Here are some more excellent reports on events in Basra, in addition to those I posted yesterday. In the first post, I – IV are links to what seem to me expert opinions. In the second post, #V gives examples of what looks to me like simplistic speculation. In this last post, VI and VII link to valuable background material. The Internet can make us smarter or dumber, depending on how we choose to use it.
The following two articles predate the current troubles, but provide valuable background information on the fragmentation of Iraq, the Mahdi Army and its role in Iraq.
VI. “Debating Devolution in Iraq“, Reidar Visser (10 March 2008) — Reidar Visser is a research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and editor of the Iraq website ww.historiae.org. Excerpt:
April 2008 is the month when the law for implementing federalism — adopted by the Iraqi parliament in October 2006 — comes into effect. For the first time in Iraqi history, areas of the country that desire a special federal status similar to that already enjoyed by Kurdistan may initiate a procedure for transforming themselves from ordinary governorates into “federal regions,” potentially acquiring such privileges as the right to establish local paramilitary forces and the right to negotiate local deals with foreign oil companies.
In order to obtain the rank of federal region, a governorate must hold a referendum in which no less than 50 percent of the electorate votes and a simple majority votes yes. If multiple governorates wish to band together in one federal region, the proposition must pass such a referendum in each province tagged for inclusion. (Only the Baghdad province is prohibited from forming part of a greater federal region.) If one targeted governorate says no, the federal project founders.
VII. “Iraq’s Civil War, the Sadrists and the Surge“, International Crisis Group (7 February 2008) — Excerpt:
The dramatic decline in bloodshed in Iraq – at least until last week’s terrible market bombings in Baghdad – is largely due to Muqtada al-Sadr’s August 2007 unilateral ceasefire. Made under heavy U.S. and Iraqi pressure and as a result of growing discontent from his own Shiite base, Muqtada’s decision to curb his unruly movement was a positive step. But the situation remains highly fragile and potentially reversible.
… The U.S. response – to continue attacking and arresting Sadrist militants, including some who are not militia members; arm a Shiite tribal counterforce in the south to roll back Sadrist territorial gains; and throw its lot in with Muqtada’s nemesis, ISCI – is understandable but short-sighted. The Sadrist movement, its present difficulties aside, remains a deeply entrenched, popular mass movement of young, poor and disenfranchised Shiites. It still controls key areas of the capital, as well as several southern cities; even now, its principal strongholds are virtually unassailable. Despite intensified U.S. military operations and stepped up Iraqi involvement, it is fanciful to expect the Mahdi Army’s defeat. Instead, heightened pressure is likely to trigger both fierce Sadrist resistance in Baghdad and an escalating intra-Shiite civil war in the south.
Muqtada’s motivations aside, his decision opens the possibility of a more genuine and lasting transformation of the Sadrist movement. In the months following his announcement, he sought to rid it of its most unruly members, rebuild a more disciplined and focused militia and restore his own respectability, while promoting core demands – notably, protecting the nation’s sovereignty by opposing the occupation – through legitimate parliamentary means. The challenge is to seize the current opportunity, seek to transform Muqtada’s tactical adjustment into a longer-term strategic shift and encourage the Sadrists’ evolution toward a strictly non-violent political actor.
Please tell us of any sources you have found useful by posting a comment (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).
For more information on this topic
- The Iraq insurgency has ended, which opens a path to peace (13 March 2007) — How the fragmentation of Iraq offers an opportunity for peace.
- Beyond Insurgency: An End to Our War in Iraq (21 September 2007) — The insurgency is over, which is good news for Iraq and for us.
- War porn (25 March 2008) – Discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the war-bloggers’ reporting.
- Archive of links to articles about the Iraq War
- Our Goals and Benchmarks for the Expedition to Iraq