Last week, Instapundit has a “headsup” that the Iraqi Army was going to take on the criminal gangs of the Mahdi Army in Basra, and that there would be fighting.

I’ve been perusing the MSM headlines, and as early as Saturday one London paper had declared victory for Sadr, it’s leader, saying the government had lost and all it’s men were deserting.

As background, the Washington Post had a pure propaganda piece by a reporter “embedded” with Mahdi group in Bagdad.

 None of the news stories were very helpful, since like most reporting they see an “bad US” versus “freedom fighters” and don’t see nuances.

I have lived in countries with “freedom fighters” and insurgencies, so tend to see these things differently, so let me explain.

You have organized groups. You have those who help these organized groups. You have to fund these organized groups, so you have outside countries helping. You have to fund the groups, so those not getting outside help make a living by robbery, kidnapping, and drug running.

What you do NOT have is one big solid obedient Army.

Some of the Shiites eventually organized under Sadr, the son of a real hero but one who is not qualified as a religious leader (although western reporters don’t recognize that) and a person who is mentally unstable. He has close ties with Iran.

Like all such groups, they are not uniform. The Sadr and Badr shiite militias often fight each other. The Sunni Baathists and Alqaeda and tribal Sunni are different culturally.

But in all insurgencies, you have the good guys, who could easily merge with the Iraqi government policeforce.

You have the guys who learn to like power and pushing people around: Think crips and bloods, or Wyatt Earp versus the cowboys.

You have criminals: think Jesse James.

And you have ordinary boys who are bored and join for fun but would find a job if one was available. Some of them become Billy the Kid, killing out of revenge, others just settle down, marry and are lost to history.

Sadr wants to take over the government, but doesn’t quite have the power. He is getting a lot of help from Iran. Despite this, he helped the Alqaeda and Sunni “insurgents” –which is why McCain talked about Iran helping AlQaeda…it wasn’t a gaffe, it was referring to this help.

But most of the various Madhi militias were merely policing the streets, so the US and Brits allowed them to do it.

Up to the point that AlQaeda decided to destroy the golden mosque. At this point, chaos ensued, and they turned against the Sunnis.

From AlJezeerah:

The Mahdi Army had in the past concentrated on fighting US troops, and on two occasions sent aid to Sunni fighters in Fallujah during military offensives led by US forces.

But that support dried up in February 2005, when the Askari shrine, a holy site for Shia Muslims in Samarra, was bombed. Within hours of the bombing, young people were riding around the capital on the back of pick-up trucks, parading guns and vowing revenge.

Their revenge was going around kidnapping innocent Sunnis and beheading them. As a result, a lot of the Sunni professional class ran off to Syria and Jordan. But Iraq needs this professional class.

That is what the Anbar agreement was about.

Sadr was smart enough to realize that if he wanted power, he couldn’t do it with his army alone, so he called a cease fire, and the Sunnis tried to make peace.

Both groups will go at it again the moment American troops leave, which is why they are biding their time: They figure a President Obama will take out the US troops, and they will win the fight, with help from nearby governments (Syria and Saudi for the Sunni, Iran for the Shiites). The result will be massacres and ethnic cleansing, but never mind. Obama can blame Bush.

But what is new is the Iraqi army is starting to become a real force. Anyone can make an Army; making a professional fighting force takes time. And it is the Iraqi Army who is doing most of the fighting this time, to the delight of US soldiers who are merely helping them do it.

The next step is carrot and stick: Offer those who make peace amnesty and jobs, encourage the true believers to go into politics, and wipe out or marginalize the crimnals.

This was done in the Philippines, where the war against the  Huks was won by land reform, but the war against the hardcore NPA in other areas has been going on for 50 years. Similarly, the MNLF was pacified, the MILF is talking peace, but the Abu Sayyaf is still busy with bombs and kidnapping.

You can usually pacify most of those fighting, leaving a hard core, which can later splinter, with most being pacified, leaving a hard core…etc.

And in this case, Sadr blinked; he hopes to win at the ballot box.

Strategy Page has a good summary of the fight and who is whom HERE.

The AlJezeerah report is HERE.

Al-Sadr’s nine-point plan, agreed with the Iraqi government, was issued by his headquarters in the city of Najaf and broadcast through loudspeakers on Shia mosques.

James Bays, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Baghdad, said: “The main elements are that Muqtada al-Sadr’s fighters should leave the streets … in return, apparently, they will not be pursued, the Iraqi government will not arrest any of them unless they have arrest warrants for them.

“The big question now is whether the Mahdi army fighters will obey this command because there are all sorts of factions and splinter groups in existence.” 

So when you read of more reports about Mahdi Army fighters, think Jesse James or the Confederates who fought the establishment years after the civil war ended.


To experts: Yes, I know I have glossed over some nuances. But when the MSM reports a few shells lobbed into the Green Zone as proof the US is losing, someone has to point out that this is as absurd as saying a mall bombing in Manila means that Abu Sayyaf is winning here.

Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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