Iraq: Iran Takes A Beating



April 6, 2008: The battles with the Shia militias resulted in neighborhoods close to the Baghdad coming back under government control. U.S. forces have been helping with clearing these areas of any weapons or lingering gangsters. With that, the Shia terrorists now have a much more difficult time getting close enough to use mortars or rockets. The longer range 122mm (20 kilometers, versus six kilometers for the 107mm weapons and mortars) rockets can still reach the Green Zone from areas still controlled by militia groups, but few of these larger (nine feet long and 150 pounds) rockets have been encountered.


The Mahdi army lost 571 killed, 881 wounded, 490 captured, and 30 surrendered, in a week of fighting. The army and police lost over 500 to desertions, which is a much lower percentage of these losses than in previous operations. One of the army brigades had only recently finished training. To everyone's surprise, the brigade did not fall apart. The Mahdi army lost far more in terms of neighborhoods controlled, weapons, vehicles and popular support. While many of the Mahdi army factions have turned into gangsters, the ones that have caused the most ill-will are Islamic radicals. These lads wander around harassing and attacking people who say or do things the fanatics consider un-Islamic. This is what goes on in Iran, and Iraqis know it and Iraqis don't want it.


Behind the scenes, negotiations continue with Iranian officials and leaders of the various Shia militias. The government has demonstrated that it now has much more powerful security forces, and, more importantly, the political will to fight, and defeat, the militias. That's a major change, and the Iranians have to deal with a major loss of influence in Iraq. The amnesty for militia members is drawing hundreds of takers.  


April 5, 2008: A tip led to the discovery of a major al Qaeda headquarters (for terrorist operations in three provinces) on an island in the Tigris river 125 kilometers north of Baghdad. The bunker was large enough for 30 men to live there, and contained over 1,500 weapons and bomb making supplies. Terrorist attacks throughout the country continue to decline.


April 1, 2008: The fighting against the Shia militias has caused a 31 percent increase (over February) in civilian deaths (923) for March. Another 1,358 civilians were wounded. Another 159 dead were security forces, while the Shia militias lost 571 dead.


March 31, 2008: Someone fired a few rockets into the Green Zone, causing property damage, but no casualties. It's unclear if they were fired by Shia or Sunni groups. Not all Mahdi Army factions are happy with the order to comply with a cease fire and, in effect, allow the army and police to move into areas the government has not controlled for years.


March 30, 2008:  In the north, two days of Turkish artillery fire and aerial bombings have killed at least fifteen PKK rebels along the Turkish border.


Muqtada al Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army to stop fighting and to allow food and other supplies to get to over a million civilians trapped in their homes for a week. The government lifted the curfew in Shia areas so supplies could move. The police used the ceasefire to continue searching for and arresting leaders of Shia militias.


March 29, 2008: Five days of fighting with Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army is actually a well rehearsed and planned attack on dozens of different militia organizations that, to one degree or another, are part of the Mahdi Army. The factionalism within the Mahdi Army is the main reason for this widespread attack (in Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad, throughout Basra and in Nasiriyah, Kut and Hilla. The police and army has been preparing for this operation since late last year. There was very little aid from American or British forces during the first few days of the attacks. While some police and army units stumbled, the operation succeeded in chasing militias out of nearly every area attacked.