Peace offers are for losers

The pro-war blogosphere is full of the news of Sadr’s defeat in the battle for Basra, manifested in his call for a truce, an end to government raids and the release of all prisoners. Here’s a roundup of the links from Glenn Reynolds. Reynolds, who has chronicled Sadr’s decline into irrelevance from 2004 to the present, is a bit more circumspect than he has been in the past, saying “it’s likely a blink, not a major defeat.”, but most of the bloggers he links to are unrestrained in their triumph.

Among the points I’ve picked up, illustrating the magnitude of the victory

* The number of Iraqi police and military who have defected to Sadr has been much exaggerated, and most of them were bad lots anyway

* The body count ratio looks really good

* Attacks on the Green Zone are a desperate fling, easily countered by staying indoors and wearing full body armor at all times

* The proportion of Basra controlled by the Mehdi Army has not increased much since the conflict began

* The proportion of Basra controlled by militias and criminal gangs (approximately 100 per cent) has not increased at all since the conflict began

* Much of the ground lost by the government elsewhere in Iraq has been recaptured

* The fact that the purported basis of the government’s action (an attack on criminal elements peripherally associated with various militias), endorsed by the US, is a transparent fiction, covering an attempt by one set of militias to weaken another, hasn’t worried anyone too much

* Allowing for the necessity of air attacks on densely populated areas, civilian casualties have been modest, ensuring the the popularity of the US and British forces will increase still further

* Maliki is still in Basra, proving the failure of Sadr’s attempts to oust him

But the crucial point underlying all of the argument is, that, simply by offering a truce, Sadr has proved he isn’t winning. After all, peace offers are for losers.

32 thoughts on “Peace offers are for losers

  1. Puzzled by this thread;is it supposed to be ironic? The idea of Maliki coming out a winner is not supported by the facts. He had to broker a deal with the Mahdi army and reports I have read say…… Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran’s Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations, members of the Iraqi parliament said.

    The Qom discussions may or may not bring an end to the fighting but they almost certainly have undermined Maliki – who made repeated declarations that there would be no negotiations and that he would treat as outlaws those who did not turn in their weapons for cash. The blow to his own credibility was worsened by the fact that members of his own party had helped organize the Iran initiative…
    So what is the story?

  2. Sadr is heading a band of militias and having lost badly surrendered.

    Shorter Rog: “I don’t understand the Sadrist movement at all.”

  3. The UK government today announced a delay in pulling troops out of Basra, if I heard the Scotch Defence Minister on the 7am ABC FM news correctly. This is clearly a further sign that ‘we’ are winning in Irak?

  4. Rog: Sadr is heading a band of militias and having lost badly surrendered.

    The Maliki government initiated the fight by demanding that the Sadrists hand over their positions and their weapons.

    The Maliki government achieved absolutely none of its objectives.

    What did the Sadrists “surrender” they kept their positions, maintaining effectively control of around 80% of Baghdad and all of Basra, they kept all their weapons and the mass defections of Iraqi troops and police (along with their weapons) may well mean they’ve come out even stronger than before.

    As for SAdr leading “a band of militias” he also leads a political movement that controls several provincial governments; is one of the largest parties in the Federal Parliament and controsl several national Ministries.

    Plus upon the death of Grand Ayatollah Sistani he’s probably posed to take effective (if not nominal) control of the Shai religious heirarchy.

    To quote from this week’s Time magazinr:,8599,1726763,00.html

    “The Iraqi military’s offensive in Basra was supposed to demonstrate the power of the central government in Baghdad. Instead it has proven the continuing relevance of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi Army, stood its ground in several days of heavy fighting with Iraqi soldiers backed up by American and British air power. But perhaps more important than the manner in which the militia fought is the manner in which it stopped fighting. On Sunday Sadr issued a call for members of the Mahdi Army to stop appearing in the streets with their weapons and to cease attacks on government installations. Within a day, the fighting had mostly ceased. It was an ominous answer to a question posed for months by U.S. military observes: Is Sadr still the leader of a unified movement and military force? The answer appears to be yes.

    That apparent authority is in marked contrast to the weakness of Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. He traveled south to Basra with his security ministers to supervise the operation personally. After a few days of intense fighting he extended his previously announced deadline for surrender and offered militants cash in exchange for their weapons. Yet in the cease-fire announcement the militia explicitly reserved the right to hold onto its weapons. And the very fact of the cease-fire flies in the face of Maliki’s proclamation that there would be no negotiations. It is Maliki, and not Sadr, who now appears militarily weak and unable to control elements of his own political coalition.

    Sadr, in fact, finds himself in a perfect position: both in politics and out of it, part of the establishment and yet anti-establishment. Despite the fighting, he never pulled his allies out of the government or withdrew his support from Maliki in Parliament, which he could have done. Nor did he demand that all his followers leave Parliament and work outside the current political system. He has kept his hand in as a hedge.

    Sadr has proven increasingly adept at politics. Last summer, he ordered his hand-picked ministers out of Maliki’s cabinet after the Prime Minister refused to demand a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops. To the public, it looked like he was taking a principled stand against the occupation. But the boycott did nothing to dilute his influence in the government. All the ministries his party once headed are still staffed to the gills with his followers, who continue to create jobs for other loyalists and operate Sadr’s growing political machine. Sadr is, in addition to being a military force, a source of political patronage.”

    If that’s a victory for Maliki, I’d hate to see a defeat.

    At this point, Sadr has pretty much demonstrated he can withstand anything except a direct full-scale ground offensive by US forces – which isn’t going to happen.

    He’s also in a position to probably become the leader of the largest political party in Parliament after the next elections, due in a few months time.

    AT this point, he pretty much just has to sit still and wait for two things to happen – the Americans to leave and Sistani to die.

    Expect the Americans to switch to trying to reconcile him now, because they have no realistic alternative.

  5. There is a lot of opinion on this and nothing is very clear; if Sadr had continued fighting a split in the Shia bloc would have developed yet his men were provoked by Maliki.

    Sadr has reidentified himself as a leader of the rogue elements – this may go against his band come election time. Maliki is no saint either but somehow the govt must win – rogue elements and militias plague Iraq. One thing is clear – the withdrawal of the British troops led to instability in the still weak central government.

  6. Sadr has reidentified himself as a leader of the rogue elements – this may go against his band come election time. Maliki is no saint either but somehow the govt must win – rogue elements and militias plague Iraq.

    “Rogue element”?

    You can see from this reference that the Sadrists make/made up the biggest single bloc in the government alliance (if compensatory seats are not taken into account).

    Simply put Maliki cannot pass any contentious measure through Parliament unless the Sadrists agree to it.

    And Sadr’s parliamentary influence can only grow.

    The Sadrist movement isn’t going away. If Iraq is to be governed by parliamentary democracy, then Sadrists will help to determine the future of Iraq.

    But that’s a big if…

    Of course, the fate of South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem, assassinated in 1963 with a CIA nod and a wink, may be the fate of any leader, including Maliki, who may cosy up too much to the Sadrists.

    Whom does Maliki fear more, Sadr or Bush?

  7. Maliki’s credibility seems to wane with every day that passes since this incident began.

    “Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has ordered a stop to all operations against “people who carry weapons” in the country. This comes a day after he promised to continue to pursue criminals and outlaws in all provinces.”

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