Maliki's war

The operation in Basra is clearly a move by Maliki to assert control over what will be the lifeline of the Iraqi government when the US leaves Iraq. According to the Washington Post:

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Maliki decided to launch the offensive without consulting his U.S. allies, according to administration officials. With little U.S. presence in the south, and British forces in Basra confined to an air base outside the city, one administration official said that "we can't quite decipher" what is going on. It's a question, he said, of "who's got the best conspiracy" theory about why Maliki decided to act now.

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Here is my theory. There have been recent reports that a significant amount of Iraqi oil is being stolen and Basra is probably the place where it is happening. Allowing Sadr's forces to steal that oil strengthens them at the expense of the government. That will become even more critical if the US pulls out of Iraq as proposed by the Democrats.

Democrats may think this proves their point about Iraq, but he opposite is the case. While the US was surging forces and quelling the violence in the Baghdad area the Brits were doing the opposite in Basra. They have withdrawn from the city entirely leaving it in the hands of militias and war lords while they have slunk back to an enclave outside the city in a smaller force in much the same way the Democrats are proposing to do with US forces.

The problem is that the force is too small to impose its will on the area and is basically in a force protection mode instead of a people protection mode that the US forces are. They have an inadequate force to do counterinsurgency warfare. They are also inadequate to control Basra.

The media is on a bogged down meme right now for the Iraqi forces fighting in Basra, but they are writing this from several miles a way. It could be that the Iraqis are cutting off the militia's supply line and attriting its forces in a gradual manner that avoids casualties on its side. One thing to watch will be the Iraqi logistic operation and how it performs in this independent operation. The WaPo also leads with a rather exaggerated claim that the US has been pulled into an armored operation in Sadr City. As you read you find that this consist of four Strykers and a few Humvees.

Sadr's militia has tangled with US forces on a couple of occasions during the war and the forces involved on Sadr's side have been destroyed. I do not expect them to make a strong stand in Baghdad this time either, though they will try to distract in hopes of pulling Miliki's army out of Basra.

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