Small Wars Journal

The War over the War

The War over the War w/ Tom Ricks - Washington Post online discussion on 1 April.

As the experts poke the ashes, I think the emerging consensus is that Moqtada al-Sadr won more than he lost, because he and the government agreed to a cease-fire. That makes him 3 for 3 in taking on state powers (the U.S. in the previous two rounds, and now the Baghdad government). If nothing else, this guy is a survivor.

What puzzles me most is the role Iran played, especially in ending the fighting. There are lots of rumors that it brokered the ceasefire, but I have seen nothing definitive. If it did, that indicates that the Tehran government felt it had something to lose through the fighting. I have been told by U.S. officials that the Iranians were taken aback by intra-Shiite combat in Iraq last year around Karbala. I don't know why they would be surprised: It seems to me that one of the obstacles to major political movement in Iraq is that the Shiites still haven't sorted themselves out.

The other international actor of interest is Britain. They have 4,000 troops at the airport on the outskirts of Basra. You wouldn't know it, would you? (By the way, the British defense minister, Des Browne, said today that he is putting on hold a plan to further cut the British troop strength. Why? Seems kind of meaningless to me.) Nance's subhed: "It's Always Tea Time at Basrah Airport."

At any rate, the phrase that keeps coming back to me is one I heard last year from a diplomat: If you want to know what Baghdad will look like eventually, look at Basra now.

Now let's get to your questions...

Marc Lynch at Abu Aardvark and Malcolm Nance at Small Wars Journal Blog are quoted by Tom.