Small Wars Journal

Maliki's Missteps and What We Know / Don't Know

Max Boots warns against being "overly sophisticated" in analyzing recent events concerning Iraqi army assault on militias in Basra in a post today at Commentary's Contentions blog.

... Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies writes that the "fighting, which the government portrays as a crackdown on criminality, is better seen as a power grab, an effort by Mr. Maliki and the most powerful Shiite political parties to establish their authority over Basra and the parts of Baghdad."

Vali Nasr of Tufts University says "that [Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki is completely irrelevant. The real show is between Hakim and Sadr." That would be Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and its militia, the Badr Organization, and Moqtada al-Sadr, head of the Sadr Trend and its militia, the Jaish al Mahdi...

Whatever motives may lie behind his action (and what politician does not take politics into account when making any decision?), he has right on his side. Militias have been the bane of Iraq since 2003, and nowhere more so than in Basra, where the failure of British forces to keep the peace ceded control of this vital port to warring groups of thugs. Ordinary Iraqis are thoroughly sick of these desperados and anxious for their elected leaders to get rid of them. That is what Maliki has tried to do in Basra, and he should be applauded for his willingness to take on not just Sunni but also Shiite militias...

Much more.

Over at the American Enterprise Institute Frederick and Kimberly Kagan discuss what we know and what we don't know about recent Iraqi operations against illegal Shia militias.

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...

Read the summary.