5 years, 7 months ago
Concerning actions in Sadr City, we have noted before that the emplacement of concrete barriers was initially intended to prohibit the firing of mortar rounds into the Baghdad Green zone, and we recommended pressing the campaign forward into Sadr City proper. There are further reports about the difficulty of completing the wall due to combat operations by the Sadrists in an attempt to prevent its construction.
U.S. troops and Shi’ite militants are clashing daily in Baghdad’s volatile Al-Sadr City as fighters tied to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr try to stop, or at least delay, construction of a 5-kilometer barrier to keep them from firing rockets on the International Zone, the seat of the Iraqi government.
The battleground is a section of Al-Quds Street, a garbage-strewn thoroughfare that separates the Jamilla and Tharwa neighborhoods from the northern heart of the Shi’ite enclave of 2.5 million people. The wall is intended to restrict access to the southern part of Al-Sadr City, from where militants launch rocket attacks on the International Zone.
“You go high, I’ll go low — on the count of three,” a soldier from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, yelled to another on a recent afternoon.
The two were returning fire on snipers from al-Sadr’s Al-Mahdi Army who were hiding in a nearby building and firing on troops constructing the barrier.
Moments later, the two let loose with long volleys of rifle fire at the top and the bottom of a building as other soldiers moved a new section of barrier into place.
Fighting a day later along the wall was so heavy that construction halted — but only for a half-hour — as soldiers poured rifle, machine-gun, and cannon fire on snipers firing from nearby alleyways and building.
The wall consists of 3.7-meter-high concrete slabs, each weighing over 5 tons. Soldiers from the 64th Brigade Support Battalion, a National Guard unit that normally transports water, fuel, and other supplies to soldiers, ferry the barriers using forklift loaders from a nearby staging area and lower them into place with a crane. Soldiers from 1/68 provide security and also help guide the slabs into place. The first slab was placed on April 19, and despite daily ambushes by gunmen, more than 1,000 now stand, meaning the wall is nearly half-completed.
“This is a mission that has to get done, to stop these thugs from firing their rockets and stuff,” says First Sergeant Conrad Gonzales, of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment. “Every day we get attacked, every day we’re putting in barriers. The mission has to go on, it has to be accomplished and we can’t let anyone stop us.”
But regarding Sadr City proper and pressing the campaign forward, Baghdad is bracing for more combat and preparing its citizens to leave the affected areas.
The authorities in Baghdad say they are preparing for an exodus of thousands of people from eastern parts of the city.
Fighting between government and US troops on one side, and Shia militia on the other, has intensified recently.
Two football stadiums are on stand-by to receive residents from two neighbourhoods in the Sadr City area.
The government has warned of an imminent push to clear the areas of members of the MehdiArmy, loyal to the anti-American cleric, Moqtada Sadr.
In the last seven weeks around 1,000 people have died, and more than 2,500 others have been injured, most of them civilians.
The fighting so far in Sadr City has been fierce – street to street, and house to house.
Ed Morrissey presumes much when he says of the operation that “Maliki also wants to end Iran’s influence in Iraq, which caused Iran to cut off security talks with Maliki and the US.” If this is so, then the plan should be fairly straight forward to implement.
We have noted before that many in the Badr organization (SIIC) still receive pension paychecks from Iran, more specifically from the IRGC. In order to defeat Iran within Iraq, Maliki could implement at least (but not limited to) the following steps.
- Force Badr to refuse the acceptance of any more paychecks from Iran.
- Fully integrate them into the Iraqi Security Forces, and more specifically, with Sunni fighters.
- Have the more knowledgeable members point out and target the Iranian smuggling lines by which weapons, money and Iranian intelligence assets are brought into Iraq.
- Have Badr attack these lines and arrest known members of the IRG and Quds (the National Council of Resistance of Iran has a list of several thousand Iranians currently undermining the stability of Iraq, by name). No faction in Iraq will be in a better position to target Iranian forces than Badr. Both numbers 3 and 4 must be results based, not intent based. If results are not achieved, then Badr fails.
- Have members of Badr publicly repudiate Iran and all that it stands for.
These simple actions would go a long way towards neutering the effectiveness of Iran within Iraq. As for Basra which the Iraqi Security Forces were proudly said to “own” after the short campaign there a few weeks ago, perhaps the Sadrists should continue to be targeted, since they recently launched twenty Katyusha rockets towards the Basra airport where the British forces are still hunkered down protecting British forces (note that these rockets are the same as launched by Hezbollah against Israel in the last war – that is, the Hezbollah that is supported and armed by Iran).
Next, U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces can continue to target the Mahdi militia in Sadr City until the campaign is completed. In other words, the campaign in Basra is no more complete than in 2004 when the Marines cleared Fallujah. Fallujah required until 2007 to be completed. Al Qaeda was stronger than the Mahdi militia, and so three years will not be required. But a couple of weeks isn’t sufficient either, as twenty Katyusha rockets in Basra prove. The campaign in Sadr City is just beginning, and proper counterinsurgency (take, hold, security, rebuild, proper governance) will most certainly take longer than weeks, and suggestions that it will be over soon do not comport with professional military doctrine.
Now. Does Maliki really want to end Iran’s influence in Iraq? Time will tell. Patience.