Kagan & Kagan On Basra Knowns and Unknowns
There appear to be two dominant - and polarized - views on the recent clash between the Maliki government in Iraq and Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM or the Mahdi Army). One train of thought has Muqtada al-Sadr (and/or Iran) emerging victorious, while the other has Sadr (and/or iran) taking a major hit in a strategic defeat.
What was the impetus for the fight? Who took both the physical and perceived hits? Whose strategic landscape has been altered? To what ends? These are all important questions ot dissect and assemble answers to. But before any definitive answers can be suggested, we need to take in the knowns and unknowns.
To this end, Fred Kagan and Kimberly Kagan have put together 'the short list' on The Basra Business: What we know and what we don't. It is today's required reading; brief, bulleted and to the point.
MUCH OF THE DISCUSSION about recent Iraqi operations against illegal Shia militias has focused on issues about which we do not yet know enough to make sound judgments, overlooking important conclusions that are already clear. Coming days and weeks will provide greater insight into whether Maliki or Sadr gained or lost from this undertaking; how well or badly the Iraqi Security Forces performed; and what kind of deal (if any) the Iraqi Government accepted in return for Sadr's order to stand down his forces. The following lists provide a brief summary of what we can say with confidence about recent operations and what we cannot.
What We Know:
• The legitimate Government of Iraq and its legally-constituted security forces launched a security operation against illegal, foreign-backed, insurgent and criminal militias serving leaders who openly call for the defeat and humiliation of the United States and its allies in Iraq and throughout the region. We can be ambivalent about the political motivations of Maliki and his allies, but we cannot be ambivalent about the outcome of this combat between our open allies and our open enemies.
• The Sadrists and Special Groups failed to set Iraq alight despite their efforts--Iraqi forces kept the Five Cities area (Najaf, Karbala, Hillah, Diwaniyah, and Kut) under control with very little Coalition assistance; Iraqi and Coalition forces kept Baghdad under control.• Sadr never moved to return to Iraq, ordered his forces to stop fighting without achieving anything, and further demonstrated his dependence on (and control by) Iran.
Be sure to read all of The Basra Business: What we know and what we don't. It's as excellent as it is important.