Small Wars Journal

A Baghdad "Awakening" in the Works?

Based on previous "turning the corner" related statements and news items we may have come "full-circle" in Iraq...

• "Ladies and Gentlemen, we got him" -- Dec 03

• "Coalition forces have turned a corner in Anbar" -- Jan 04

• "The insurgency in Iraq is in its last throes" - May 05

• "The insurgency in Iraq is losing steam" -- August 05

• "I think we've turned the corner, if you will" -- December 05

• "I think, in that area, we have turned the corner" -- April 07

• "... we seem to be turning a corner" -- April 07

That said, and if true and not merely anecdotal, this latest development would be significant and contribute much to neutralizing the influence of the Mahdi Army in Baghdad -- much like the Awakening has accomplished concerning Al-Qaeda in Al Anbar.

Relations Sour Between Shiites and Iraq Militia -- Sabrina Tavernese, New York Times

In a number of Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, residents are beginning to turn away from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia they once saw as their only protector against Sunni militants. Now they resent it as a band of street thugs without ideology.

The hardening Shiite feeling in Baghdad opens an opportunity for the American military, which has long struggled against the Mahdi Army, as American commanders rely increasingly on tribes and local leaders in their prosecution of the war.

The sectarian landscape has shifted, with Sunni extremists largely defeated in many Shiite neighborhoods, and the war in those places has sunk into a criminality that is often blind to sect.

In interviews, 10 Shiites from four neighborhoods in eastern and western Baghdad described a pattern in which militia members, looking for new sources of income, turned on Shiites.

The pattern appears less frequently in neighborhoods where Sunnis and Shiites are still struggling for territory. Sadr City, the largest Shiite neighborhood, where the Mahdi Army's face is more political than military, has largely escaped the wave of criminality...

It was a disparate group with one thing in common: All were Shiites killed by Shiites. Residents blamed the Mahdi Army, which controls the neighborhood...


Pragmatic Thinker

Sat, 10/13/2007 - 11:00am

IMHO, Sadr sees the "writing on the wall" and is looking to lay low and out of the lime light as the JAM continue to launch attacks and become public enemy #1 in Baghdad. He is directing his forces to lay-off the sectarian violence and their basic thuggery for the time being. This game is far from over, but I fear near term security calm (perception that Madhi Army is done) coupled with the upcoming elections will empower U.S. politicians to call for early withdrawal and once again the security vacuum will be created and filled with violence. JAM and AQI will continue to be in the American scopes for the near term as Sadr lays low and continues to build his power base, both religiously (which is more powerful than politically) and militarily through recruiting and arming his militias. His six month "relook" is timed with political machinations here in the U.S. as we enter the 12 month countdown to the White House. Should he have been killed when we had the chance? IMO, yes but that isn't to say there wouldn't be some other turd who would have taken his place. -- PT

And what were Mookie's options? It was pretty clear that heads sticking up were getting knocked off, and hyperactive harassers were getting cut down or caged. I think Gen. P. has an end-state in mind in which Sadrism has imploded and ceased to be significant. Since his IQ x Education x Success score is one or two orders of magnitude higher than Mookie's, I know where my money is.

Schmedlap (not verified)

Sat, 10/13/2007 - 12:17am

This coincides with the recent call by Sadr to cease operations of the Mahdi Army while an internal reorganization occurs for a period of up to six months. That followed a relatively sour reaction among most Shia to the violence in Karbala, a few weeks ago, during a pilgrimage there that was blamed on Sadr loyalists. Now we see some kind of ceasefire or similar agreement between Hakim and Sadr.

I'm sure MNC-I and MNF-I have their opinions on these matters, shaped by intelligence and information that we do not have access to and could not likely discuss if we did.

For the rest of us - any opinions on the matter from people who are NOT currently privy to that intel/info? Has Sadr effectively been non-lethally/non-kinetically marginalized to the point that he can no longer exert significant influence over the CoR or cabinet? Has the top tier of Jaysh al-Mahdi lost control of their underlings, to the point that a unified JAM force cannot or will not be reconstituted? In hindsight, was it wise to not kill or capture Sadr?