Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The fallout from the assault continues

The Bush administration was caught off-guard by the first Iraqi-led military offensive since the fall of Saddam Hussein, a weeklong thrust in southern Iraq whose paltry results have silenced talk at the Pentagon of further U.S. troop withdrawals any time soon.
President Bush last week declared the offensive, which ended Sunday, "a defining moment" in Iraq's history.
That may prove to be true, but in recent days senior U.S. officials have backed away from the operation, which ended with Shiite militias still in place in Basra, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki possibly weakened and a de facto cease-fire brokered by an Iranian general.
"There is no empirical evidence that the Iraqi forces can stand up" on their own, a senior U.S. military official in Washington said, reflecting the frustration of some at the Pentagon. He and other military officials requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak for the record.
Having Iraqi forces take a leadership role in combating militias and Islamic extremists was crucial to U.S. hopes of withdrawing more American forces in Iraq and reducing the severe strains the Iraq war has put on the Army and Marine Corps.
The failure of Iraqi forces to defeat rogue fighters in Basra has some in the military fearing they can no longer predict when it might be possible to reduce the number of troops to pre-surge levels.

The above is from Warren P. Strobel and Nancy A. Youssef's "Paltry results of Iraqi offensive silence U.S. withdrawal talk" (McClatchy Newspapers). The White House pulled the strings of puppet Nouri al-Maliki to launch the show-of-force that was supposed to give a boost to this month's Congressional testimonies by Gen. David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. But it didn't work out that way. Even with al-Maliki claiming "success" while the world laughs (and while he begs Sadrists to please return vehicles seized in the battle). The p.r. move was a mistake from the beginning and suggests just how desperate the White House has become and how out of touch they remain with realities in Iraq because a roll out for Petraeus and Crocker was always iffy but strengthening Moqtada al-Sadr was a sure consequence. al-Maliki was sent to Basra where he was supposed to be 'overseeing' the staged events -- as if anyone in the world truly believed the puppet was radioing the US Air Force and calling in air strikes. Someone apparently thought they had another staged photo op (like the 'rescue' of Jessica Lynch) and the plan was sold on that. The White House remains out of touch, the installed al-Maliki remains an illegitimate leader in the eyes of the Iraqi people and the multitude of protests last week helped convey that especially various chants and the carrying of a coffin with al-Maliki's photo on it.

The fallout impacts not only Iraq and the United States but also England. Lloyd notes Kevin Sullivan's "Iraq Violence Halts British Drawdown" (Washington Post):

Britain has postponed plans to sharply reduce its troop presence in Iraq because of recent fighting between Iraqi government troops and Shiite militias in Baghdad and Basra, Defense Secretary Des Browne announced Tuesday.
"It is prudent that we pause any further reductions while the current situation is unfolding," Browne said in the House of Commons. The British troop level is to remain at about 4,000, putting on hold a planned reduction of 1,500 troops.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced last fall that the British troop level would be trimmed from 5,000, reaching 2,500 this spring. But, Secretary Browne said Tuesday, "it is absolutely right that military commanders review plans when the conditions on the ground change."

While the fallout for the US, England and al-Maliki is an embarrassment, the cost for Iraqi civilians can be measured in deaths and wounds. From Lelia Fadel's "Baghdad's Sadr City mourns its dead and injured" (McClatchy Newspapers):

In Baghdad's Shiite Muslim slum of Sadr City, U.S. airstrikes aimed at militants plague the population.
After a week of violence between the U.S.-backed Iraqi Security Forces and the militia of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, the American military is targeting mortar teams and rockets that have bombarded the heavily fortified Green Zone, home to U.S. and Iraqi government headquarters.
Inside the Imam Ali Hospital in Sadr City on Tuesday, Haider Jassim, 4, pointed to his belly and told his mother "oowa." An American child would say "boo-boo." His abdomen was wrapped in bandages after doctors cut him open to remove shrapnel lodged in his colon.
Last week he was playing in his home as his mother slept nearby with her 4-day-old baby. Now she spends night and day in the hospital with Haider.
He can't eat, and he urinates into a tube.
"I just want safety for my baby," Saleema Dwaich said. Her son wept in pain; she wept in response.
"When we got rid of Saddam, things were supposed to get better," said her brother-in-law Sabah Kokas Jassim.
Upstairs, Sabah Raheem's family sat on the bed next to his. The skin on his face was black from the burning shrapnel of a U.S. airstrike. On his chest were black craters where metal pieces had gouged his flesh. His left eye was gone, along with one of his legs. Around him were four other men with missing limbs.
His parents were at home, mourning his two brothers, both killed in an airstrike.

Equally true in the big picture is that the assault had the effect of raising Iran's positives since they had a part in brokering the peace. All in all, the assault was a disaster on every level imagineable. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) drives that home:

It also left the United States once more painted as the villain by the Sadrists although the offensive is widely thought to have been the brainchild of Maliki and his inner circle of advisors. The Sadrists made clear that this latest chapter would be used against the U.S. forces in Iraq.
"America is looking for a man who would take over from the occupation forces to target the Iraqi people, and now Maliki has achieved this ambition," Freiji said in a soft voice. "Maliki has somehow started to execute the American project and the Iraqi people considers Maliki a tool in the hands of the Americans."

The e-mail address for this site is