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Friday, March 28, 2008

Battle of the Basra

U.S. jets drop bombs in Basra.

Shiite militants also clashed with government forces for a fourth day in Iraq's oil-rich south and sporadic fighting broke out in Baghdad, despite a weekend curfew in the capital.

Sheik Al-Sadr yesterday called for a political solution to the burgeoning crisis and an end to the "shedding of Iraqi blood." But the statement, released by a close aide, stopped short of ordering his Mahdi Army militia to halt attacks.
Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal gives a brief history of this latest violence brought on by 'rogue' elements of Sadr's mahdi militia - Iran's proxy army in Southern Iraq.
Sadr's Mahdi Army has been formed by Iran's Qods Force along the lines of Lebanese Hezbollah. Imad Mugniyah, the senior Hezbollah military commander who was killed in Syria in February, was among those behind the formation and training of the Mahdi Army. Iran established the Ramazan Corps to run weapons, fighters, and support to the Special Groups, which include significant elements of Sadr's Mahdi Army.

Basrah has seen an uptick in Iranian-backed terror activity since the British withdrew from the city late last year. Political assassinations and intimidation campaigns have been on the rise as the Iranians work to extend their influence in the oil-rich city.

The Sadrist Bloc, the political arm of the Mahdi Army, has boycotted Parliament and called for general strike and civil disobedience. Muqtada al Sadr has not officially withdrawn from the self-imposed cease-fire. Mahdi Army forces have also launched mortar and rocket attacks at US and Iraqi bases in Baghdad.

The US is providing intelligence, combat support, and air assets to back Iraqi security forces in Basrah and along the Iranian border. US forces are also actively hunting the Mahdi Army cells in Baghdad conducting the mortar and rocket attacks. The clashes with the Mahdi Army come just weeks after Muqtada al Sadr admitted failure in Iraq.

Jules Crittendon in Forward Movement has a round up from around the net of 'Sadr Tidings'.
Disarming illegal militias is a legitimate act of government. Hard to know the answers to all the questions at this distance, and neither the reporting nor analysis is that good. But here it is: