Written by Dani Reshef
March 30, 2008
On Tuesday, 03/25/2008 dawn, a large IRAQI Army force began to take on the Shiite militias - “Mahdi Army”, “Bader Corp” and a new organization called “IRAQI Hezballah Brigades” in Basra. The offensive put to the test the capability, consolidation and determination of the new IRAQI army trained on the expense of the American tax payer. The clashes in Basra immediately broadened to Sadar-City in the North-East outskirts of Baghdad and other places where “Mahdi Army” is operating, after the Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and his “Mahdi Army” called upon a “civilian uprising”. (See - Basra clashes )
“Mahdi Army” unilateral cease fire from 08/22/2007 is widely credited with reducing sectarian tensions and contributing to the recent overall drop in violence. The fragile cease fire is severely endangered.
The most secure Green Zone in Baghdad, the home to the IRAQI government headquarters, the US and British embassies, and thousands of American troops, came under, almost daily, mortars and rockets attacks as a direct sequence of the deterioration.
On Wednesday 03/26/2008 evening, PM Nuri al Maliki set a 72-hour deadline for the militants in Basra to lay down arms or face "severe penalties". In reality it was not militia supporters who surrendered and handed over their weapons but a small number of IRAQI soldiers fighting the militias in the Shiite dominant neighborhood of Sadar-City.
After less then 48 hours the deadline was extended to 10 more days, up to the 04/08/2008 evening, which indicates that:
A. The IRAQI Army failed to enforce or pressure the Shiite Militias to such extend that they will agree to IRAQI’s regime demands.
B. That the new deadline is enabling a political negotiation since military subjection is, probably, too difficult to achieve.
Meanwhile American forces are already engaged in street fighting with the “Mahdi Army” in Sadar-City, American and British helicopter gunships and airstrikes support the IRAQI army in Basra, inflicting also innocent civilian casulties, and British artillery is shooting back on any source of enemy fire even in civilian populated areas. It is almost clear that without direct involvement of British troops PM Nuri al Maliki will be compelled to adopt a political compromise with the Shiite militias in Basra, who he named “worst then Al Qaeda”.
* Note – Just as in Gaza Strip, innocent civilians are caught in cross fire and the battle for Basra can be easily described as a collective punishment for 2 millions innocent inhabitants in Basra because of few thousand armed men - just as Israel is often blamed when operating in Gaza.