Sadr militia in a corner

Strategy Page:

With their Basra bases destroyed, the Mahdi Army is making a last stand in the eastern Baghdad Sadr City neighborhood. U.S. troops have erected concrete reinforced roadblocks around the Mahdi Army strongholds, and then work with Iraqi troops (who do most of the fighting) to clean out the Shia militiamen house by house. Thousands of civilians have been fleeing, once they see the roadblocks go up, for they know that the Mahdi fighters use civilians as human shields. In one well reported case, a Mahdi Army warlord set up his command post next to a hospital, believing this would make him immune from air attacks. He was wrong, even though the missile that destroyed his operation also blew out windows in the adjacent hospital. In the last six weeks, the Baghdad fighting has cost over 3,000 casualties. Over 90 percent of them are Iraqi, and most of those are Mahdi Army fighters (the rest are Iraqi army and police).

Sadr's strategic error is in giving battle rather than compromising with the Iraqi government. By giving battle he is getting his most dedicated supported killed by US and Iraqi forces and demonstrating how weak he really is. He has never been able to challenge US forces and now he is showing that he can't challenge Iraqi army forces either. He is also demonstrating how ineffective his Iranian support has become. The training the Iraqi army has received is clearly superior to the training the Hezballah ops have given the Mahdi militia.


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