2 04 2008

Oops, wrong corner…from the Asia Times…

Muqtada’s fight puts US to flight
By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON – As it became clear last week that “Operation Knights Assault” in Basra in south Iraq was in serious trouble, the George W Bush administration began to claim in off-the-record statements to journalists that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had launched the operation without consulting Washington.

The effort to disclaim US responsibility for the operation in which government forces battled with the Shi’ite – Mahdi Army – militias is an indication that it was viewed as a major embarrassment just as top commander General David Petraeus and ambassador Ryan Crocker are about to testify before Congress.

Behind this furious backpedaling is a major Bush administration miscalculation about Muqtada and his Mahdi Army, which the administration believed was no longer capable of a coordinated military operation. It is now apparent that Muqtada and the Mahdi Army were holding back because they were in the process of retraining and reorganization, not because Muqtada had given up the military option or had lost control of the Mahdi Army.

The ability of Mahdi Army units in Basra to stop in its tracks the biggest operation mounted against it since 2004 suggests that Shi’ite military resistance to the occupation is only beginning. Through the strength of the Mahdi Army’s response just before Petraeus’ testimony, Muqtada has posed a major challenge to the Bush narrative of military success in Iraq.

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