As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

What Now In Iraq?

Even though a cease-fire between Shiite groups has been established, that hasn't stopped Commander Maliki.

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi soldiers rolled through a Shiite militia stronghold in Basra on Wednesday, drawing scattered bombs and bullets that wounded a camera operator for a U.S.-funded TV station and narrowly missed the commander of government troops in the city.

Followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr accused the army of violating an Iranian-brokered agreement that ended last week's fighting, which erupted in Basra and quickly engulfed Baghdad and major cities of the Shiite south.

Those complaints raised concern that fighting could flare again as the Iraqi government and Shiite militias maneuver for control of Basra — the country's oil capital 340 miles southeast of Baghdad and a major commercial center of 2 million people.

Iraqi troops met no significant resistance as a dozen-vehicle convoy drove Wednesday into the Hayaniyah district of central Basra, scene of fierce clashes last week with al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters.

Troops set up checkpoints and searched a few houses before leaving the neighborhood after a couple of hours, witnesses said.

To me that signals that this cease-fire won't hold, especially after Maliki rented all those Iranian-backed Badr Brigade and ISCI militia to join the Iraqi security forces. This makes a mockery of the least well-known Kagan's article in the WSJ today, calling for a new Iran-Iraq war, when that would involve the Iraqi Army going after itself.

It's extremely unclear where the United States goes from here, outside of getting out. The military has proven itself incapable of bringing disparate factions in Iraq together or holding down violence. They are witness to events rather than controlling them. The Iraqi Army has proven themselves incapable of any major offensives or dealing with the tribal militias. Iran is clearly the victor and the nation with the most influence on all Shiite groups in the country.

Next week David Petraeus will appear before Congressional committees, and while I'd rather hold a policymaker responsible to answer these questions, Mother Jones has a good number of questions from national security experts that ought to be asked. There are some more questions here and they provide a good understanding into how the non-Bush-apologists in the national security community see Iraq and what our options are (note: they're limited).

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