Basra? I Hardly Know Her

Mahdi Army holds firm as Iraqi PM risks all in battle of Basra – Times Online

THE arrival of the Iraqi army supported by US warplanes did little to dent the defiance of Abu Sajad and his 22 comrades in a Shi’ite militia cell holed up in a mosque in Basra.Alerted by a mobile phone call to the arrival of US military reinforcements, Abu Sajad calmly selected eight fighters and dispatched them to plant roadside bombs packed into red plastic fruit crates.

“We are to plant them throughout the Qaziza neighbourhood to welcome the army when they try to enter the area,” he told his men. He sent the bombers away on scooters and motorcycles which, he explained, were “quicker to move and less conspicuous . . . We have a great surprise for the army”.

As night fell after a fifth day of heavy fighting around Basra yesterday, Iraqi forces controlled by Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, were still struggling to subdue renegade Shi’ite fighters whose shifting loyalties and challenges to Baghdad rule have begun to pose a serious threat to American and British strategy.

Ze fight.  It continues.  What is being fought over has become more clear.

al-Maliki is fighting for relevance.  Which lets al-Sadr fight for peace, like a good boy.

BAGHDAD: The Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr said Sunday that he was pulling his fighters off the streets of Iraq and called on the government to stop raids against his followers and to free those it had arrested.

“Because of religious responsibility and to stop Iraqi blood being shed,” Sadr said in a nine-point statement given to journalists in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, “we call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and all other provinces.”

The message was broadcast by loudspeakers on mosques. Followers handed out candies in the Mahdi army militia stronghold of Sadr City here. Sadr’s offices in several southern cities also said they would comply with the order.

[full story]

Hmm, at least we know who is fighting for what…for the moment.  Updates on the resolution coming soon.   Yes, this is a pre-amble to the inevitable civil war Iraq gets to have.

In A Real World With a Free Press…

U.S. Armor Forces Join Offensive In Baghdad Against Sadr Militia –

BAGHDAD, March 28 — U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in the vast Shiite stronghold of Sadr City and U.S. aircraft bombed militant positions in the southern city of Basra, as the American role in a campaign against party-backed militias appeared to expand. Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the Sadr City fighting, as American troops took the lead.

…this would be the lead story for weeks. Back on my planet, when we engaged in such bloody (oily) fighting, the hov-cams would be on location for weeks. They’d even be all over the salvage wars.

Funny how none of this violence makes it to the screens of a violence-obsess culture. Really funny. I laugh myself to sleep about it twice a week.

As President Bush told an Ohio audience that Iraq was returning to “normalcy,” administration officials in Washington held meetings to assess what appeared to be a rapidly deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country.

American forces were involved in approximately a dozen firefights on Thursday in Baghdad alone, with fighting spread across six neighborhoods, according to information released by the U.S. military Friday morning. U.S. ground patrols in areas like Kadhamiyah and New Baghdad repeatedly came under attack from small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, responding with their own weapons and in one case calling in helicopter support. In that incident, the helicopter fired a hellfire missile into a group of militants that had attacked U.S. troops manning a checkpoint in Kadhamiyah, killing three of them. When the militants renewed their attack, the helicopter returned and killed 10 more using a 30mm gun, according to a U.S. military release.

Bush was right about one thing this week, Iraq is returning to normalcy.  The normalcy of war and occupation.  The normalcy of chaos.