18 December 2006
Americans may be preparing to take on Sadr's militia
It seems likely that a consensus has been reached in Washington that would allow the Chimp to order a surge in troop numbers to Iraq. The plan is to take full control of Baghdad, send in the assistance teams to buy off the Iraqis with goodies and then use the puppet Iraqi army to hold off the insurgents in the rest of the country. For that to happen the army will have to be bolstered with several thousand advisers, but let's not get too far ahead of the game.: this wheeze is likely to fail at the first hurdle.
The reason is that to take control of Baghdad the Americans are going to have to fight Moktada al-Sadr's militia which numbers anything up to 60,000 men. To make matters even more risible, that militia has a heavy influence over the police, interior ministry and puppet army - and may very well be able to call on those forces in a showdown with the American occupiers.
Even if they can't, 60,000 men are well prepared in the slum that is Sadr City. The American army is well trained, well equipped and very mobile: that is what allows the USA to win its conventional wars. So why allow those advantages to be discounted by fighting a brutal slogging match in the alleys of Baghdad?
The answer must be hubris: the Americans will fight in the city because they think that they can win. Funnily enough, the Germans thought the same thing which is why they invested Stalingrad. . .
Even assuming that the rest of Iraq sits back and watches the Mahdi Army go down to a glorious defeat - and that is a very big if in the case of the Shia - then there is no evidence to suggest that once the Americans have licked their wounds the Sunni guerrillas won't be waiting for them in their strongholds. And those guerrillas have proven that they are not stupid enough to taske on the Americans face to face. After sadr City comes the old slog of guerrilla warfare with its ambushes and roadside bombs. The much weakened Americans may find that all they have done is remove from the scene the one Shia force that could have stood up to the post-occupation Sunni irregulars.
Thus in a roundabout way the Americans will have prevented a civil war in Iraq. They defeat Sadr's forces, and the guerrillas then bleed them until they are forced to leave. Then the guerrillas march into the Green Zone, raise their flag and start hanging any collaberators who are still around.
The Exile doens't think much of this wheeze.