Yet Another Crack in the Narrative
Anonymous British commanders had told the UK’s Telegraph a couple of days ago that the Iraqi Army’s military operation in Basra was an “unmitigated disaster” and that the Iraqi commander leading it, General Mohan al-Freiji, is a “dangerous lunatic”.
It’s funny how the story never seems to get around to the point that the Iraqi Army managed to achieve in Basra what the British never could, namely, to control the city and smash the organized crime cartels.
I mean, just the image of the Sadrists being evicted from their main office in Basra two days ago should have been enough to clue-in some observers out there as to who ended up winning in Basra, despite the hasty forecasts of the media and their associated go-to ‘experts’.
But I guess it isn’t, since most reporters are still swooning over Muqtada al-Sadr’s latest threat of an “all out war” and are still peddling discredited gossip that overstates Iran’s influence in Iraqi affairs. How many threats has al-Sadr made so far in the past month? Three, maybe four? Five?
A week ago, I described how the story of the Iraqi Army rescuing a British journalist who had been held hostage in Basra by Sadrist-related militants for several months had challenged the false narrative the media has spun about recent events in Iraq.
Today, this headline should likewise jar a couple of people awake:
IRAQI ARMY UNCOVERS LARGE ARMS CACHE IN HAYYANIYA, BASRA
The pictures in this MNF-I write-up (Arabic version) are quite startling to begin with, but here’s the real ‘mind-blowing-ness’ of the story: this arms cache was found during a house-by-house security sweep of the Hayyaniya neighborhood, which is Basra’s equivalent of Sadr City. Who could have imagined a house-by-house sweep of Hayyaniya back in the days when the British were in charge—the same Brits who cowered into the military equivalent of a fetal position whenever they were challenged by the Mahdi Army?
In another part of town, another security sweep uncovered eight GRAD missiles. These are eight GRAD missiles that won’t be launched at the Brits during their precious teatime ceremonies over at Basra’s airport.
No wonder that some in Maliki’s circle has come to believe this rumor: British intelligence deliberately allowed Basra to turn into a hellhole so that this port city would never rival Dubai, whose princes bankroll British intelligence operations across the Middle East. Hey it’s just a rumor, right? But it get fishier when it’s synced-up with intelligence reports reaching Maliki’s office that allege that the Maktoum royals of Dubai have been funding some of Basra’s militias.
In other news, I’d like some help in figuring this out: are any of these following experts fluent in Arabic, and by fluent I don’t mean ‘Marc Lynch fluent’ but rather actually fluent: Bruce Hoffman, Kenneth M. Pollock, Juan Cole, Ira M. Lapidus, and Reuel M. Gerecht. The reason I’m asking is that these gentlemen were cited in a New York Times story by reporters Michael Cooper and Larry Rohter on Saturday about Senator John McCain’s characterization of the insurgency in Iraq as Al-Qaeda-driven. Language-proficiency is not a prerequisite for expertise, but in a field such as jihadist studies where the vast bulk of the information is still so musky with open-source freshness—it’s raw and uncategorized throughout multiple internet pages and forums—and most of it, or at least its more interesting chunks, are in Arabic, then how can non-fluent scholars cite expertise on the topic without sifting through all that essential reading?
Sure, a lot of it is translated, either through commercial sites such as SITE or through official intelligence channels, heck some of it even gets translated and served-up free here on Talisman Gate, but all the nuances of how internet forum users respond and argue over ideology and strategy is lost on those without the adequate language skills to understand the debate. It will take more time, maybe years, to churn out the first few batches of academically digested papers in English upon which non-fluent scholars can expand. Right now, expertise on jihadism, especially in an area as murky as Iraq’s, would be severely addled by an inability to grasp the finer details of what’s out there, in Arabic, on the net.