It's getting increasingly difficult to discern the true story of events going on in Iraq. Is the operation in Basrah a massive failure, or a success? Is al-Maliki fighting an enemy he can't handle, or is he acting as the executive of a free nation should?
I can't honestly tell you because I'm not there. Part of the reason its difficult to figure everything out is because the news reports coming in are massively conflicting. Take a look at these articles, for example. Bill Roggio's report from the Long War Journal is considerably more "factual" in tone while reporting more positive information, while the AP calls the situation a "mounting crisis".
Here's a taste of the cherry picking that's going on (emphasis mine):
Anti-American Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers Saturday to defy government orders to surrender their weapons, as U.S. jets struck Shiite extremists near Basra to bolster a faltering Iraqi offensive against gunmen in the city.But to my eyes, Sadr's government-defying order was actually a form of pseudo-surrender:
Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who is in Basrah supervising Operation Knights' Assault, has given the Mahdi Army 72 hours to lay down their weapons. "We are not going to chase those who hand over their weapons within 72 hours," Maliki said. "If they do not surrender their arms, the law will follow its course."I've never heard of someone who is winning crying "uncle" -- certainly not someone who has shown repeatedly to have no compunctions about the shedding of his follower's blood, as Sadr has.
Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army and the Sadrist movement, is calling for an end to the fighting, according to a statement released by Hazem al Aaraji, a close aide to Sadr. He called for "everyone to pursue political solutions and peaceful protests and a stop to the shedding of Iraqi blood."
His reason for waving a gray flag is apparent in Roggio's dispatch, but is curiously absent from any of the AP reports: 120 Mahdi army members killed, 450 wounded, another 218 captured -- and the strength of the Iraqi army presence in Basrah has been elevated to over 15,000. US forces have killed an additional 68 Mahdi soldiers in Baghdad, with similar body counts all over the country. He's not worried about shedding Iraqi blood; he's tired of the bloodshed being one-sided!
To make matters worse for the Mahdi militia, Al-Maliki is actually in Basrah, supporting his troops. And Sadr? He's a non-entity in this struggle, relying on his headquarters in Najaf to make his announcements via press release.
Maliki has given a 72 hour ultimatum for the Madhi army to lay down its arms. I'm curious to see how the situation unfolds.
Keep your anti-American propaganda filters up, kids -- this is shaping up to be another media battle a-la Tet offensive.