May 19, 2007

'Welcome To Teheran'

The Guardian has a scathing report on the British efforts in southern Iraq and the resultant influence of Iran in the Shi'ite militias vying to fill the power vacuum around Basra. It demonstrates the futility of the approach used by the British in engaging militias instead of marginalizing and defeating them, as even the Iraqi commanders on the ground explain:

When he finished his conversation, the general - who didn't want his name published because he feared retribution from militias -stretched out his hand to me and said: "Welcome to Tehran."

I asked him about British claims that the security situation was improving. His reply was withering: "The British came here as military tourists. They committed huge mistakes when they formed the security forces. They appointed militiamen as police officers and chose not confront the militias. We have reached this point where the militias are a legitimate force in the street." ...

"Most of the police force is divided between Fadhila which controls the TSU [the tactical support unit, its best-trained unit] and Moqtada which controls the regular police," the general said.

"Fadhila also control the oil terminals, so they control the oil protection force and part of the navy. Moqtada controls the ports and customs, so they control the customs, police and its intelligence. Commandos are under the control of Badr Brigade."

Even those who join the police and security forces as unaffiliated soon have to choose a militia to join, for their own protection. Once they do, they cannot be removed, as the militias act as a type of union to protect each other and the power they accumulate from their infiltration. The general estimates that 60% of his officers and almost all of the rank and file in his sector belong to militias -- and that it will take a "major surgical operation" to clean the city of Basra.

How do ordinary Iraqis respond to this power structure? They flock to the strong horses, as one would expect:

The people who really control Basra are men such as Sayed Youssif. He is a mid-level militia commander, but his name and that of his militia - God's Revenge - strikes fear anywhere in Basra.

Beginning with a small group of gunmen occupying a small public building, the former religious student built up a reputation as a fearless thug, killing former Ba'athists, alcohol sellers and eventually freelancing as a hitman for anyone willing to pay the price. ...

In the room outside his office, tribal leaders, officials and more gunmen sat, bare footed, waiting for Sayed Youssif to call them. Some wanted him to help their relatives join the army or police. Some had problems with other militias and were seeking his protection. But most were there to pay homage to a powerful man whose help they may one day need. As the official apparatus of state slides into chaos, men such as him have become the main dispensers of justice and patronage. No one in Basra can be appointed to the army, police or any official job without a letter of support from a militia or a political party.

As I have written many times, engaging with the militias was the biggest mistake the British made. It legitimized people like Sayed Youssif and Moqtada al-Sadr. The US has made its share of mistakes as well, but we have always insisted that the only use of force for security had to come from the Iraqi government through the national forces we train, not by attempting to blend militias into a police force. The militias should have been fought and stamped out, as we are trying to do it Baghdad.

Now what we have is all of the makings of a real civil war of the kind we see in Gaza now. We will have state-armed groups organizing into armies that will control territories and conduct operations against each other as soon as the British leave. With Teheran pulling the strings, the Shi'ite south could erupt into a new kind of internecine war that could undermine the Shi'ites in the national government.


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Comments (13)

Posted by grognard [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 19, 2007 10:06 AM

And don’t forget that the Sunnis in Anbar [including the 1920s Revolutionary Brigades] have been organized into a militia under the Anbar Salvation Council. The same type of militia organization is going on elsewhere to fight AQ, with the full support of the US Army. Right now these groups are under our control but after the AQ threat is gone do they peacefully disband? Somehow I don’t think that will be the case.

Posted by Fight4TheRight | May 19, 2007 10:21 AM

Cap'n Ed, a number of weeks ago, you had posted a similar scenario from Afghanistan where American military leadership had taken over from the Brits - the Brits had operated against the Taliban in a "engage but do not pursue" strategy but the new American leadership adopted, "Engage, chase and destroy." And the initial reports of the new American strategy were very encouraging.

Well, look at what has happened with American and NATO following that strategy since then! Just the past week, seven top military commanders of the Taliban have been killed and the Taliban casualties continue to mount and mount - not to mention the Taliban Spring Offensive , well....WHAT Spring Offensive?

Posted by NahnCee [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 19, 2007 10:48 AM

How does this speak to the continuing allegation that it was a huge mistake to fire all of Saddam's army and soldiers when we first went into Baghdad? It's always appeared to me that if the existing army had NOT been fired, there'd be an even worse problem of Bad-Guy infiltration in the rebuilt armies now, and that it would be country-wide rather than mainly in Sadr's locus of control.

But given that the fired soldiers are more than likely the current paid-for assassins, is it merely six of one and half a dozen of the other? That no matter what we had done in 2003, the Iraqi decades-long breeding for murder program would have won out over an embracing-civilization program, leading inevitably to their current difficulties.

Posted by Carol Herman | May 19, 2007 12:37 PM

Begs the question, "why didn't we flatten the place?"

You want to call this war? General Sherman and General Grant did not show up. Both the British and the Pentagon might as well have dressed the troops up in pantaloons. As if going to war was a musical.

And, right out of the box, the Brit's put on a show. You could call it "Watch us getting along." Then, the terror turned on them, and chewed them to ribbons.

This is why the arabs think they are such great fighters.

While they haven't seen a fight!

As to watching the Shi'a rise, have I got news for your. Or two things. Saddam was given WMD's by the USA, back in the 1980's. And, that's how he was able to gas the Kurds. What happened? Slam dunk, we haven't been able to find anything. Where did it go? Who was the magician that waved the stick?

The other thing to notice, is that Saddam didn't take crap from the Saud's. Or from Tehran. Both groups "new their places." And, they wanted to live. Or so it seems, the leaders did. Because they didn't strap on suicide belts.

Maliki? He ran away for ten or twenty years. Living in part, in Damascus, and then switching to Tehran.

Chalabi? He did the same. But he ran into the CIA. Where training of his goons took place.

And, Allawi? We installed him in Iraq, to be their "guardian angel." Came the purple fingered voting day, and Allawi was gone. Chalabi nowhere to be found. And, a FUMING George Bush, getting called on the carpet by Riyadh, for daring to allow Maliki to come in and gain control.

You want to win wars?

First, the president's gotta find his tongue. And, he's gotta keep talking to the people. All we know for sure about Dubya, is that he's not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. And, to promote his own family's values, he'll fall into the tub with Ted Kennedy.

By the way, stuff that sounds like they're done deals? Hardly likely. But all the falling down, so far, is occuring among the players, off stage.

Get used to seeing tricks.

On InstaPundit, I saw there's a book about FRED THOMPSON. Called the Fred Factor. HOWEVER, the first ten books Amazon shows is about Fred, the mail carrier.

The "real" Fred book is a pre-order, if you're curious.

What impact will Fred make, now? He seems to be steadying the GOP ship like nobody's business. Of course, that's just my opinion.

Posted by richard mcenroe | May 19, 2007 12:43 PM

NahnCee -- The Iraqi army was not fired; it disintegrated. Most of the troops just picked up and left. By the time Bagdhad fell there was no army to fire...

Posted by Carol Herman | May 19, 2007 2:11 PM

Don't mix Iraq and Afghanistan together. Different countries. Different problems. Different military approaches.

In Afghanistan, the world's leading producer of quality hallucenagens; sold to to the west for at least one thousand years. FIrst, in traveling caravans that traded goods back and forth. And, then in the 1500's when ships from Portugal, set sail. And, found the waterway below Africa could have you traveling EAST.

Yup. Then, named the spice islands. The history teachers won't clue you in. So, I thought "cinnamon." Turns out it was OPIUM. And, in the days before ether, and the other "modern stuff," the ancient medicines, from digitalis to opium, were what humans used when the pains were great. Digitalis worked on the heart. And, opium, on the mind.

And, nothing modern will cancel this trade OUT.

On the other hand? The Taliban made lots of enemies for themselves in Afghanistan, AFTER the russians were ousted. Because they went on murderous rampages; against the opium traffic.

We, on the other hand, played our cards, better. We used the most modern contrivances, to build roadways in that God forsaken land. And, those roads, (actually built by the Saud's engineering firm. To those who don't know it; the Bin Laden's are the Saud's engineers).

So, you get to see this picture. The locals took back their roadways. And, American Special Forces is helping the tribes keep the arabs at bay. WHILE NOT INTERFERRING WITH THE DRUG TRADE.

Iraq's different. First, under the thumb of the lunatic, Saddam; we went in. And, Bush wasn't honest. He didn't tell the American People he was the Realtor for the Saud's. But he kept piling political crap onto the Iraqis. Who keep rejecting this stuff.

While, from Iran, the ante got raised UP. The Shi'a in Iraq, are not Persian! And, Iran had a history of hurting the Shi'a in Iraq. So do keep in mind the centuries of HATE built up, over there. It's not all smooth traffic. Not like the roads that move the dope.

Everybody, and here I include Bush, and Blair, saw Iraq as a way to boost personal wealth. All that had to happen? The Saud's got the real estate.

But, often, plans go awry.

And, for Bush? The ways are too "cute" to count. But they are out there. And, Bush doesn't have much of a cover, left.

While politicians, all over, are gambling they can win. In syria. Lebanon. Iraq. To say nothing of the hatred among arabs, even of the same sect, sunni wahabbism, you'd find, if you could look beneath the surface, that the opulence of the Saud's, has brought them enemies whose names you just don't know.

That's pretty much how the "bee hive" looks. To those outside? Occasionally, they see a bee. Or two. But the swarming, and the piling on? Nope.

Some of the mysteries are deep within bank vaults. Where you'd only hear the hushed tones of men in fancy suits, directing you and your questions, to the door.

Iraq's a mess because Bush couldn't come up with a workable plan. For some reason, he just had assumptions. Saddam was bad. And, the sunni's would hold onto their powers anyway. Sans the Ba'aathists. Who were "bad" to the Saud's. Because though they were sunni arabs, they were not religious.

Ah. A similar story broke out in Iran. When Jimmy Carter, the brainless wonder from the left, thought he didn't have to protect American interests in the Mideast. So he let the Shah "go." And, the Ayatollah came in, with his tribe. Taking over the whole country's infrastructure. New people grew rich. And, the middle-class? Went bankrupt. Women? At one time the most educated ones in that part of the world? Divested of education, they now live under tablecloths.

I'd bet lots of this stock "seeths." But unlike Paris, where you can seeth in the open; you can't quite do this when your leader owns all of the guns. And, arrests people who dare to try to exercise free speech.

Why, in Egypt, Hosni arrested THE BIG PHARAOH. And, the SAND MONKEY. Shipped off to prison, after trials, for four years. (Each? Maybe, not. I had heard that the SAND MONKEY and THE BIG PHARAOH are the same guy.)

Shows ya, in despotic countries having a reputation where you're read around the globe, doesn't help. Here? Well, everybody knows Lileks got fired. And, thru Lileks, everybody knows the Strib reporters all got canned. Or offered work beneath dignity.

Hard to explain how the real world works, I guess?

But the faults in Iraq, not to lose this subject, won't drop on the soldiers of our troops. But, will reside within the Bush family. Where both presidents will go down in history IN INFAMY.

The costs of what the Bush's wanted to do; which pays them handsomely in terms of wealth, has been rubbing enough Americans against the grain, that's it's only a matter of time before enough puzzle pieces come flying out ... that a lot more people, ahead, will see this picture, better.

GOOD LUCK IN '08! Because, something's motivating the Ma and Pa Kettle Show. Where all they need to do is hold onto TWO PERCENT.

Posted by dougf | May 20, 2007 9:55 AM

I think the Basra situation is more comparable to Chicago during the 'gang-wars' than it is to anything else.

These competing 'gangs' are motivated at the street level and maybe at ALL levels by the desire for MONEY. The whole sorry lot of them have more in common with 'Big Al' than they do with any 'spiritual' leadership.

On some level even under Saddam Iraq has always been run by the 'GANGS'. it is a broken society now because it has always a broken society . What needs to happen is that the 'gangs' see that they have much more to gain from a 'stable' Iraq than they do from a collapsing Iraq.

Eventually they will figure out that 'competition' is bad for business , and learn to 'adjust'.

Posted by Lightwave | May 20, 2007 10:10 AM

Indeed, the comparisons of Basra to Gaza City are accurate to an almost frightening level.

Instead of Fatah versus Hamas, with Israel trying to keep order, we have the Mehdi Army versus God's Revenge with the Brits trying to keep order.

And as in Gaza, the "ghettoization as democracy" cannot work. Basra has degenerated into a containment operation with no actual containment.

In Afghanistan we went on the offensive. We stopped the spring offensive that the Taliban leftovers promised would drive the West from Afghanistan forever.

In Basra, we're on the defensive. The Brits are holed up, praying the oil and blood soaked streets don't catch fire before they can get out. If that tinderbox catches fire, they will die.

When one side of the civil war or the other gets the idea to cut off the Brits and Fallujah THEM, it's over. What we're seeing in Basra today is the fate of Baghdad under the Democrats in '09.

We'll be holed up in that embassy compound in the Green Zone while the sand sharks circle. The troops that could make the difference? Pulled back to Turkey and Kuwait. Our carrier groups? Evac duty.

Last helicopter out of Saigon, please turn out the lights.

If the Dems are in power two years from now, you'll be pining for the days of $3 gas, 4.5% unemployment, that $280 billion trade deficit with China and a 35% tax bracket on small business owners.

All those will double. But the troops will be home, right?

Posted by mrlynn | May 20, 2007 10:31 AM

Is there any alternative now but to send in another 2-3 hundred thousand troops, take over Iraq in earnest, and go after Syrian and Iranian infiltration at the sources?

Yes, there's the Democrat one: surrender and get out, and let the pot boil over, let Iran or its Shia'a proxies take over the oil fields, and let Iran control the Gulf, while Al Qaeda stirs up world-wide mischief in Anbar.

Which do you prefer?

/Mr Lynn

Posted by Carol Herman | May 20, 2007 12:05 PM

While back in America, there are reports things are worse for the GOP.

While Jimmy Carter, seeing Bush landing below him in the presidential ratings, is ranting about Bush. If you can stomach it.

On the other hand? What matters most?

Turns out, yesterday, I read a piece that says one of the reasons the donks are holding their TWO PERCENT, is that the GOP lost people from 18 to 30. That's the chunk that's gone south. And, they're not interested in what motivates older folk. Not interested in the GOP's social package. And, dislike what they see as our foreign policy.

Which is where I call Bush the Realtor for the Saud's.

Iraq's a mess. (Or as Michael Yon, linked today at InstaPundit, says "Iraq is BORING. Nothing much is hapenning. Which he sais "is a good thing." So, it's one of the "must reads" out there. While IRAQ THE MODEL has taken a break from blogging.

How do we put these pieces together?

Bush is phenomenally bad. A guy that just poses for pictures. So, his "brain trust" decided to bring the queen here. And, then Tony Blair. As if anyone cares. (Outside of Jimmy Carter, who found a way to get a headline. And, his own picture. Up at Drudge.)

One of the things America has been doing in Iraq, these past three or four years, is build bases. We built 14 of them. Will they be the precursors to Iraq's shopping malls?

We're also building a HUGE Embassy. Larger, I read, than the Vatican.

So, the idea that troops come home is silly. We're still the mightiest military on earth. ANd, our air force and navy, protect trade. The world's shipping lanes are full. (There's some minor pirating going on.) But we can move the oil. And, Iran really can't do much except bluster. And, pay "some" of the terrorists' bills in Iraq.

If you ask me, it's like buying fireworks. If the explosions make it into the press, they worked. If the fireworks are limited to your backyard, however; they don't.

Given that we're not really using our military in Iraq; because if we were whole neighborhoods would have had the terrorists cleared out ... IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY WE CLEARED THE NAZIs' out of France, Belgium, and the other countries, where they set up home. Yup. Took more than 200,000 "things" ... or "stuff." Or People. But FDR stayed in touch throughout his presidency. Had at least 1000 press conferences. And, then there were those "fireside chats." HE WROTE HIS OWN SPEECHES. Not uncommon, in the old days.

The Bush failure turns, now, on what's happening to the GOP Party. Where, yes, those who claimed they owned the store: The religious right; can't quite sell this merchandise to passersby.

And, this means the Donks TWO PERCENT looks solid. Ya don't need more to win.

And, Bush is the cause of your losses.

Yet, if people talked about this? He and his dad would have to be impeached. They used the presidency to grow rich. And, James Baker is worse than Jimmy Carter. Events controlled Jimmy Carter. He wasn't liked. James Baker? More secretive than the CIA. And, no one's stopping him.


His plans are mired.

They're not moving ahead, either. Just in case you thought the Saud's "peace" could be shoved down the throats of the Israelis, the Sauds are HATED by most arabs! So, that's the size of the money pot. Go bet it.

Posted by grognard [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 20, 2007 12:24 PM

And where do we find an additional 300,000 troops? Shut down operations in Afghanistan and reactivate every reserve? Even then there would not be that number available.

Posted by Carol Herman | May 20, 2007 12:27 PM

Fighting fire with fire. Conventional wars are OVER!

I caught this at DEBKA. And, copy & pasted it to yesterday's "RELOAD" thread. Where there's not much traffic.

But IF this is the current thinking in some parts of the Israeli military; it must also be something for the Americans AND/OR the Iraqi's to think about, too.

For the Americans? As long as our soldiers are LANGUAGE DEFICIENT, and ditto for our politicians; "playing" in the Mideast, with war materials is dumb.

But there's a lot at stake. And, it Israel's good with languages. Good with intel. And, I think? This is more of what we will see ahead, as "feints" are done with tanks and such, to keep the media off track.

Of course, in gazoo, there's less media; because the threats of kidnapping has gone up. And, because the GREEN HELMET MAN was so unreliable, it's also hard to come to "hard news."

But DEBKA lights the way to a "new approach." Which is an old approach. Anyway, here's DEBKA:

DEBKAfile’s military experts: Unorthodox tactics needed to rout Gaza-based Palestinian terror and halt Qassam offensive against Israel. Conventional warfare will no longer serve

May 20, 2007, 3:52 PM (GMT+02:00)

As the Palestinian missile offensive enters its second week, military experts recommend dosing Hamas and its allies with their own medicine: harassment behind the lines by small undercover Israeli units on hit-and-run missions to blow up Palestinian infrastructure, weapons workshops and commands centers and around-the clock ambushes of their fighters and chiefs. Palestinian operatives must be kept on the run in fear of their lives.

They say the moment has passed for a conventional invasion, such as the 2002 Defense Wall operation that cleansed the West Bank of its effective suicide cell structures, such as some opposition leaders and ministers propose. It would have been logical after Israel’s 2005 evacuation of the Gaza Strip. But today, Gaza is swarming with a hodgepodge of Hamas, Jihad Islami, Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades, Popular Resistance Committees and al Qaeda terrorists and militias.

According to DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources, Iranian and Hizballah advisers are telling them how to combat a substantial Israeli ground–tank incursion. They must go underground and wage a guerrilla-terrorist war equivalent to the Iraqi insurgent campaign against US troops.

Israel is strongly advised to avoid that trap.

Unorthodox strategic and tactical thinking is needed, say the experts, not an effort to fight the Lebanon War anew in Gaza. The clock cannot be turned back to the days before 2005, when former PM Ariel Sharon supported by Olmert pulled Israel out of the Gaza Strip and the strategic Philadelphi border route - or when Olmert after becoming prime minister let Hamas win the Palestinian general election in 2006 with FM Tzipi Livni’s support.

Israelis have defeated Arab terror before. In the 1930s, The English military genius Orde Wingate taught Jewish paramilitary defenders his Special Night Squads tactics for turning Arab guerrilla methods against them. Nothing much has changed in 71 years, except for the fact that today, Israel has a strong army of its own, and does not need British or other international force to defend its sovereign territory. All that is needed is a government with resolve that lets the military do its job.

Posted by Jon | May 20, 2007 5:11 PM

Despite the clear differences between how the Brits and Americans have dealt with the militias, none of these militias existed as a coherent fighting force when the US invaded Iraq. It's hard to imagine life in the weeks and months after Saddam's fall, when an American could travel safely to any part of the country with little or no security.

The only way that the militias can be removed is through a massive increase in US troop presence across the country. As long as the militias can thrive outside Baghdad, Baghdad will never be secure. You probably need another 250 - 300k troops. But in life, tragic incompetence- such as that shown by Bush- isn't given a second chance. The sad reality is that Bush could have invaded with a larger force and managed the transition differently- but his team didn't feel like it.

in this era of terror, it might be 10 to 20 years before the political will exists in this country for our leaders to invade another nation. This is a great outcome for our enemies. It's a great outcome for Iran.