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Thread: Basra transition

  1. #21
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Petraeus sees no need now for US troops in Basra - AFP, 12 Sep.

    According to Petraeus, our plans for Basra are ... to do nothing. Tom Ricks said yesterday that Basra today is what Baghdad will look like in a year. I think we'll be lucky to get that, frankly.

  2. #22
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Basra: after the British - CSMONITOR, 17 Sep.

    When British forces took Basra on April 6, 2003, their artillery damaged a statue of an Iraqi soldier straddling a writhing shark. It was commissioned by Saddam Hussein to commemorate the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988. Looters have stolen the soldier.

    But the shark, meant to represent Iran, remains.

    The Islamic Republic's influence is indeed felt throughout Basra, Iraq's second-largest city where Shiite parties, militiamen, and criminal gangs all are locked in a vicious fight for power. The streets in the provincial capital are even abuzz with talk of Iranian-trained sleeper cells at the ready.
    With the British exit earlier this month, which some analysts say is a prelude to the 5,500-strong contingent's complete withdrawal from Iraq, comes great uncertainty for this city: Will Iran bolster its strategic foothold? Will the Shiite militias control the streets? Is the Iraqi Army strong enough to mediate the fight between rival parties?

    What happens here may provide a window on the future for the rest of Iraq ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    I've been assaulted by thousands of Shiite militia. It didn't work out well for them. They haven't been able to overrun anybody, or even inflict serious casualties. Our PUC for the Sadr Rebellion credits my unit with over 1500 militiamen killed. We lost seven soldiers. They didn't even knock out one of our M1's. .
    I'd be interested in your take on the recent fighting. It's not our armor or our guys, but it seems as though the militias may have learned a few things during their cease fire.

    A closely held U.S. military intelligence analysis of the fighting in Basra shows that Iraqi security forces control less than a quarter of the city, according to officials in both the United States and Iraq, and Basra's police units are deeply infiltrated by members of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army.

    "This is going to go on for a while," one U.S. military official said.

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    I'd be interested in your take on the recent fighting. It's not our armor or our guys, but it seems as though the militias may have learned a few things during their cease fire.
    No doubt. Despite my earlier, never underestimate an enemy's ability to learn, just as we have. Sadr fighters introdouced the deadly EFP's into theater with help from Iran, and pulled off the murder/kidnapping against the CA team in Kerbala with similar support.

    Where they suffer is in the rank and file, the average Sadr fighter is a 13-20 year old male, uneducated, and with no formal military training. Case in point was the number of RPG's shot at us - most didn't detonate because the kids firing them had never been trained to remove the safety pin, just handed an RPG and told to shoot an American.

    I've watched Sadr fighters charge right at a tank with nothing but an AK. They're brave, but lack tactical acumen or even good sense. That's in contrast to my experiences fighting Sunnis, who tend to be relatively savvy tactically. In any mass uprising, that's going to hurt the Sadrists. It will be interesting to see how much organization and training their cells have done for the masses.

    The issue with the Iraqi Army facing them is twofold - most of the Iraqi Jundis are Shia, and Sadr supporters. (not the officers, but the joes). They also generally lack armored vehicles (they have some T-72's in Baghdad), and indirect fire support. Their attached TT's can bring in coalition airpower. But they've never had to employ combined arms before, especially in urban. Will be an interesting test on how far they've come. Some IA units are better than others, with the former Peshmerga units being the best. Overall, at BN and below level, they're pretty good tactically.

    Just my observations.
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    Council Member MattC86's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    The issue with the Iraqi Army facing them is twofold - most of the Iraqi Jundis are Shia, and Sadr supporters. (not the officers, but the joes). They also generally lack armored vehicles (they have some T-72's in Baghdad), and indirect fire support. Their attached TT's can bring in coalition airpower. But they've never had to employ combined arms before, especially in urban. Will be an interesting test on how far they've come. Some IA units are better than others, with the former Peshmerga units being the best. Overall, at BN and below level, they're pretty good tactically.

    Just my observations.
    I'm wondering if in anyway the current Basrah fighting can be compared to ARVN operations in Laos in 1971-72. Additionally, the first day's reports were that IA was doing alright, but most of what's come out in the last 24 hours has made the situation seem worse than originally presented. At least from what I've seen.

    Anyway, in regards to the Lind bit, I agree that it's got a high degree of absurdity. However, going along with the mantra of never underestimate your enemy; if it gives a few commanders pause and makes them think a little bit harder about what Iran might try to achieve in such a "nightmare" scenario, and improves our readiness, preparation, and alertness, then I think the piece accomplished something.

    And it was kind of fun to read, goofy as it was.

    Regards,

    Matt
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

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    The problem in Basra City is that we don't know exactly what is going on in there. Its a black hole (to give the Brits their due, they may not be in the city, but they are not sitting out at the airport--they are doing ops along the border and in other areas).
    Also, the Mahdi Army (JAM) is not a monolith. In fact JAM in Basra is probably only tenuously linked to the larger JAM (Sadr's powerbase is more up in Sadr City). I would not assume that events in Basra are linked to the current up-tick in Sadr City in any real planned manner. I have not heard or read anything about the Sadr ceasefire writ large. This could be an actual extention of the "cleansing" that Sadr wanted to effect through the ceasefire in order to bring his movement more under control. The snippets of news reporting are always misleading.
    Basra is a place that the Government must control if it is to control Iraq. This fight probably had to come at some time. The government may assess that they want to have it while the Coalition Forces are still here in some strenght and holding the Sunni threat at bay (which the Government interprets as the Concerned Local Citizens or Sons of Iraq). For the past few months, the Iraqi leadership has been trying clean up the Army units (moving non-locals in) and the Police in Basra. Arguably, they have probably been more successful in the former than the latter. It would also be interesting to see where the Governor of the Province is in all of this (Fadhila Party-neither Sadrist nor associated with the ruling coalition). If you remember news reports from last year, Maliki tried to get him removed, but failed. There was tentative coming to terms between the two. Also not reported is whether the oil flow has been greatly affected. I'm guessing not. The pipelines don't run through the city and the unsaid "Prime Directive" of competing groups in Basra Province has been to not stop the oil flow--too many people from all sides are making money on it.

  7. #27
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Only in the sense that people are

    Quote Originally Posted by MattC86 View Post
    I'm wondering if in anyway the current Basrah fighting can be compared to ARVN operations in Laos in 1971-72...
    shooting at each other.

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    Matt - you'll have to put some meat on that (tell us what is on your mind) if you want folks to weigh in on that.
    Best, Rob

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    Here's a look inside Sadr City from the Washington Post. It seems as though Cav Guy was right on the mark.

    Some people over at Abu Muqawama seem to think that Iran is squeezing Sadr.

    and to make things confusing, a Washington Post columnist is reporting the exact opposite:

    "Sadr wants to fight, but he also wants to talk. I'm told that he sent a verbal message through an Iraqi intermediary last month to Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq. The gist of the message was that the Mahdi Army in the Baghdad area was no longer under Sadr's control but Iran's. The United States apparently didn't answer this message, but at some point, through some channel, America will need to talk with Sadr and the forces he represents."
    Last edited by Rank amateur; 03-29-2008 at 06:13 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Default maybe I'm just a cynic, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    the Mahdi Army in the Baghdad area was no longer under Sadr's control but Iran's.
    I'm not sure the word "control" ever applies to contemporary Iraq, especially as it pertains to the role of external actors.

    Influence? Sure. Allies? Yes, although always temporarily. Control? Underestimates the local dynamics, and the extent to which the locals and supposed "clients" are able to use (and even abandon) the externals and supposed "patrons" as vice-versa.

    Reference: see "al-Anbar Awakening, US control over..."

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    Rex:

    Do you think that Iran is squeezing Sadr, that they somehow requested/approved/aided the attack on Sadr's troops? (Ahmadinejad was in Baghdad at the beginning of the month.) If Sadr did communicate with Paetreus, maybe he knew it was coming?
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    I don't doubt that Iran has picked up a lot of greedy and/or disaffected JAM elements over time, and that has made Sadr nervous. Then again, there are other reasons for him to want to claim that any action by JAM against the US was by pro-Iranian elements not under his control.

    I suspect that Tehran is ambivalent about the Basra operation. If it works, it strengthens the position of their most reliable Shiite ally, ISCI/Badr. If it doesn't work, it makes them all the more valuable in exerting influence over Sadr/JAM. Sadr elements are likely to be offering all sorts of IOUs in exchange for cash and weapons right now.

    Indeed, as far as I can see they are the only ones who can't lose out of recent events, no matter how they unfold.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    Sadr elements are likely to be offering all sorts of IOUs in exchange for cash and weapons right now.
    That's what I was thinking. I was also thinking that without Iranian weapons, JAM can't keep fighting.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

  14. #34
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    Default Ouch, Point Taken. . .

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    shooting at each other.
    Rob and Ken, you are both correct, obviously.

    Perhaps my history or my perceptions are wacky, but essentially, the IA and Iraqi Police are conducting the ground operation in Basra on their own, albeit with support from US warplanes, advisors, etc. Similar to the ARVN invasion of Laos in 1971 - an "independent" operation with US support but not direct assault-echelon participation, that was a test of the government's strength and legitimacy as well as the actual abilities of the army itself.

    The attempt to cut the Ho Chi Minh trail was a pretty big failure, and the Vietnamization was shown to not be progressing as well as Americans would like.

    In that sense, I see a comparison to Basra. Not only is the operation providing a major test of the indigenous security forces, but if they are shown to be extremely wanting (as the ARVN was) it will have further impact on US domestic support, as well as the legitimacy of the Maliki government.

    That was my intent. If I'd been going for the people-shooting-at-other-people comparison, I would have picked a less obscure example

    Regards,

    Matt
    Last edited by MattC86; 03-29-2008 at 08:02 PM. Reason: Brain fart
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Your political characterization is correct but those are among

    the few corollaries. Urban vs. jungle; Two moderately trained and competent Armed forces vs. one less well trained against a group of semi-trained irregulars; Armor and air mobile ops vs. mostly dismounted urban combat; massive US air and artillery support vs. a little; two (sort of nations) in a fight in a third nation vs. a civil disagreement in one; we probably didn't push this on the HN vs. one that the HN didn't really want to do; and so on...

    More difference than similarities.
    In that sense, I see a comparison to Basra. Not only is the operation providing a major test of the indigenous security forces, but if they are shown to be extremely wanting (as the ARVN was) it will have further impact on US domestic support, as well as the legitimacy of the Maliki government.
    If is a big word; "extremely" wanting is likely to be in the eye of the beholder; impact on US domestic support will have little real effect on much of anything; and the legitimacy of the Maliki government is determined by how it got in power, not by events that occur after it is in power -- though such events can affect its durability and / or survivability, different things.

    With respect to the Laos incursion, the real object lesson was not the progress or lack of it of "Vietnamization," it was the failure of the US Army to properly train the Viet Namese or to assist them with detailed planning that was far beyond their capability. In fairness to MACV, XXIV Corps and ARVN, undue and quite wrong pressure by the Bobsey twins of Kissinger and his idiot Mini-Me, Alexander Haig caused a major rush and arguably contributed significantly to the failure just as much as the fact that the south VN fought in Battalions and had NO experience in even Brigade ops, much less multi Division. Dumb political battle and essentially a US fomented effort as opposed to a real local desire...

    The fact that the high vis units, Ranger Bns, Airborne Bns and Marine Bns were used was a political failing by both US and VN cdrs.

  16. #36
    Council Member MattC86's Avatar
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    Well, my perspective was far more from a strategic level than tactical, anyway. I am well aware of the enormous differences in the details of the actual operations - although I would contend that both also are examples of the HN forces' raison d'etre; more conventional combat in the case of the ARVN and urban combat/anti-militia COIN for the IA.

    My comparison is solely based on the strategic impact of a HN visibly and unquestionably taking the lead in a major combat operation with only limited American support. Both the ARVN and the IA are sticking their necks out farther than they did in previous operations. Thanks for, as usual, helping to clarify what I'm trying to say.

    However, on this

    impact on US domestic support will have little real effect on much of anything; and the legitimacy of the Maliki government is determined by how it got in power, not by events that occur after it is in power -- though such events can affect its durability and / or survivability, different things.
    we continue to disagree.

    First, I think that while it's easy to dismiss US domestic opinion - fickle and unreliable though it may be - it is a mistake to do so. The resurgence of support for the war in the wake of this idea that the surge "turned the corner in Iraq" (not stated by General P or Sec. Gates but constantly repeated by the right-wing parts of the media) will likely be hit hard if the perception is that the IA fails in Basra. Obviously a lot of that depends on other factors, including the al-Sadr, the cease-fire, etc., etc., But if support begins falling again, the pressure on the next president, particularly if it is a Democrat, will be enormous to begin drawing down immediately and without regard to the situation on the ground. As a result, as always, we still are playing for the crowd at home, and it's risky to discount the importance of public support. We remain, after all, a democracy. At what point does consistent public opposition to a war take precedence over the government's prosecution of that effort as the elected decision makers in our country? I don't know the answer to that. But regardless, a return to consistent majority opposition to the war could not be anything but detrimental.

    Secondly, legitimacy, both in foreign eyes and in Iraqi eyes, is very much determined by the actions of the president once he takes office. There's no historical political structure that confers accepted legitimacy onto the winner of an election like in a well-established democratic state. When large segments of a country oppose the government with armed force, clearly there's a lot to be desired in terms of governmental legitimacy. The Shi'ite militias, across the spectrum (not just the JAM, but primarily) are not just a threat to the "survivability" of the Maliki government. Their participation in the political process, regardless of the leader, gives legitimacy to the system. Without it, just like without the participation of the Sunni tribes, the head of government is not viewed as a legitimate national leader.

    So it's not just for the survival of Maliki, but for the strength and stability of the democratic system in Iraq. That's the legitimacy question.

    Regards,

    Matt
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Question In regard to what it means

    Matt,

    Although some of the characterizations of the situation are understandable and maybe even likely; who's helping who and why etc. I think there is one thing we can all bet on.

    The militias will not win this one. It seems pretty obvious considering the various elements reviewed even in this thread that the main players all have a somewhat win/win option available and along those lines it would seem unlikely that the militias would be the overall victors.
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    Matt:

    For what it's worth, your argument makes sense to me. I've always thought there was a huge difference between us joining someone else's fight (which usually works out well) and asking others to join our fight.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default We-ellll

    Quote Originally Posted by MattC86 View Post
    Well, my perspective was far more from a strategic level than tactical, anyway...
    Strategic or operational? Not sure there was or is much strategy invovled in either. YMMV.
    we continue to disagree.
    Okay, we can do that.
    Secondly, legitimacy, both in foreign eyes and in Iraqi eyes, is very much determined by the actions of the president once he takes office...
    In other words, it's in the eye of the beholder. One way to look at it.
    So it's not just for the survival of Maliki, but for the strength and stability of the democratic system in Iraq. That's the legitimacy question.
    Two separate issues, I think...

    Not to mention that 'democracy' in the ME will always be inherently unstable and unlike its western approximations -- there is and will be no counterpart.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Not to mention that 'democracy' in the ME will always be inherently unstable.
    How much money and blood should we invest in supporting something that is inherently unstable?
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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