Despite wanting toÂ wield a mighty sword, Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki’s central governmentÂ assault this week on Shia militia in Basra has encountered much difficulty, making no significant gains against the army of Mugtada al-Sadr, and creating a looming lump of problems.
As fighting across Iraq between Shia and Shia continues, the main objective at Basra, to show power from Baghdad’s national government, has failed — as have many things the last five years.
Instead of being a show of strength, the government’s stalled assault is demonstrating its shaky authority over much of Baghdad and southern Iraq. As the situation spins out of Mr Maliki’s control, saboteurs blew up one of the two main oil export pipelines near Basra, cutting by a third crude exports from the oilfields around the city. The international price of oil jumped immediately by $1 a barrel before falling back.
— independent.co.uk, (3/28/08)
Modern war inÂ ancient places still makes for death and destruction.Â Into the very cradle of the very-first attempt at empire comes horror from the skies — metal, swirling locusts upon the land.
Hilla, Mar 26, (VOI)- More than 60 gunmen were killed on Wednesday evening as U.S. choppers fired rockets against buildings used by gunmen in central Hilla, 100 km south of Baghdad, Iraqi security source said.
“U.S. copters bombed sites used by gunmen in Hilla’s neighborhoods of al-Askari, Ahmed Nader and Muhaizem, killing more than 60 militants and destroying some houses,” the source, who requested anonymity, told Aswat al-Iraq- Voices of Iraq- (VOI).
From his part, Abdellatif Rayan, an MNF-Iraq media adviser who could not give an exact number of the gunmen killed during the airstrike, told VOI that the operation was carried out as Iraqi forces requested an air support while clashing with gunmen in central Hilla.
Hilla, capital city of Babel, has been a scene of clashes that erupted between security forces and fighters of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia.
— aswataliraq.info/look/english, Aswat al-Iraq-Voices of Iraq (VOI), (3/28/08)
Reportedly, in pre-Sumerian days Babel was the site of the original gathering together ofÂ warlords and brute killers to establish military power — dominance over thy neighbors — the first empireÂ originated from Babel, which grew war-like into Babylon (Babel in Hebrew), and sucked in all the towns around about, then big chunks of land, then big empires of war machines and huge standing armies drifted across history’s landscape — Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Alexander The Little Moron, Eygptian, Romans, British, and now Americans.
Albeit there’s no horses and chariots, but warfare is still a horror, especially to bystanders.
And of course, from Babel comes the word “babble.”
A telling mirror in the modern world as babble bubbles forth from Decider George’s encampment:
WASHINGTON (AFP) â€” The Pentagon on Wednesday said an eruption of violence in southern Iraq, where US-backed government forces were battling Shiite militias, was a “by-product of the success of the surge.”
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said it showed that the Iraqi government and security forces were now confident enough to take the initiative against Shiite extremists in the southern port of Basra.
“Citizens down there have been living in a city of chaos and corruption for some time and they and the prime minister clearly have had enough of it,” he said at a Pentagon press conference.
Morrell, however, disputed suggestions that the fighting showed the risks of drawing down US “surge” forces.
“This has just begun this week,” he said. “But I think at this early stage, it looks as though it is a by-product of the success of the surge,” referring to the sharp hike in US troops in Iraq from earlier last year to quell violence.
He said it was a success “in the sense that the Iraqi government has grown and increased in capability to the point where they now feel confident going after Shia extremists in a part of the country that they had not exerted great influence over.”
— Agence France-Presse, (3/26/08)
A ‘by-product’ of success produces a chaotic, nasty situation on the brink of disaster?
Jeff (Geoff is still just Jeff but spelled too-way-different)) are you on crack?
This week’s violence in Baghdad and Basra followed several days of bloodshed in the Shi’ite city of Kut, some 100 miles southeast of the capital, where Sadr loyalists clashed with police forces largely controlled by their Shi’ite rivals, the Badr Corps militants of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, and with government troops affiliated with Maliki’s Da’awa party.
“This was expected. It was just a matter of timing,” said Vali Nasr,Tufts University scholar and author of the bestselling book, The Shi’a Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future.
“The ceasefire and the surge allowed everyone to regroup and rearm. There is still the Shi’a-Sunni conflict. There is still the Sadr-Badr conflict. The surge and the ceasefire merely kept them apart, but there has never been a real political settlement,” he said. “No, the big battle for Iraq hasn’t been fought yet. The future of Iraq has not been determined.”
Nasr said the question now remains just how deep U.S. forces will get sucked into a Shi’ite civil war.
— Darrin Mortonsen, time.com/time/world, (3/26/08)
In Basra, although Maliki’s government forces have won some sections of the beleagured city, they cannot dislodge the Shia militia. And as the assault there bogs down, fighting continues in Baghdad (and elsewhere) as Sadr’s Mehdi Army displays a strong show of force.
The main bastion of the Sadrist movement is impoverished Sadr City, which has a population of two million and is almost a twin city to Baghdad. The densely packed slum has been sealed off by US troops. “We are trapped in our homes with no water or electricity since yesterday,” said a resident called Mohammed. “We can’t bathe our children or wash our clothes.”
— Patrick Cockburn, independent.co.uk, (3/28/08)
And Sadr City at a glance:
- HISTORY: Sadr City was built in the late 1950s by Prime Minister Abdul Karim Qassim to provide housing for Baghdad’s largely Shiite urban poor, many of whom had migrated from southern Iraq. It was first named Revolution City and became a stronghold of the Iraq Communist party.
It was renamed Saddam City after the late president took power in 1979. After Saddam’s ouster in 2003, it became known as Sadr City in honor of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, who was killed, probably by Saddam’s agents, in 1999. His son is Muqtada al-Sadr.
POPULATION: An estimated 2.5 million people live in Sadr City. The vast majority of them are Shiites, many of whom live in abject poverty
AREA: About 13 square miles, making Sadr City one of the most densely packed communities in the Middle East.
LIFE: Sadr City suffers from rampant unemployment and ailing infrastructure, and lacks many basic services. Electricity is available for only about six hours a day, and some streets frequently flood with sewage. Municipal garbage collection service was halted in 2003; it resumed two years later but only on main roads. Sadr City’s main landmark is a giant municipal building commissioned by Saddam, who gave a single speech from its balcony and never returned to the district again.
— Source, Associated Press
Meanwhile, in the very heart and soul of the US presence in Iraq, the once all-clear Green Zone in Baghdad, continues to fall under fire from motors and rockets. Black smoke spewing from the headquarters of the US Army and Iraq’s central government, paints a picture of Saigon from a place far, far away, in a time long, long ago:
WASHINGTON â€” The State Department has instructed all personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad not to leave reinforced structures due to incoming insurgent rocket fire that has killed two American government workers this week.
In a memo sent Thursday to embassy staff and obtained by The Associated Press, the department says employees are required to wear helmets, body armor and other protective gear if they must venture outside and strongly advises them to sleep in blast-resistant locations instead of the less secure trailers that most occupy.
“Due to the continuing threat of indirect fire in the International Zone, all personnel are advised to remain under hard cover at all times,” it says. “Personnel should only move outside of hard cover for essential reasons.”
“Essential outdoor movements should be sharply limited in duration,” the memo says, adding that personal protective equipment “is mandatory for all outside movements.”
— Matthew Lee, Associated Press, (3/27/08)
And what does Decider George say about all this carnage and chaos?
WASHINGTON â€” President Bush, saying that “normalcy is returning back to Iraq,” argued Thursday that last year’s U.S. troop “surge” has improved Iraq’s security to the point where political and economic progress are blossoming as well.
Bush coupled his description of the situation in Iraq, meant to lay the groundwork for next month’s report to Congress by U.S. military and diplomatic chiefs, with a forceful slap at war critics.
“Some … seem unwilling to acknowledge that progress is taking place,” Bush said in a speech at the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. He accused war opponents of constantly shifting their critique, adding: “No matter what shortcomings these critics diagnose, their prescription is always the same â€” retreat.”
— McClatchy Newspapers, (3/27/08)
What a spin-master turd!