Remember when, in 2001 after Kabul fell, we read all those stories about newly liberated Afghanis happily flying kites and listening to crappy pop music? Well, now it’s happening in Basra! The narrative is familiar: local democratic forces bravely defeat Islamist thugs with just a teeny bit of American help from the air. And everyone lives happily everafter — until the thugs stage a spectacular comeback and the music stops again.
I’m no expert in Shia politics, but I smell a rat here. Was it really this easy to take the Sadrists out of the equation? Are the blood feuds now over? Where do ISCI and Fadhila stand in all this?
Also, I’m left wondering why the operation is heralded as an Iraqi success even though, according to NYT:
Iraqi commanders acknowledge that the American and British support helped them wrest control of Mahdi Army strongholds like Hayyaniyah — a slum that is Basra’s equivalent of Sadr City — and other poor districts that are fertile recruiting grounds for militias.
The way I remember it, the offensive would have turned into a debacle, had coalition air power not come to the rescue. And as to the 800 American “advisors” embedded with Iraqi units, their role remains a mystery. An American civilian working in Basra I met in Kuwait told me he’d been rescued by “the Marines and the 101st Airborne”. Probably not, but no doubt some Americans were there.
More of the cheapo “fun and music” narrative here:
“Music and weddings in Basra, for now” Reuters
“The men in black vanish and Basra comes to life” The Times
“Iraq army in ‘full control of Basra'” News.com.au
“Basra’s ‘dark ages’ lifting as hard-line grip weakens” Associated Press