Sunday, March 30, 2008

Basra Offensive Issues Major Losses to Mahdi Army

Basra Fighting

The al Mahdi violence in Iraq has given the antiwar left a new breath of life for their endless recriminations against the Bush administration and the war.

Reading prominent posts by war opponents sees a cheerleading push among those rooting for the other side (
Cernig and Juan Cole are two perfect examples).

Yet after five days of conflict, events are showing al Maliki's central government to be gaining on the renegade Shiite faction,
as Bill Roggio reports:
With the fifth day of fighting in Baghdad, Basrah and the South completed, the Mahdi Army has suffered major losses over the past 36 hours. The Mahdi Army has not faired well over the past five days of fighting, losing an estimated two percent of its combat power, using the best case estimate for the size of the militia....

The major political parties in the ruling Coalition
remain united in supporting the offensive against the Mahdi Army and the Iranian-backed Special Groups cells. President Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barazani, the president of the Kurdish Regional Government reiterated their support for the operation on Friday, while Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki ratcheted up the rhetoric against the Shia terror groups.

Maliki called the Shia terrorists "
worse than al Qaeda" and vowed to remain in Basrah until the operation is completed. "Our determination is strong ... those who break the law are punished, and those who draw their weapons in the face of the state are punished," Maliki said on Iraqi state television.
Further, the news this morning indicates that al Sadr is issuing a stand-down order to his forces:

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

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a statement calling the order “a step in the right direction” towards resolving six days of violence sparked by operations against al-Sadr's backers in the oil-rich southern city of Basra.

Al-Sadr’s nine-point statement was issued by his headquarters in the holy city of Najaf and broadcast through loudspeakers at Shiite mosques.

Noting the contrasting interpretations of the direction of conflict, Captain Ed asks, "Remind Me Again — Who’s Losing in Basra?"

See also my earlier entry, "
Contrast in Iraq: How Do We Demonstrate Progress?"

Hat tip:

Photo Credit: USA Today