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April 03, 2008

Round and Round We Go
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

So, I was at a great Center for American Progress panel yesterday with journalists Nir Rosen and Michael Ware.  They have been in Iraq for most of the last five years and get the perspective on the ground the we don't usually hear about here.  Ware said something that just totally blew my mind. 

The Badr Organization is the military arm of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI previously known as SCIRI).  Now ISCI is closely aligned with Maliki government and is arguably the most significant player in the current central government.  In fact significant elements of the Badr Organization have been incorporated into the Iraqi Security Forces.

Now, here is where things start to break down.  The Badr Organization (Originally called the Badr Brigades) was originally formed by Iran.  But according to Ware many of its members were considered to be part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.  And many of them are now considered to be retirees of the IRGC.  Which means…wait for it... wait for it...

They still get pensions from the IRGC!!  But it gets better.  The Bush Administration has classified the IRGC as a terrorist organization!!

So, just so that we’re clear on this.  We are building an army full of people who are still getting pension payments from an organization that the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization.  And we are basing our entire future in Iraq on that army.  Not only that, but when this army decides it’s going to take out its major opponent for power as it did last week, and doesn’t even tell us about it, we still back it up with air power and American troops as it stumbles.  And then we tell everybody that this is a good sign.  And then Fred Hiatt agrees.


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Not only that, but when this army decides it’s going to take out its major opponent for power as it did last week, and doesn’t even tell us about it, we still back it up with air power and American troops as it stumbles.

This notion that the Iraqi Army didn't tell us about the assault on Basra is just not true, and not even the embarrassed American officials in Iraq are making this claim. Could we please stop with the myth-making?

The Americans say that the plan Maliki implemented is not exactly the plan that American and Iraqi officials jointly developed over the previous weeks to "quell disorder" in Basra. They suggest he accelerated the timetable and "lunged in" before sufficient reinforcements had arrived. Nevertheless Petraeus discussed the joint plan with Maliki's national security adviser on March 21st, and then met with Maliki himself on the morning of the 22nd. Maliki requested air support for the assault, which he was of course given.

It seems to me that we are getting a good deal of double-talk around the word "plan" from Americans in Iraq who are eager to save face following an operation that did not go so well. They could say that there was just one plan, jointly developed by the Iraqis and the Americans, but that the Americans have some criticisms about Maliki's timing and poor execution of the plan. Or they could take the line that there were two different "plans": the American-Iraqi joint plan, which was no doubt totally awesome and amazing, and the Maliki plan, which was not so great.

Either way, the claim that this whole thing was just some sort of big surprise sprung by Maliki with no advance American-Iraqi preparations just will not hold water, and is not born out by the journalistic record.

As a matter of fact, I've got the whole thing on tape from Dick "Big OIl" Cheney's visit to Baghdad a week before the bungled assault.

CHENEY: "Look, Basra is the key to Iraq because it is the center of their oil industry. The Brits have turned tail -- it's time for action. McConnell tells me that the Sadrists are splintered, with their leader in Iran. Crocker tells me we need a sign of Iraqi initiative, Bob Gates says that the Iraqi army he's been touting is good to go, and Petraeus is ready to back them up. Turn the puppet loose -- just do it!"

This is the beginning of the end-game. Iran has won a strategic victory to control the people and the natural resources of southern Iraq.


Not only that, but when this army decides it’s going to take out its major opponent for power as it did last week, and doesn’t even tell us about it...


Petraeus and Crocker are now claiming that they were told about this three days before the assault. So it is incorrect to say that the Iraqi government didn't "even tell us about it."

And keep in mind, Petraeus (according to the New York Times article quoting military sources) had been working with the Iraqis on a plan to assault the Sadrists in Basra for weeks or months. The problem, according to Petraeus, is that Maliki didn't follow the plan, and went in prematurely.

Your colleague Patrick Barry posted on this yesterday.

success has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan

absolutely it is part of america's plan to deliver the oil region of iraq to iran's proxies (badr brigades, the armed wing of the iraqi governemt) in iraq. the reason for this is they ,isci, are the federalist faction of the shiites as opposed to sadr, the nationalist who is AGAINST oil privatization (unlike isci who are ready to play ball w/our oil companies) and are AGAINST separating iraq into separate regions.

the upcoming elections spell disaster for the US goal because madhi army (sadr) is by far the largest militia in iraq supported by the majority of shia, ie, the majority of the majority. the US very much wants to crush them NOW, prior to the elections, as do the badr brigades, who, as i mentioed earlier make up the vast majority of the iraqi army and were formed and trained in iran who's many leaders lived there during the iraq/iran war.

the absurdity the US was 'surprised' could only be wool pulled over the eyes of a very uninformed US public, for as you may or may not know, the US has been airbombing sadr city and other sadr locals an just last night killed for of their policeman. (the official ones, most iraqi police are mahdi).

"This is the beginning of the end-game. Iran has won a strategic victory to control the people and the natural resources of southern Iraq."

I agree with the first half of that comment - that the idea the US government knew nothing of this offensive until it happened is ludicrous. They were praising it to the skies when it had barely started, and only started distancing themselves from it much later. They may even have been the prime movers rather than Maliki.

But... this isn't a territorial victory for Iran over the south. You have to remember the US and Iran are on the same side here, with Maliki's coalition. They just lost to Sadr. The idea that the Sadrists are an "Iranian-backed militia" is pure propaganda. Iran just lost too, in theory. But unlike the US, Iran have got some pretty good consolation prizes out of this.

1) They made the US look stupid by using the Revolutionary Guards as ceasefire brokers under their noses (going by past form, the US probably wanted fighting to continue to annihilation or victory, unlike Iran who would probably like Sadr on their side at some point)
2) The fight resulted in all the Sadrist sympathisers leaving the Iraqi Army, and all the pro-Iran Badr militia being integrated with it. The Iraqi Army is now almost exclusively made up of fighters from pro-Iran factions, a fact which would almost certainly cause enormous problems for the US in the event of any US/Iran war.
3) Remaining US supporters in the Maliki coalition (including perhaps Maliki himself) will have been massively weakened by this defeat, especially if it in fact was the US that suggested the whole disastrous idea. This will further increase Iranian influence over the Iraqi Government and Iraqi Army at US expense.

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