Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Ultimate Sadrist Spin

Muqtada al-Sadr throws down his arms at Maliki’s feat in the last act of his months-old saga of surrender; he officially disbands the Mahdi Army to everyone’s disbelief, including mine, yet the Washington Post chooses to interpret his submission as a reactivation of his militia.

In a story bylined under the names Amit Paley and Karen De Young that ran as the WaPo’s lead front-page copy today, it is alleged that Sadr has created a new armed wing of the Mahdi Army militia that is tasked with attacking U.S. targets in Iraq.

I read Sadr’s directive yesterday: I have to admit that at first I dismissed it as a forgery, seeing that it appeared on an anti-Sadrist website that had peddled forged statements attributed to Sadr in the past. Not only was the wording weird and disjointed, but Sadr actually demobilizes the Mahdi Army, going far beyond “freezing” its activities as he did twice in the past year. He limits “resistance” to a “group that shall be authorized to do so by us in writing soon” and that they alone were the ones allowed to carry arms. Everyone else must turn pacifist.

Blustering about “resistance” is nothing new, as the WaPo sensationalizes, after all, who was doing all that shooting in Basra, Sadr City and elsewhere if not Sadr’s minions? Who were those 700-800 militiamen who ended up dead in the last two and half months?

The only value behind the WaPo’s story is that it seemingly confirms that Sadr did indeed release this statement, as evidenced by the alleged reactions of his aids “some of whom appeared surprised by the cleric’s announcement”—surprised? Why of course, that would be the natural reaction to a declaration of surrender!

But Mr. Paley, the cub reporter with no grounding in Iraqi affairs whose prior wilted laurels were earned reporting on education issues back in the U.S. (…he had to retract some of his reporting, it seems); this hapless wanna-be that’s been dispatched to cover really confusing and convoluted political terrain in the WaPo’s infinite staffing wisdom; has seemingly internalized every high note of the Sadrist chime: no matter what the story may be, Muqtada always wins.

So if Sadr would appear in a YouTube video snuffing himself in a dank apartment somewhere in Qum, the WaPo would run ‘Radical Cleric Sheds Earthly Body, Gains Celestial Powers’ across its masthead.

What an exercise in redundancy!

But the real surprise is the New York Times editorial admission today: “…in recent months there has been some tentative progress in Iraq. American and Iraqi casualties have declined, and there are signs that the central government is beginning to assert its authority against Shiite militias in Basra and Sadr City and against allies of Al Qaeda in Mosul.”

However, as Paley chases phantoms, and the NYTimes begrudgingly updates its gloomy forecasts, the Iraqi Army is just now beginning the operation to smash the last Sadrist stronghold in Maysan Province, as first revealed on this blog about three weeks ago. It’s only natural that neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times mention Maysan in their Iraq stories today; hey it took the latter paper seven weeks to send a reporter down to Basra after the fighting had started, so we can expect that the Maysan story may get the same treatment. It’s not that Maysan won’t get written about eventually, it’s just that the writing will get done without the facts on the ground getting in the way, given the journalistic trends that we’ve been seeing as of late.


Blogger Wayne Hsieh said...

Mr. Kazimi:

I'm curious as to whether or not you have any strong opinions on Reidar Visser's work, which includes commentary on the Sadrist movement. I suspect its more sympathetic to OMS and plays up its nationalist background, but I am genuinely curious as to your reaction to Visser's work, which does seem to be grounded in actual primary source documents.

More directly related to your post (much thanks btw); I'd be curious if any knowledgeable person would be willing to comment on what exactly is Sadr up to? Does *anyone* really know? Is this latest announcement him trying to re-assert control over his own movement, which seems to have been become more and more fractured as of late? And does anyone have any sense of how the Sadrists will fare in the upcoming provincial elections? Could there be nationalist Sadrists on the provincial level who could be brought into the provincial councils in a positive way?

5:50 PM, June 14, 2008

Blogger Brian H said...

I think this is a desperate (last?) attempt to have his cake and eat it, too. 'Everyone is peaceable except for the ones I tell not to be! So don't keep killing us while I try and smash you!'

Operationally speaking, at the very minimum it means that any Sadrist with a gun is fair game. As though they weren't anyway, in reality.

Surely "weird and disjointed" was a good indicator of authenticity! If Mookie ever issues a statement that's sane and coherent, THAT will be a forgery, for sure.

6:53 PM, June 14, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Paley, the cub reporter was being punished when he was sent to Baghdad. Sort of the WaPo version of Siberia.
Think about it. Most of the news coming out of Iraq is good news, which won't get printed, or picked by by the wire services. So no bylines for Mr. Paley, the cub reporter. A fate he finds worse thn death, or at least until he does his first 'body parts everywhere' crime scene.

10:15 PM, June 14, 2008

Blogger bg said...


another great post TG!! (thumbsup)

OT.. might peak your interest..

Qaddafi: "Arab World Ready to Finance & Back Obama"

God help us all..


10:35 PM, June 14, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The look on your face right now Nibras...

You must look like the cat that ate the canary!

10:36 PM, June 14, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...


There is a good reason why the NYT waits seven weeks to send a reporter to a battle zone. It is to help Iraq. Imagine what would happen if people in a young democracy saw a member of an established democracy piss himself and then curl up in the fetal position, sucking his thumb and crying "Mommy! Mommy!"

7:38 AM, June 15, 2008

Blogger Orville said...


To what extent do you think Moqtada (partially) pacifying the JAM and affiliated Shia militias reflects the enactment of the joint security accord agreed to by Maliki and Tehran last week? Is it possible that Maliki requested a lull in Sadrist attacks so that he can use the subsequent peace as a bargaining chip with Washington over SOFA, a la, I pacified the country and really only need the US here in a minor advisor/peacekeeper role?

شكرا من معسكر النصر,
مدينة السلام

1:20 PM, June 15, 2008

Blogger bg said...


HT : TLWJ (Roggio)

Sadrist movement withdraws from political process


[Sadrist aides claim Sadr rejects the election process and fears being associated with the occupation. "Sayyid Muqtada does not believe in elections or in the coming provincial governments as long as the occupation forces are here," Salah al Obaidi, a senior aide to Sadr, told The Washington Post.

"We don't want anybody to blame us or consider us part of this government while it is allowing the country to be under occupation," Liwa Smeisim, the leader of the Sadr movement's political committee told The Washington Post.]

disclaimer: source of "quotes": WaPo..

[But the Sadrist movement has embraced the political process in the past and never feared being associated with the "occupation." The Sadrist movement won an estimated 30 of the 275 seats in Iraq's parliament. The Sadrists then joined the United Iraqi Alliance, an umbrella Shia political group. The movement was instrumental in Nouri al Maliki's appointment as Prime Minister.

The Iraqi government had threatened to bar the Sadrist movement from participating in the upcoming provincial election if the Sadrists did not disband the Mahdi Army. The move, which has wide support amongst all of Iraq's political parties, sparked panic within the Sadrist movement. Sadr had refused to disband the Mahdi Army, claiming Shia clerics supported it. But Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the senior-most Shia cleric in Iraq, said the Iraqi government is the only authority that should enforce the law.

The Iraqi government has achieved its goal of disbanding the Mahdi Army while Sadr's political rivals in the Shia benefit from the absence of Sadrist opposition at the ballot box. On June 14, Sadr essentially disbanded the Mahdi Army as a fighting force after he called for the creation of small, specialized cells to attack Coalition forces. He ordered the Mahdi Army to put down its weapons and become a social organization.]

RTWT (links @ link)..

once a BSer, always a BSer (dang if he isn't sounding more
like the O'manic with every taqiyyah speech he makes) :D


1:23 PM, June 15, 2008

Blogger bg said...



US Army detains senior Mahdi
Army commander in Baghdad


1:26 PM, June 15, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your penetrating analysis. You put the two national papers to shame.

3:27 PM, June 15, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could this be "preparing the battlefield" for sending in highly trained "volunteers" from Iran, Hezbollah, Hammas, etcetera? The current ones that lay down their arms could never-the-less provide sanctuary and intel for such a group...

8:00 PM, June 15, 2008

Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Hi Wayne,

Regarding Visser, it's always been hard for me to read him, as in go through his writing style. It is too often dry and wordy.

However, in the few instances where I was able to read through one of his pieces, I found him to be well prepared but definitely slanted: he is left-leaning and subtly pushes an anti-Bush agenda under the guise of academic erudition. Some of his stuff is good, though some of it looks a lot like the pioneering work of others that had gone uncited by Visser, but it is all generally slants left. He strikes me as a run-of-the-mill pedantic anti-imperialist who thinks he's doing his part in the grand struggle for the oppressed, I guess. He's the academia version of Nir Rosen (minus Nir's courage), especially in regards to his fondness for the Sadrists.

Visser also had argued that the south was about to breakaway from Iraq a few years ago, erroneously basing his conclusions on marginal political actors. He mistook federalism for secession.

Anyway, I should not that I'm not unbiased in this respect since I find all Norwegians to be weird, and I'd include my brother in that category, and even more so since he's a Norwegian by choice!



PS: I'll get back to all ye commentators in due course...still busy!

1:53 PM, June 16, 2008

Blogger bg said...


OT.. HT : GP

Violence In Anbar Province Down 80-90% Since Last Year


[“In the last year, violence in al-Anbar province has dropped 80-90 percent. The reason the province is the way it is now is a result of the hard work the Marines are putting forth every day along with their tactical patience and balance,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jim M. Roussell, the assistant intelligence officer for 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines. “This battalion has worked very hard and has done an outstanding job in accomplishing its goals… and what we want to do is set up the unit that comes in after us for success”]



[Chairman of the Heet office of the Iraqi awakening congress Tahsien Ali Alrishawi announced, in a press conference, “a decision was made to change the name of the Clock plaza to Martyr Plaza in commemoration and honor those innocent civilians and security forces killed in the suicide bombing at he plaza on May 31st. Amongst those killed was major Khalil Jezaa from the city police”. Alrishawi added, “a commemorative structure will be erected in the same place. The design of the memorial will be determined by a competition amongst residence of Anbar province”.

The plaza also features (for the first time) the raising in the center of the city of the new Iraqi flag approved by the Iraqi parliament earlier this year. Some residences of the city and province were still flying the old Iraqi flag.]



[Haider Ajina comments:

This development is a sign of Iraqi national unity and reconciliation. The raising of the new Iraqi flag replacing the old Saddam era flag is most significant. Many residents in Anbar province (Heart of the Sunni triangle and a former haven for Baathists and Alqaida) still flew the old flag in defiance of the mostly Shiite and Sunni Kurd government in Baghdad. This defiance is now waning and many of the residents of these areas are joining in the overwhelming national reconciliation and national unity mood sweeping over Iraq.]



3:57 PM, June 16, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is bestiality a crime in Norway?

2:57 PM, June 17, 2008

Blogger bg said...


Maysan Update: HT TLWJ (Roggio)

Iraqi security forces ramp up for Maysan operation


[Iraqi troops replace border guards. Local police forces are raised. Maliki gives deadline for Mahdi Army to disarm. Sadrists fear being targeted.

The Iraqi government and military continue to shape the battlefield for the confrontation with the Mahdi Army in Maysan province. Starting late last week, Iraqi security forces started the operation by sealing off the entrances and exits to the province, deploying additional forces from Baghdad and Basrah, warning the population, starting patrols in Amarah, and relieving the provincial chief of police.

Since then, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has ordered all wanted Mahdi Army fighters to turn themselves in and ordered the militia to turn in their weapons. "Those who have heavy and medium weapons, explosives or sniper guns, must hand them over to the security forces over the next four days until June 18 in return for cash," Maliki said.

Two centers have been opened in Amarah to collect weapons, Voices of Iraq reported. "A large amount of weapons and ammunitions were handed over and a number of wanted men gave themselves up in coordination with chieftains and political officials in the province," said General Abdul Karim Khalaf, a spokesman for the Iraqi police.]


8:43 PM, June 17, 2008

Blogger Joel Wing said...

wayne said:
"More directly related to your post (much thanks btw); I'd be curious if any knowledgeable person would be willing to comment on what exactly is Sadr up to? Does *anyone* really know?"

I think Sadr has been known for making all kinds of contradictory statements in the past.

IMO, his militia has been dealt a large, and perhaps deadly blow by Maliki with the continuing security operations. (Of course, this is not the first time he's had large casualties - see April 2004 uprising).

To add to his problems he's sitting in Iran away from day to day affairs in Iraq, Iran is taking away part of his militia, the other part has always been ragtag and disorganized, plus there's a split in his movement between those that want to focus upon the upcoming elections and those that want to fight.

The announcement of setting up a special group just to fight the U.S. I see as part of his attempt to keep up his nationalist image, after all calling for the withdrawal of the Americans has been one of his main themes.

At the same time he does want his followers to participate in the upcoming elections. Many news reports say the government is going to ban parties that hold militias so Sadr says his party won't officially run, but will back independents. Hence getting around any ban.

11:00 AM, June 18, 2008

Blogger bg said...

HT : TLWJ (Roggio)

Three senior Mahdi Army commanders
captured in Baghdad, Hilla


[Over the next 24 hours, Coalition forces have captured
two senior Mahdi Army commanders in Baghdad and Hillah.

A senior "Iranian-trained Special Groups commander in Adhamiyah" was captured in northeast Baghdad along with two associates. The Mahdi Army commander is thought to have run all of the Mahdi Army's operations in southeastern Baghdad.

"The targeted criminal's reported close ties and connections to Iranian intelligence agents, along with his weapons and finance facilitations make him a key capture for Coalition forces," the US military stated.

Coalition special forces teams also captured a key Mahdi Army leader and an associate in the Hillah region south of Baghdad. The commander was "wanted for running Special Groups recruiting efforts, as well as ordering assassinations and directing the specialized training of Special Groups criminals."]

clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere.. (thumbsup)


10:37 PM, June 20, 2008

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