“normalcy is returning back to Iraq,”, George Bush, March 27, 2008
U.S. armor forces join offensive in Baghdad against Sadr militia
U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in Sadr City, the vast Shiite stronghold in eastern Baghdad, as an offensive to quell party-backed militias entered its third day. Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the area as American troops took the lead in the fighting.
Four U.S. Stryker armored vehicles were seen in Sadr City by a Washington Post correspondent, one of them engaging Mahdi Army militiamen with heavy fire. The din of American weapons, along with the Mahdi Army’s AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, was heard through much of the day. U.S. helicopters and drones buzzed overhead.
The clashes suggested that American forces were being drawn more deeply into a broad offensive that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, launched in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, saying death squads, criminal gangs and rogue militias were the targets. The Mahdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite rival of Maliki, appeared to have taken the brunt of the attacks; fighting spread to many southern cities and parts of Baghdad.
Iraqi police in Basra shed their uniforms, kept their rifles and switched sides
Abu Iman barely flinched when the Iraqi Government ordered his unit of special police to move against al-Mahdi Army fighters in Basra.
His response, while swift, was not what British and US military trainers who have spent the past five years schooling the Iraqi security forces would have hoped for. He and 15 of his comrades took off their uniforms, kept their government-issued rifles and went over to the other side without a second thought.
Such turncoats are the thread that could unravel the British Army’s policy in southern Iraq. The military hoped that local forces would be able to combat extremists and allow the Army to withdraw gradually from the battle-scarred and untamed oil city that has fallen under the sway of Islamic fundamentalists, oil smugglers and petty tribal warlords. But if the British taught the police to shoot straight, they failed to instil a sense of unwavering loyalty to the State.
Iraqi leader extends date for militias to disarm
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki today extended a deadline for militiamen battling government troops to disarm as fighters show no signs of ending their standoff with Iraqi forces.
Four days after Maliki deployed Iraqi troops in the southern city of Basra to quell violence by Shiite Muslim militiamen, clashes continued. His decision to extend what had been a three-day disarmament deadline, set to expire Saturday, until April 8 was a sign of the resistance he faces from militiamen loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr.
Warlord vs. warlord
The fighting in Basra, which has spread to parts of Baghdad, is not a clash between good and evil or between a legitimate government and an outlaw insurgency. Rather, as Anthony Cordesman, military analyst for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, writes, it is “a power struggle” between rival “Shiite party mafias” for control of the oil-rich south and other Shiite sections of the country.
Both sides in this struggle are essentially militias. Both sides have ties to Iran. And as for protecting “the Iraqi people,” the side backed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (and by U.S. air power) has, ironically, less support—at least in many Shiite areas, including Basra—than the side that he (and we) are attacking.
The surge is not sustainable: Augustus Richard Norton explains why
Augustus Richard Norton, a combat veteran and retired Army colonel, taught at West Point for more than 12 years and is now a professor of anthropology and international relations at Boston University. I spoke with Norton–who was an expert adviser to the Iraq Study Group–earlier today about the situation in Iraq. Here’s his take on the situation…
Bob Casey to endorse Obama, join bus tour
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey plans to endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president today in Pittsburgh, sending a message both to the state’s primary voters and to undecided superdelegates who might decide the close race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Dan Pfeiffer, deputy communications director for the Obama campaign, confirmed that Casey would announce his support during a rally at the Soldiers and Sailors Military Museum and Memorial and that he would then set out with the Illinois senator on part of a six-day bus trip across the state.
The endorsement comes as something of a surprise. Casey, a deliberative and cautious politician, had been adamant about remaining neutral until after the April 22 primary. He had said he wanted to help unify the party after the intensifying fight between Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Flashback: Wright’s letter to NYT about Obama
Thank you for engaging in one of the biggest misrepresentations of the truth I have ever seen in sixty-five years. You sat and shared with me for two hours. You told me you were doing a “Spiritual Biography” of Senator Barack Obama. For two hours, I shared with you how I thought he was the most principled individual in public service that I have ever met.
For two hours, I talked with you about how idealistic he was. For two hours I shared with you what a genuine human being he was. I told you how incredible he was as a man who was an African American in public service, and as a man who refused to announce his candidacy for President until Carol Moseley Braun indicated one way or the other whether or not she was going to run.
I told you what a dreamer he was. I told you how idealistic he was. We talked about how refreshing it would be for someone who knew about Islam to be in the Oval Office. Your own question to me was, Didn’t I think it would be incredible to have somebody in the Oval Office who not only knew about Muslims, but had living and breathing Muslims in his own family? I told you how important it would be to have a man who not only knew the difference between Shiites and Sunnis prior to 9/11/01 in the Oval Office, but also how important it would be to have a man who knew what Sufism was; a man who understood that there were different branches of Judaism; a man who knew the difference between Hasidic Jews, Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews and Reformed Jews; and a man who was a devout Christian, but who did not prejudge others because they believed something other than what he believed.