Sadr forces fighting for survival in Basra

Guardian:

A senior commander in the Mahdi army said today the militia was fighting a battle for survival in Basra against a rival Shia faction seeking to obliterate it ahead of September elections.

Fighting broke out in Basra on Tuesday when Iraqi government forces launched an offensive against Shia militia in the city. Overnight, US jets carried out air strikes in support of Iraqi forces in at least two locations.

Shiek Ali al-Sauidi, a prominent member of the Moqtada al-Sadr-led movement in Basra, said his men were being targeted not by the Iraqi government but by government militias loyal to the rival Supreme Islamic Council faction.

"They are a executing a very well drawn plan. They are trying to exterminate the Sadrists and cut and isolate the movement before the September local elections," he said in a telephone interview with the Guardian.

"The Sadrists are the only Shia resistance movement against the occupiers and we have wide popularity. We are going through a battle of existence we will fight to the end. We either survive this or we are finished."

...

Hopefully it is the latter. Some reports suggest the operation is stalled, but that is not all that meaningful in a fight like this. there have also been reports of some people switching sides including Iraqi police. It is good to identify those disloyal members now before they can do great damage.

The Times describes the fighting as a Shia civil war. British planes evidently did a strafing run but otherwise Brit forces are just on alert, but not yet engaged.

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