Thou shalt not anger the wolf...
This upcoming week will likely be one of the most contentious we will see up until the November election- it may even surpass some of the shenanigans to go on during the conventions later in the summer. Maybe not as visual, maybe not quite as dramatic, but certainly as important.
As you may remember, a certain General will give a certain report to a certain group of Congressmen this week, in order to report certain progress in Iraq. Will it be all 'rosey' and full of sunshine? Hardly. But it will reflect the ground truth, it will most likely reflect how the Surge has helped conditions, and will help lay out what we will have to do in the upcoming months to further maintain security while the Iraqi government gets its act together. What more can we really ask for? Ok- surrender by all the insurgents and an immediate stage-left departure, but Mookie will eat a bacon and egg breakfast long before THAT will happen.
A recent intel estimate came out, giving what some call a 'too rosy a picture' of the situation. To wit:
One Democratic aide said the latest report "is not inconsistent with public statements on Iraq" made in recent Bush speeches casting the war in a more positive light by highlighting security and political gains in Iraq.
A second Democratic aide criticized the intelligence estimate for not delving much further than recent news reports on Iraq, charging that it is "not a very useful or innovative intelligence analysis overall."
They cannot even decide among themselves what it really says. I, for one, see this as a sign of things to come this week- these people cannot afford for this effort to look like its working, even when it is...
MUCH MORE HERE >
The recent events in Iraq, in my estimation, only go to show that the Iraqi gov't waited far too long to try to remove the anti-government elements in Basra. While its been frequently said here, I need to reiterate that the PRIMARY forces the Iraqi army and police faced in Basra were CRIMINAL and anti-government elements- whether they were Shiite (Iranian-backed or no) did not matter so much as they were CRIMINAL elements- given that most who live in the southern areas ARE Shiite, it only stands to reason that's their religious affiliation.
"The operation in Basra will continue and will not stop until it achieves its goals," he said. "It is not targeting the Sadrists, but criminals." - Prime Minister Maliki
It also points out that the British were far too soft and far too unwilling to wrest control out of the hands of these criminal elements. As long as they were not making trouble (they were too busy making money) the Brits weren't going to stir the hornet's nest. Given that the home front in England was facing more and more anti-war sentiment (even given that they have far more 'bad' elements there than we do here) Mr. Blair likely wasn't looking to further give them a reason to vent.
How many here have heard of any problems in Um Qasr? Right- no one. Not on the radar. This large town, in the farthest south of Iraq, has a trade port. Old, decrepit, constantly needing dredged, it still serves as a port-of-entry for goods into Iraq. Not as important (overall) as say, Basra, Iraq only has a couple of ports open to deeper water and the Gulf. But, have you heard of anything there in Um Qasr? Nope. Does that mean its safe? NOT FRIGGIN HARDLY. Um Qasr is extremely dangerous- but not due to insurgents located there- it's the CRIMINAL elements that run that place. Its closer to Iran than Baghdad, has near-direct access into the Gulf, and is also a quick drive into Kuwait; not that the Kuwaiti's are all that accepting of them from there. But Basra is very similar in composition- with one very very important addition: oil. Oil leaves from Basra, and not all of it is recorded by the Iraqi Ministry of Oil. I'd wager that less than 70% of the oil exported thru Basra is actually accounted for- some reports even less. No one knows, because it could be MUCH more. Pipelines that disappear into the desert exit at remote outlets into the river leading into Basra; think anyone who's siphoning off that supply wants to give it up soon? Think they can't afford a few hundred fighters paid with that money, or future promises of money? These elements are fighting for every inch of what they can keep of this 'funding channel'. Its un-ending, it coughs up LOTS of cash, and everyone wants it. Mookie, methinks, has tied himself to this element a little too strongly and now cannot back away from it. Welcome to the middle east version of La Cosa Nostra, Mookie.
Where was SIstani in all of this? Anyone heard from him lately? Nope. Why? Well, this article may give some reasons. It certainly sets the tone as to how Sadr came to power in the current setup:
The power of Moqtada al-Sadr stems from Saddam Hussein's destruction of the Iraqi Communist party, one of the largest in the Middle East. Sadr's father Sadiq al-Sadr came to be in charge of a brand of Islamism that rapidly captured the imagination of the slums of what is now Sadr City, just outside Baghdad. Communists, just like the leftwing Fatah in Gaza, got corrupted, and for the poor in Iraq's urban centres, Islamism was the more attractive revolutionary cause.
Recall that Sadr was in Iran during most of this current dust-up; - that should be telling enough of what was REALLY going on behind the scenes. The Iraqi government forces can't hope to remove all these factions with one fell swoop- they are going to have to go after JAM and the JAM-wannabes a little at a time. Eating this elephant will definitely be one bite at a time.
I have met with the leadership in Basra (US and Iraqi) and have heard the stories of these criminal enterprises that, up til now, the Iraqi government has been less-than-able to do anything about. Its an interesting dynamic- for the time being let the criminals make their money; as long as they are not killing anyone or blowing things up, we'll deal with them when the time comes.
I say all this because you must keep this in mind when certain elements start raving later this week that the surge is not all that successful, and that things are not all that great in Iraq. I believe that the Iraqi gov't showed quite a bit of resolve this week, far more than we've ever seen, in fact. Its just the beginning- but it IS a beginning. The surge, and the conditions its brought about, are BUYING the time that gov't needs. There is no way in hell this Basra activity would have taken place if Fallujah was still the hellhole it was a year ago.
I'll give credit where credit is due: the Dallas Morning News printed the following:
Today, Iraq is undeniably more secure. Bombings are way down, as are U.S. troop casualties. This newspaper doubted whether the surge plan would work militarily, and we're happy to say we were wrong.
They still have reservations about the political situation, but heck, I say the same thing about ours sometimes.
There is so much that needs to be captured this week, due to all the activity over the Surge process since last year, that its quite difficult to go thru it all. But to wit:
1. The criminal elements are going to define actions more and more as others turn to wanting an end to all the violence. Money, and the control of the oil, will keep violence at a pitch until they can be removed. In the past, the Ministry of Oil has been but a blip, as the government has not been as effective. Now, as the government asserts more and more control (as it should, and as we've been hoping to see) those non-governmental factions that HAVE asserted control will fight to the death to maintain it.
2. Some are even equating it to Vietnam: read this. You'll likely see more and more of this in the coming weeks. 'Recreate '68' and even more. The Basra activity wasn't even close to anything in VN. Iraq still doesn't have a military anywhere near what VN had then- VN had tanks, far more people, and could move units around far more easily. Iraqi forces are nowhere near that ready- but they are TRYING. But something the Iraqi's DID have, were UAV's.
3. On another topic- you losers in Hollywood need to spend a little more money on getting a CLUE and less on blowing it on sucky films debasing our troops and their work. I'm glad I don't pick horses like you all pick movies to make about the war- Redacted, Stop Loss, Rendition, among others. Next up? Body of War. Sean Penn loves it; Phil Donahue is pushing it; 'nuff said. Hope they don't need their money back anytime soon. Down the pipeline: The Lucky Ones with Tim Robbins. Yeah, it's gonna be a GOOD year for films, right guys? And by the way, who let Robbins and Sarandon back in from Canada? I thought they left under duress...
4. General Odom, go back under your tarp; your comments are NOT helping, nor are they correct. To wit: "...it is insisted that chaos will follow our withdrawal. We heard that argument as the "domino theory" in Vietnam." Say, weren't you there when Laos and Cambodia BOTH fell to communist regimes? Ever hear of the 'killing fields'? And this whopper: ''No quick reconciliation between the US and Iran is likely, but US steps to make Iran feel more secure make it far more conceivable than a policy calculated to increase its insecurity." WTH? WHY in the hell would we want the regime in Iran to feel more secure? You want them to obtain nukes? Their stated goal is NOT security- it is the annihilation and removal of Israel from the face of the Earth. Letting that regime sleep all snug in their beds is NOT the way to a happier future. What's also noteworthy- he's been beating this drum since 2004; AND, the 'reporter' covering his remarks is ALWAYS the same person- Diane Hudson. Interesting.
5. And lastly, given how bad and how completely clueless the actors in the movies above are, I'm asking they all be banned/blacklisted/forbidden to make any more soldier-related movies. I'm really afraid I'll wake up to some headline where Cruise agrees to play some MoH recipient down the road- or his commander or someone like that. Please. I'd rather see Penn in a burka.