The recent fighting in Basrah and Baghdad's Sadr City is the result of the Iraqi government finally taking action against Shi'ite militias the way they did against the Sunni militias. That Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army has been a tool for Iranian interests in Iraq for years is no secret. And the fact that al-Sadr has been in Iran for the past year is also a clue.
But to the Los Angeles Times, the current battle is a political war with the US "caught" in the middle
The biggest surprise about the raging battles that erupted last week in southern Iraq was not that the combatants were fellow Shiites, but that it took this long.
Enmity has long festered between the two sides: one a ruling party that has struggled against the widespread perception that it gained power on the back of the U.S. occupation, the other a populist movement that has positioned itself as a critic of the U.S.-backed new order.
As they vie for power before October provincial elections that will determine who controls the oil-rich south, the stakes are high not only for the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the largest Shiite faction in the Iraqi coalition government, and the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to cleric Muqtada Sadr.
The conflict also poses great difficulties for the Americans, who are widely seen as siding with the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party against Sadr.
Um, how many ways could the LAT be wrong, disingenuous, or just outright lying?
Let's look first at how they characterize the two "sides"
one a ruling party that has struggled against the widespread perception that it gained power on the back of the U.S. occupation, the other a populist movement that has positioned itself as a critic of the U.S.-backed new order
The ruling Party, aka the Government and a "populist" movement aka Iranian proxies.
Now let me ask you if some group of armed force in the US started taking over cities by force of arms and they were armed and supported by a foreign government, would they be called a "populist" movement?
Would the fight between the Police, National Guard or the Army and this "populist" movement be characterized as a "political" struggle?
How ridiculous would that be?
Then they say
The conflict also poses great difficulties for the Americans, who are widely seen as siding with the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party against Party against Sadr.
So the US is siding with the elected government of Iraq against armed militants who have a political wing. Need I say, "Of course?"
The IRA had a political wing, and a militia wing. Was the actions of the armed militants, you know, blowing up Catholics and all, just a political dispute?
The fact is, the Iraqi Government whose Prime Minister is Nouri al Maliki, is using Government forces to put down armed militants. And they are doing this with US and British support.
They are not going after un-armed political rivals.
Is this so hard for the professional reporters of the LA Times to comprehend?
358 Mahdi Army fighters were killed, 531 were wounded, 343 were captured, and 30 surrendered. The US and Iraqi security forces have killed 125 Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad alone, while Iraqi security forces have killed 140 Mahdi fighters in Basrah...
From March 25-29 the Mahdi Army had an average of 71 of its fighters killed per day. Sixty-nine fighters have been captured per day, and another 160 have been reported wounded per day during the fighting. The US and Iraqi military never came close to inflicting casualties at such a high rate during the height of major combat operations against al Qaeda in Iraq during the summer and fall of 2007.
But as with the Tet Offensive, the Mahdi Army and what they represent must be spun and defeats turned into victories if the Press, and Iran, are ever going to hope to force the US to abandon Iraq.
And thereby assure that a Democrat takes the Oval Office in the Fall.
UPDATE: Austin Bay writes:
The Iraqi way often appears to be indecisive, until you learn to look at its counter-insurgency methods in the frame of achieving political success, instead of the frame of American presidential elections.
In southern Iraq and east Baghdad, Sadr once again lost street face. Despite the predictable media umbrage, this translates into political deterioration.
Think of the Iraqi anti-Sadr method as a form of suffocation, a political war waged with the blessing of Ayatollah Sistani that requires daily economic and political action, persistent police efforts and occasional military thrusts.