The Shiites Hit The Fan


Juan Cole:

The US military is concerned that if security collapses in Basra, it could cause the center-north to unravel, as well (this calculation is correct).


...the details remain murky but the broad outline is that we're continuing to see conflict between the exile party ISCI, which has been cooperating with the US and Iran in post-war Iraq, and the domestic nationalist Shiite movement associated with Muqtada al-Sadr, which has received some backing from Iran and been mostly hostile to the United States. From the point of view of American interests, this seems to be a fight in which we have no dog. Our main interest in this rivalry ought to be simply that it not turn into a bloody fight that leaves our troops in the crossfire.

James Joyner:

The claim that “AQI is still Iraq’s No. 1 enemy” strikes me as extremely dubious, especially after months of claiming that the Surge has decimated that force and that Iraqis have long since rejected them.

One would think, too, that we’d have used the relative lull in violence of the last few months to secure the border with Iran, since that has always been a pipeline for anti-government forces.

Judah Grunstein:

The story of the Awakening, like that of the Surge and the Iraq War in general, can be boiled down to the way in which tactics got in the way of strategy. More specifically, it's the story of how tactics meant to reduce our engagement in Iraq ended up having the opposite effect.

Eric Martin:

For the Bush administration, backing ISCI/Dawa is appealing for a few reasons.  First, ISCI/Dawa are amenable to the US presence, whereas the Sadrist current is strongly opposed.  So ensuring that ISCI maintains its political power is essential to the goals of maintaining permanent military bases and gaining preferential access to oil residing in the Shiite-dominated south.  Ensuring the legitimacy of democratic process is, apparently, not quite as important.


The surge has never achieved its stated purpose: namely, to enable political progress and reconciliation between Shi'a and Sunnis. Violence has gone down, which is a wonderful thing, but it has never been clear how much of that was due to the surge itself, and how much to the fact that we paid off the Sunnis, and Sadr declared his cease-fire. I hope we're not about to find out.

My thoughts here and here. If you are trying to catch up on the story, TPM has a synopsis.

(Photo: Iraqi Mahdi Army fighters take position during clashes in the southern city of Bara on March 26, 2008. Fighters loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr clashed again in Basra this morning, a day after running battles in Iraq's southern oil hub killed seven people, an AFP reporter and witnesses said. Iraqi security forces launched raids on Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters in their strongholds yesterday, sparking the heavy fighting in which around 50 people were wounded. By Essam Al-Sudani/AFP/Getty Images.)