The Basrah Gambit – Defining Moment for Iraq or the Jaysh al-Mahdi? By Malcolm Nance at SWJ Blog.

Engaging the Mahdi Militia in Basrah and labeling them as equal to Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a deadly gamble that may leave Iran the winner.

On 19 March, 2008 CNN’s Iraq war correspondent, Kyra Phillips gave a live interview from in front of the crossed Swords at the Tomb of the Unknowns parade ground in Baghdad’s International Zone (IZ). She cheerfully reported that Iraq had somehow changed after five years and the lack of mortar and rocket fire allowed her to broadcast live. Rockets and mortars were a daily occurrence in the heavily fortified center of government over the previous 1,825 days. On this indirect fire free day, Phillips proclaimed, “there was a time twice a day there would be mortar rounds coming into this area. Now, five years later, Kiran, very rarely are you seeing that type of action, mortars or rockets coming in here. And the fact that I'm here live right now tells you this is a sign of progress.”

The media’s definition of “very rarely” would be exactly four days. That Sunday the IZ and surrounding neighborhoods would be bombarded with a 12-hour long barrage of rockets and mortars, which killed 13 civilians in the outlying neighborhoods. The barrages continued throughout the week and embassy workers and residents of the IZ were informed they could not go outside of concrete structures without body armor and helmets – a standing order for the first five years, which somehow needed to be reiterated. Phillip’s ridiculously premature assessment that the surge had dispelled mayhem and resentment of the 2003 invasion, was short-circuited by the Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM), or Mahdi Militia...