Saturday, February 9, 2008

Saturday Iraq Report

February 8, 2008
Friday: 5 US Soldiers, 31 Iraqis Killed; 17 Iraqis Wounded

Updated at 2:45 p.m. EST, Feb. 8, 2008

At least 31 Iraqis were killed or found dead and 17 more were wounded in the latest violence. Clashes took place in a pair of Diyala province cities and a mass grave was found just outside Baquba. Five American soldiers were killed in two separate incidents. Also, an imam in Kufa accused U.S. forces of abusing a ceasefire in order to harass followers of Moqtada al-Sadr.

Four American soldiers were killed today during an IED explosion northwest of Baghdad. Another American soldier was killed and three more were wounded during a bombing in At Ta'Mim province.
So the surge is working GOP nominee McCain. As you see, we lost 5 more American soldiers today in two separate bomb attacks. Those of us who follow the Iraq war a little more closely would disagree with your assessment sir. The violence has been in a lull because Iraqi's have chosen to make it so. Please read the following article and face realty. It is from the International Crisis Group and they have a little different take on what is going on in Iraq.

Iraq’s Civil War, the Sadrists and the Surge

Middle East Report N°72
7 February 2008


The dramatic decline in bloodshed in Iraq – at least until last week’s terrible market bombings in Baghdad – is largely due to Muqtada al-Sadr’s August 2007 unilateral ceasefire. Made under heavy U.S. and Iraqi pressure and as a result of growing discontent from his own Shiite base, Muqtada’s decision to curb his unruly movement was a positive step. But the situation remains highly fragile and potentially reversible. If the U.S. and others seek to press their advantage and deal the Sadrists a mortal blow, these gains are likely to be squandered, with Iraq experiencing yet another explosion of violence. The need is instead to work at converting Muqtada’s unilateral measure into a more comprehensive multilateral ceasefire that can create conditions for the movement to evolve into a fully legitimate political actor.

The Sadrists appeared on a steady rise in 2006 and early 2007. They controlled new territory, particularly in and around Baghdad, attracted new recruits, accumulated vast resources and infiltrated the police. But as the civil war engulfed much of the country, Iraqis witnessed the Sadrists’ most brutal and thuggish side. Their increasingly violent and undisciplined militia, the Mahdi Army, engaged in abhorrent sectarian killings and resorted to plunder and theft. Militants claiming to be Mahdi Army members executed untold numbers of Sunnis, allegedly in response to al-Qaeda’s ruthless attacks, but more often than not merely because they were Sunnis.

The Sadrists were victims of their own success. Their movement’s vastly increased wealth, membership and range of action led to greater corruption, weaker internal cohesion and a popular backlash. Divisions within the movement deepened; splinter groups – often little more than criminal offshoots – proliferated. As a result, anti-Sadrist sentiment grew, including among Muqtada’s Shiite constituency. The U.S. surge, which saw the injection of thousands of additional troops, particularly in Baghdad, worsened the Sadrists’ situation, checking and, in some instances, reversing the Mahdi Army’s territorial expansion. Finally, in August 2007, major clashes erupted in the holy city of Karbala between members of Muqtada’s movement and the rival Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), which further eroded the Sadrists’ standing.

In reaction, Muqtada announced a six-month freeze on all Mahdi Army activities. It applies to all groups affiliated (loosely or otherwise) with the Mahdi Army, and Muqtada reportedly dispatched his most loyal fighters to tame holdouts. Most importantly, his order removed the veil of legitimacy and lifted the impunity that many groups – criminal gangs operating in the Mahdi Army’s name and Sadrist units gone astray – had enjoyed.

The ceasefire largely has held and, together with bolstered U.S. and Iraqi military presence in Baghdad, helps account for a dramatic drop in violence. But the respite, although welcome, is both slightly misleading and exceedingly frail. Muqtada’s decision likely reflected a pragmatic calculation: that a halt in hostilities would help restore his credibility and allow him to reorganise his forces and wait out the U.S. presence. Their retreat notwithstanding, the Sadrists remain deeply entrenched and extremely powerful in a number of regions. Fleeing military pressure in Baghdad, Mahdi Army fighters redeployed to the south, thereby setting up the potential for an escalation of the class-based confrontation with the U.S.-backed ISCI.

Among Sadrist rank and file, impatience with the ceasefire is high and growing. They equate it with a loss of power and resources, believe the U.S. and ISCI are conspiring to weaken the movement and eagerly await Muqtada’s permission to resume the fight. The Sadrist leadership has resisted the pressure, but this may not last. Critics accuse Muqtada of passivity or worse, and he soon may conclude that the costs of his current strategy outweigh its benefits. In early February 2008, senior Sadrist officials called upon their leader not to prolong the ceasefire, due to expire later in the month.

So it appears only the good intentions of Al Sadr's Mehdi Army will keep the lull in effect-- Not the small increase in American troops you call "the surge"

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