflict is evidence that Iraq is becoming Iran West.

I think that's far preferable to civil war, but we should be careful not to go too far in considering this a good thing for the US.

Posted by: bleh on May 20, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

"the Iranians seem to be calling a lot of the shots"

Is there any evidence of this that doesn't come from military propaganda and the neo-con (liberal hawk) press?

Might be true, might not. People definitely WANT others to believe it's true.

Posted by: flubber on May 20, 2008 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Props to Kevin for this post. Yes, things may turn worse again tomorrow, but as of now the elected government of Iraq and the US millitary are doing very well in fighting al Qaeda in Iraq and fighting the Mehdi Army. Furthermore, the relations between Shia and Sunni are improving. E.g., see this story in USA Today

Posted by: David on May 20, 2008 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Are they actually arresting anyone?

Anyway it sounds like it's good news in terms of our ability to get out without complete chaos ensuing.

Posted by: B on May 20, 2008 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Awesome news. It's really good to see some actual good news for a change.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on May 20, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like victory. The Sunnis aren't fighting, Sadr's turned into a Hare Krishna, let's get out of there while the getting's good.

Posted by: Boronx on May 20, 2008 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

The US overseeing the beat down on the poorest yet most populous segment of Iraqi society is seen as good news by American moderates, liberals and progressives. Grinding Shiites into history is a bipartisan enterprise.

Posted by: Brojo on May 20, 2008 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Im with Boronx! Peace has broken out, so lets tiptoe out of Iraq before anyone wakes up!

Posted by: troglodyte on May 20, 2008 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK
And it's worth saying that the March operation in Basra looks better now than it did at the time too. The conduct of the Iraqi troops was spotty and the Iranian influence in bringing the fighting to an end was obviously problematic, but in the end government forces did take control of most of the city and have restored relative peace.

I wonder, were things really so unpeaceful in Basra prior to the Iraqi government attack there? Isn't the peace mostly just the result of the Iraqi government forces no longer trying to engage the Shiite militias there? Do we really have to start giving credit for stuff like that?

Posted by: Rob Mac on May 20, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, it's called "Operation Whack-a-Mole"

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on May 20, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, our mighty military machine is doing so great against a civilian population of a Third World country. Makes me so proud...

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 20, 2008 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

What we are seeing,more than five years after the overthrow of Saddam, is an attempt by coalition forces to establish a "presence", by no means is it control, of parts of the Iraqi Capital as well as the other major regional population centers, Basra and Mosul. Up until this point the governmental center(Green Zone) has not even been secure.

It's not about legitimacy, that's a long way off. It's still about control. The only control they have right now is over the citizens in their gunsights at any given moment and that's what they are doing right now, getting more people into the gunsights.

It's not much. It's not humane. It's not democratic. At least it's something. They have to have some positive effort to base the lies they tell the American people and the World on.

Posted by: reddog on May 20, 2008 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

i'm ready to declare victory and leave any time bush is....

Posted by: howard on May 20, 2008 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

Still, there's been some genuine progress over the past few months, enough to make me feel a bit of hope for Iraq's future for the first time in years.

That's quite a turn-around for you, isn't it? Quite a turn-around.

Posted by: on May 20, 2008 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

And it's worth saying that the March operation in Basra looks better now than it did at the time too. The conduct of the Iraqi troops was spotty and the Iranian influence in bringing the fighting to an end was obviously problematic, but in the end government forces did take control of most of the city and have restored relative peace.

Brave of you to admit that. It was a net plus for the govt, Maliki in particular, and it helped bring some of the Sunni representatives out of their boycott.

fanasyland: If the Americans in Iraq went to hell tomorrow, perhaps then there would be a bit of hope for Iraq's future for the first time in fifty years. Unfortunately, the Americans are concentrating their overwhelming power pressing Shiites into oil, which no god or devil or American citizen can prevent.

that's grotesque. The Sadrists are only a tiny minority of Shi'ites. If they are being pressed into oil, it is by the majority Shi'ites.

Posted by: spider on May 20, 2008 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

I read a Michael yon's book 'Moment of Truth in Iraq'recently, It is apolitical to a fault and just reports what he sees and has seen over his many trips to and from the sandbox. It should be on everyone's bookshelf, right next to the Army's COIN Manual FM 3-24:
http://dealstudio.com/searchdeals.php?deal_id=104132&ru=279

Posted by: Mike on May 20, 2008 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

The news report I heard added a footnote that this operation included the support of the U.S. military, meaning a U.S. military operation with the Iraqis providing PR support for Bush.

"Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute." Except when it comes to bribing the Sunnis as Uncle Saddam did to maintain their favoritism.

Posted by: Luther on May 21, 2008 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

>It may all go to hell tomorrow. Who knows?

I do...And I ain't saying why.

Posted by: James on May 21, 2008 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

Luther: "The news report I heard added a footnote that this operation included the support of the U.S. military, meaning a U.S. military operation with the Iraqis providing PR support for Bush."

Luther, next time you want to tell us what something means, try finding out what it means. Just a suggestion.

The US military, including the advisory teams, has not entered the northern areas of Sadr City. "No U.S. troops have gone beyond Quds Street," said Lieutenant Colonel Steven Stover, the chief Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Division Baghdad. "This is an Iraqi planned, led, and executed operation. US soldiers are providing advice, intelligence and enabling support."

Posted by: majarosh on May 21, 2008 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Where did you find that photo? I can't find it in the linked article and it sure looks like US military up-armored humvees. The story repeatedly emphasizes that US forces were not involved and all of the linked photos are of iraqi solders and hardware.

Thanks,

Carl C-M

Posted by: Carl Coryell-Martin on May 21, 2008 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Another thing that is distinctly odd about that photo is that the man in the foreground is wearing a Spain shirt, whereas the name and the number (Pires 7) suggest it's supposed to be an Arsenal shirt. (Pre-2006 Arsenal, as the frenchman Robert Pires has been playing for Villareal recently; now Arsenal's number 7 is Rosicky, of course.)

Posted by: ~~~~ on May 21, 2008 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

I think y'all are reading too much into this.

Didn't al-Sadr enter into a truce with al-Maliki, allowing government and US troops to enter Sadr city without having to fight? The deal was that they would be allowed to search for heavy weapons, while leaving light arms alone.

In Basra, his militia fought the government to a standstill (it was discussed here). US and British troops had to intervene to save the government forces.

It's only going to be quiet as long as al-Sadr wants it quiet.

Posted by: zak822 on May 21, 2008 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly