“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Basra Aftermath, A Humiliating Iraqi Disaster.

The Fruit of Nation Building

Iraq: In Al-Basrah Aftermath, Iran's And Al-Sadr's Gain Is Al-Maliki's Loss
By Sumedha Senanayake Radio Free Europe

Al-Sadr remains a force in Iraq
The Iraqi government's operation in Al-Basrah was billed as a decisive battle to regain control of the southern city from what it called armed gangs and criminals. But the real focus of the operation seems to have been radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, the Imam Al-Mahdi Army.

The intense response by al-Sadr's followers across southern Iraq and Baghdad seemed to catch the government off-guard. As the violence and instability spread, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government faced what appeared to be a widespread insurrection. At that point, a military option did not seem feasible.

On March 30, after nearly a week of fighting, al-Sadr issued a nine-point statement calling on his followers not to attack government forces. He urged the government to stop its random raids on Sadrists, called for an amnesty for fighters in the Al-Mahdi Army, and the release of all imprisoned members of the Sadrist movement who have not been convicted of any crimes.

Iran Plays Both Sides

Several days after al-Sadr's cease-fire call, it emerged that Iran helped broker the truce that ended the bloodshed that left nearly 500 dead and 900 wounded. In the aftermath of the Al-Basrah conflict, Iran clearly emerged as the big winner.

Several sources indicated as early as March 28 that a representative of al-Maliki's Al-Da'wah Party, Ali Adib, and Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Badr Organization, the military wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), traveled to the Iranian city of Qom to meet with Iranian officials.

According to McClatchy Newspapers, the aim of the trip was twofold: to press al-Sadr to restrain his militia and to call on Iran's Qods Force to stop supplying weapons to Shi'ite fighters in Iraq. It was also revealed that the two men went to Iran without consulting with the prime minister.

Haidar al-Abadi, a member of Al-Da'wah, said that the delegation was from the Shi'ite-led United Iraqi Alliance, which is dominated by Al-Da'wah and the ISCI, "and the prime minister was only informed. It was a political maneuver by us."

The role of Iran in brokering the truce clearly demonstrates the Islamic republic's influence in Iraq, particularly in the Shi'ite community. Based on what was discussed in Qom, Iran was playing both sides of the fence, as peace brokers and instigators of the violence.

Al-Sadr Remains Strong

While the military confrontation ended essentially in a stalemate, al-Sadr came away with a political victory. His militia remains intact and he has demonstrated that it can withstand a major assault by the Iraqi military.

The aftermath of the clashes also showed that al-Sadr still has control over his militia. There had been much speculation that al-Sadr had lost control of the Al-Mahdi Army and that some breakaway factions were not heeding his authority. The Al-Basrah clashes and subsequent cease-fire demonstrated that he was still in charge.

While his militia were clearly not a passive actor in the Al-Basrah violence, their armed struggle was framed in the context of self-defense. The Iraqi security forces were seen as the aggressors in launching the military campaign, which many Sadrists described as politically motivated.

As it became clear during the Al-Basrah operation that the Al-Mahdi Army was the main target, al-Sadr continued to adhere to the truce he declared for the militia. The truce was instituted in August 2007 after his forces clashed with police in the holy city of Al-Najaf. There were concerns recently that the increased pressure on the Al-Mahdi Army might push al-Sadr to end the truce.

Maintaining the truce gave the appearance that al-Sadr was willing to place Iraq's benefits above his own political ambitions, which he stressed in the nine-point statement that led to the current cease-fire. In it, he supported Iraq's unity by calling for an "end to armed appearances in Al-Basrah and all other provinces."

Considering his bravado when his militia took on the U.S. military twice in 2004, al-Sadr's actions during the latest confrontation suggested his growing maturity as a political leader.

Huge Blow To Al-Maliki

For al-Maliki, the results of the "Battle for Al-Basrah" were certainly humiliating, given that he personally oversaw the military campaign. Al-Maliki hoped to erase the perception that he is a weak and ineffectual leader, particularly in dealing with al-Sadr and his militia. However, soon after the operation began, it was apparent that al-Maliki greatly overestimated the abilities of his forces and underestimated the tenacity of al-Sadr's militia.

Al-Maliki had vowed to crush the Shi'ite militias, armed gangs, and criminals that effectively controlled the city for three years. He initially gave all armed elements in Al-Basrah 72 hours to disarm, but after this was ignored, the deadline was extended to 10 days, coupled with an offer of cash in exchange for weapons.

In an operation that was planned to be completed quickly, Iraqi security forces were met with strong resistance from al-Sadr's militia, despite U.S. air support. Defense Minister Abd al-Qadir Jasim admitted on March 28 that the government had been "surprised" by the militia's resistance and the government's battle plan and tactics had to be altered.

More troubling for al-Maliki, "Al-Azzam" reported on March 31 that several thousand police officers had refused to fight the militia and two Iraqi Army regiments reportedly defected to the Sadrists. If numerous acts of insubordination and desertion indeed took place during the operation, this would indicate the low level of morale among the security forces.

In the end, al-Maliki declared the operation a "success." However, his words may ring hollow since he failed to disarm and crush al-Sadr's militia, and this may have weakened him politically in the eyes of his ruling Shi'ite alliance.

The revelation that members of his own Shi'ite alliance, including from his own Al-Da'wah Party, went to Iran against his wishes to broker a truce further undercuts his authority and ultimately his credibility.

Thorn In Washington's Side

U.S. support for the Al-Basrah operation has become considerably more muted since it was first launched. On March 30, CIA Director Michael Hayden told NBC News that he had no prior knowledge that the Iraqi government planned to launch such a campaign. In fact, he even indicated that U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and U.S. commander in Iraq General David Petraeus were also left in the dark about the operation.

This could be a sign of tacit disapproval of al-Maliki's handling of the operation as well as the administration distancing itself from it in order to offset any potential embarrassment before Crocker and Petraeus testify before Congress in June.

The failure of the operation also makes clear that the Iraqi military is far from prepared to take over responsibility for security. This does not bode well for the United States, since it is an indication that troop reductions maybe further delayed.

Al-Sadr's performance again shows that the young cleric is a major political force in Iraq who cannot be ignored. Many saw the Al-Basrah campaign as a means of weakening al-Sadr before the provincial elections now set for the fall. Now it seems that he may be a long-term political player and the United States may have to work with him, whether it likes it or not.

Finally, in terms of Iran, the United States can't be too pleased that Tehran was where Iraqi Shi'ite leaders turned to in a crisis -- yet another stark indication of the growing Iranian influence in Iraq.


  1. Nice analysis there 2164th!

    And now to go OT right away, and it is not with glee Bobal, but the following Salon article paints an ugly picture, but an important one for Americans, especially those interested in Rule of Law, to confront:

    (Take a look at the short video linked to get a very quick grasp of what he also wrote)

    John Yoo's war crimes

    "(4) Since the Nuremberg Trials, "war criminals" include not only those who directly apply the criminal violence and other forms of brutality, but also government officials who authorized it and military officials who oversaw it. Ironically, the Bush administration itself argued in the 2006 case of Hamdan -- when they sought to prosecute as a "war criminal" a Guantanamo detainee whom they allege was a driver for Osama bin Laden -- that one is guilty of war crimes not merely by directly violating the laws of war, but also by participating in a conspiracy to do so.

    That legal question was unresolved in that case, but Justices Thomas and Scalia both sided with the administration and Thomas wrote (emphasis added):

    "[T]he experience of our wars," Winthrop 839, is rife with evidence that establishes beyond any doubt that conspiracy to violate the laws of war is itself an offense cognizable before a law-of-war military commission. . . . . In [World War II], the orders establishing the jurisdiction of military commissions in various theaters of operation provided that conspiracy to violate the laws of war was a cognizable offense. See Letter, General Headquarters, United States Army Forces, Pacific (Sept. 24, 1945), Record in Yamashita v. Styer, O. T. 1945, No. 672, pp. 14, 16 (Exh. F) (Order respecting the "Regulations Governing the Trial of War Criminals" provided that "participation in a common plan or conspiracy to accomplish" various offenses against the law of war was cognizable before military commissions).

    The political reality is that high government officials in the U.S. are never going to be held accountable for war crimes. In practice, "international law" exists as a justifying instrument for powerful countries to impose their will on those which are less powerful, and war crimes tribunals are almost always a form of victor's justice. So neither John Yoo, David Addington nor Alberto Gonzales, and certainly not their bosses at whose behest they were working, are going to be sitting in a dock charged with war crimes any time soon -- regardless of whether they ought to be.

    But those who propound these principles and claim to believe in them ought to apply them consistently. John Yoo is not some misguided conservative legal thinker with whom one should have civil, pleasant, intellectually stimulating debates at law schools and on PBS. Respectfully debating the legality and justification of torture regimes, and treating systematic torture perpetrators like John Yoo with respect, isn't all that far off from what Yoo and his comrades did. It isn't pleasant to think about high government officials in one's own country as war criminals -- that's something that only bad, evil dictatorships have -- but, pleasant or not, it rather indisputably happens to be what we have.

    UPDATE: Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin makes a critical point (h/t John Cole):

    "Lawyers can make really bad legal arguments that argue for very unjust things in perfectly legal sounding language. I hope nobody is surprised by this fact. It is very commonplace. Today we are talking about lawyers making arguments defending the legality of torture. In the past lawyers have used legal sounding arguments to defend slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, rape (both spousal and non-spousal), Jim Crow, police brutality, denials of habeas corpus, destruction or seizure of property, and compulsory sterilization. . . . .

    Orin [Kerr] wants to know whether John [Yoo]'s theories are consistent with my views of the living constitution. If he wants to know as a substantive matter whether John's theories of Presidential dictatorship are consistent with the Constitution's text and underlying principles, they are not."

    The fact that a lawyer does something in his capacity as a lawyer does not mean it's proper, legitimate or legal. The fact that an argument is packaged in lawyerly wrapping doesn't mean it's reasonable or offered in good faith. All sorts of lawyers -- from those representing crime families to those representing terrorists -- have been convicted of crimes because they concealed and/or promoted their clients' illegal acts. Lawyers aren't any more immune from the rule of law than anyone else."

  2. At the site that is "supported largely by donations from its readers." there is a different viewpoint represented:

    Here's Stratfor's take of the fight against Sadr. (I've taken a few snippets from their report which available to subscribers only)

    A massive battle broke out between two Shiite factions in Iraq. One, led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim — who effectively controls Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki due to the small size and fractured nature of al-Maliki’s party — confronted the faction led by Muqtada al-Sadr. Clearly, this was an attempt by the dominant Shiite faction to finally deal with the wild card of Iraqi Shiite politics. By the weekend, al-Sadr had capitulated. Backed into a corner by overwhelming forces, apparently backed by U.S. military force, al-Sadr effectively sued for peace.

    Did he win or did he lose?
    We'll know when the purple fingers speak.

  3. My bet is it's al-Sadr that gained, on the ground in Iraq, this past week.

    Winners, all around.
    That was the hope

    False dream

  4. It took all I could do not to delete Ash's trash. Instead, I'll leave as a reminder that no matter how one feels about Republicans, the moonbat left is ,well, dangerous.
    Here's more from Stratfor:

    Al-Sadr’s decision to lay down arms was heavily influenced by the Iranians. We would go further and say the decision to have al-Sadr submit to a government dominated by his Shiite rivals was a decision made with Iranian agreement. The Iranians had been restraining al-Sadr for a while, taking him to Tehran and urging him to return to the seminary to establish his clerical credentials. The Iranians did not want to see a civil war among the Iraqi Shia. A split among the Shia at a time of increasing Sunni unity and cooperation with the United States would open the door to a strategically unacceptable outcome for Iran: a pro-American government heavily dominated by Sunnis with increasing military power as the Shia are fighting among themselves.
    The Americans also didn’t want this outcome. While the Iranians had restrained al-Sadr at the beginning of the U.S. surge — and thereby massively contributed to the end of the strategy of playing the Sunnis against the Shia — Tehran had not yet dealt with al-Sadr decisively. Just like Iran, the United States prefers not to see a new Sunni government emerge in Iraq. Instead, Washington wants a balance of power in Baghdad between Sunnis, Shia and Kurds, and it wants intra-communal disputes to be contained within this framework. If a stable government is to emerge, each of the communities must be relatively (with an emphasis on “relatively”) stable. Thus, not for the first time, American and Iranian interests in Iraq were aligned. Both wanted an end to Shiite conflict, and that meant that both wanted al-Sadr to capitulate.
    This is the point where U.S. and Iranian interests can diverge. The Iranians have a fundamental decision to make, and what happens now in Iraq is almost completely contingent upon what the Iranians decide. They can do three things. First, they can hold al-Sadr in reserve as a threat to stability if things don’t go their way. Second, they can use the relative unity of the Shia to try to impose an anti-Sunni government in Baghdad. And third, they can participate in the creation of that government.
    We have long argued that the Iranians would take the third option. They certainly appeared to be cooperating in the last week. But it has not been clear what the U.S. government thought, partly because they have been deliberately opaque in their thinking on Iran, and partly because the situation was too dynamic.

  5. The results, to date, of Operation Iraqi Freedom has been, it seems
    Advancing Iranian Interests in Iraq, AIII.
    Just as that surevey of military officers indicated. A sizable portion of them, believed that Iran's interests were advanced by US actions.
    At least in the short term, to date.

    al-Sadr will become the Man of Moderation, in the minds of many Shia voters. He already controls more than 10% of the Shia bloc, in the Parliment. After the elections, that percentage will climb.

    Maliki's term will be over, he will not be the Prime Minister after the next Parlimentary elections. Promoting democracy in the combat zone has its' military drawbacks, in war time.

  6. All those that spoke to the "moderate middle", the serious men with credentials ...

    All took a licking

    Biden, Thompson, Romney, Richardson
    to name but a few of the hopefuls,
    roadkill on the way to the White House

  7. Bend Oregon Real Estate

    Half a million and up looks great, below that looks like anywhere in America.

  8. "We Must Make Peace With The Past"

    Moscow, Id. AP


    That simple idea can heal centuries old hatreds and salve the deepest of wounds, but only if it is genuine, former South African President Klerk said Tuesday in Moscow.

    "The reality is ,if we are honest with ourselves, that we seldom truly forgive," de Klerk, 72, told an overflow crowd at the University of Idaho's annual Borah Symposium. "Until we truly forgive our enemies, we carry in our hearts a bitterness that can poison every other aspect of our lives."

    As the man instrumental in dismantling the centruy old system or apartheid and who freed Nelson Mandela, de Klerk experienced forgiveness from both directions.
    Long article goes on decribing the past, the Boer War, and much else.
    The Borah Symposium is, with the Lionel Hampton Jazz Fest, one of the highlights of the year here.

  9. The Bend I recall had no fancy houses like those show. Meaning I'd like it less now. It's been awhile.

  10. Senator's husband paid $150 bucks for sex with 20 year old.

    "Very disturbing" Senator says.

    Just vote against any incumbant, you can't go far wrong.

  11. Coast to Coast might be interesting tonight--

    Starting at 10pm PT: The brother of convicted MLK assassin James Earl Ray, John Larry Ray will join historian Lyndon Barsten to present the case that James Earl Ray was set up as a patsy by conspirators within the U.S. govt. FOX 2 News reporter John Auble will also participate in the discussion.

    On the other hand there's an above90% chance it's going to b.s.

  12. Dr. King's premonition of his death in his final speech was no mere morbid coincidence. He knew he was targeted for destruction, and he knew his antipoverty and antiwar efforts were likely to fail.

    Struggling with growing doubts about the usefulness of nonviolent action, and plagued by the deep depression that overtook him during his final weeks, he nevertheless saw no alternative but to continue to play his role the best he could. His solution for America's ills in 1968 was still rooted in the same spirit of love and understanding he had expressed 10 years earlier when he refused to press charges against the woman who stabbed him in the chest and nearly killed him (leaving him with permanent scar tissue in the shape of a cross over his heart after the knife's removal).

    "Don't do anything to her," he said. "Don't prosecute her; get her healed."


  13. I don't know. Don't know who killed President Kennedy, or King. Pretty sure about Robert Kennedy, though.

  14. Mugabe Doesn't Want To Go

    It's tempting to say, send in the U.S. Marines, but I quess it's none of our business.

    I wish I had gone to the Borah Symposium. I'd have tried to ask de Klerk how it is, and what should be done.

  15. Bernanke: 'Recession Is Possible'

    1 Fed chief Ben Bernanke raised the prospect for the first time, but said growth should rebound later this year. He said Treasury's reform plan, with broader supervisory powers for the Fed, including over investment banks, is an "interesting first step."

    RIM Tops, Offers Strong Outlook

    2 The maker of BlackBerry devices said its Q4 EPS more than doubled to 72 cents, beating views by 2 cents. Revenue shot up 102% to $1.88 bil, over views.

    Gasoline Soars On Demand Rise

    3 May gasoline shot up 13.44 cents to a record $2.7736 a gallon after the Energy Dept. said U.S. gasoline demand rose 1% last week vs. a year ago, breaking a recent slide. Gasoline inventories also fell 4.5 mil barrels, double forecasts.

    IBD's Top 10

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. DR: The results, to date, of Operation Iraqi Freedom has been, it seems Advancing Iranian Interests in Iraq, AIII.

    4,000 American troops have lost their lives. Nearly 30,000 more have suffered serious injuries. $500 billion spent so far and $2 billion a week in ongoing costs to taxpayers. And what is the result? $4 a gallon for gas.

  18. The M777 ultra-lightweight towed 155mm howitzer has an integrated digital fire control systems, and can fire all existing 155mm projectiles. This 9,700 pound howitzer, which saves over 6,000 pounds of weight by making extensive use of titanium and titanium castings, is designed to be transportable by Marine Corps MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft and/or airdropped by C-130 aircraft.


    In addition to being suitable for carriage under a V-22 Osprey or medium class helicopter like the EH101, the M777’s weight and profile also allows 2 M777 howitzers (vs. 1 M198) to be fitted into a C-130 Hercules tactical transport.


    The M777 was originally a trilateral program involving the USA, Britain, and Italy, with a Memorandum of Understanding signed in March 1999. Italy ended up backing out of the development program due to budget issues, leaving the USA and UK to fund development efforts.


  19. ...before she had a Botox facial, that is.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether patients contracted botulism, a muscle-weakening illness, from Botox and Myobloc, a product from Solstice Neurosciences Inc.

    I had no idea where the name came from.

  20. This seems like a sober look at the situation in Basra and around Iraq.

  21. Bobal: Looks Like It's Fired By Pulling That Cord

    Speaking of pulling on cords, or failing to do so, they are pretty sure that's not DB Cooper's chute.

  22. Yeah, I saw that, aenea. He slipped that cord, I quess.

  23. For centuries, Catholic priests wrote about how to subdue it. Some historians surmise Martin Luther had it, along with several renowned saints.


    Well, Hillary doesn't have it.

  24. On June 2, 2003, staff members of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference [MCC] issued a "Memorandum by MCC Staff on the Erroneous Testimony on Catholic Teaching" that had been given at the April 28 hearing. The memorandum made the following points:

    ---In the course of his argument against the Massachusetts marriage amendment, which he claimed would "deny 'gays and lesbians' the 'full range of human and civil rights,' Father Keenan erroneously stated that '[t]his same position has been endorsed by the United States Catholic Bishops.'"

    ---Father Keenan and his fellow-witnesses did not inform the MCC, "the official representative of the Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts before the state legislature," of their proposed testimony beforehand, nor did they inform the committee that they were speaking without the knowledge or approval of the MCC.

    ---All three priests who testified, including Father Keenan, "mischaracterized the teaching of the Catholic Church generally, while two [including Father Keenan] mischaracterized the position of the Catholic Bishops specifically," by attempting to buttress their position with the U.S. bishops' statement, "Always Our Children."

    Father Keenan

  25. The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was penned by John Adams, amended very slightly by his fellows.

    He chose the term 'commonwealth'.

  26. The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the fundamental governing document of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was drafted by John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Bowdoin during the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention between September 1 and October 30, 1779. Following approval by town meetings, the Constitution was ratified on June 15, 1780, became effective on October 25, 1780, and remains the oldest functioning written constitution in continuous effect in the world.

    The Massachusetts Constitution was the last of the first set of the state constitutions to be written. Consequently, it was more sophisticated than many of the other documents. Among the improvements was the structure of the document itself: instead of just a listing of provisions, it had a structure of chapters, sections, and articles. This structure was replicated by the US Constitution. It also had substantial influence on the subsequent revisions of many of the other state constitutions. The Massachusetts Constitution has four parts: a preamble, a declaration of rights, a description of the framework of government, and articles of amendment. wiki
    Bowdoin, and Sam Adams, turned the job over to John Adams. He wrote it over several days, standing up mostly, working at a wooden writting table, my book tells me.

  27. For the first time in Britain, researchers at Newcastle University in northern England said Tuesday they had created human-animal hybrid embryos, amid a political row over a disputed embryo research bill in parliament.

    According to the university, the research, which was first presented at a lecture in Tel Aviv on March 25, has yet to be published or verified, with a spokesman for the university saying that the institution "wouldn't claim it to be final at all."

    The revelation comes with British MPs engaged in a fierce battle over the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill, which allows the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos for medical research.

    Human/Animal Embryo

  28. Pretty sure about Robert Kennedy, though."
    ...and the little Pali Bastard's still alive, right?

  29. “… And then along comes Barack Obama, with the kinds of gifts that appear in politics but once every few generations. There is a sense of dignity, even majesty, about him, and underneath that ease lies a resolute discipline. It’s not just that he is eloquent - that ability to speak both to you and to speak for you - it’s that he has a quality of thinking and intellectual and emotional honesty that is extraordinary.

    Obama has emerged by displaying precisely the kind of character and judgment we need in a president: renouncing the politics of fear, speaking frankly on the most pressing issues facing the country and sticking to his principles. He recognizes that running for president is an opportunity inspire an entire nation.

    We need to recover the spiritual and moral direction that should describe our country and ourselves. We see this in Obama, and we see the promise he represents to bring factions together, to achieve again the unity that drives great change and faces difficult and inconvenient, truths and peril. We need to send a message to ourselves and to the world that we truly do stand for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And in electing an African-American, we also profoundly renounce an ugliness and violence in our national character that have been further stroked by our president in these last eight years.

    The similarities between John Kennedy and Barack Obama come to mind easily: the youth, the magnetism, the natural grace, the eloquence, the wit, the intelligence, the hope of a new generation.

    But is might be more to the point to view Obama as Lincolnesque in his own origins, his sobriety and what history now demand. Like Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama challenges America to rise up, to do what so many of us long to do: to summon “the better angels of our nature”.

    March 20, 2008
    Fann S. Wenner
    Rolling Stone Magazine

  30. Basra and American interests

    But Mr. al-Maliki is still Prime Minister and still controls Iraq’s security forces, consisting of hundreds of thousands in the ranks and backed by the Americans.

    Al-Sadr, meanwhile, still is in hiding in Iran.
    Every time the Mahdi Army musters on the streets, hundreds are cut down and hundreds more captured.

    And for all of his popularity, al-Sadr’s political party earned one of the smaller vote totals among the Shi’ite parties at the last election; his violent overreaching since then may not have improved his popularity.

    And even though al-Maliki’s government forces supposedly lost the battle on Basra’s streets, government security operations in the south continue, with
    armed government convoys patrolling areas

    some analysts said they would never enter .

  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. From Iraq: Observations of a USMC Liason to the ISF
    "The Iraq Army has cordoned off the city and is methodically advancing to
    allow residents to leave the city amidst the fighting, militants to turnover arms while gradually isolating the factions they intend to uproot.

    This is a stark contrast from tactics used during "Saddam times" where indiscriminant death and destruction were used to rule by fear.

    The methodology is symbolic because it demonstrates that the Army and the GoI are not indiscriminately targeting the population, it also demonstrates military and governmental confidence and strength

    Stories highlighting defections. It was reported yesterday that 40
    Iraqi Police (IP) defected to "join the militia movement". This is most
    likely true. However, the IP consists of tens of thousands of personnel
    and that number equates to less than half of 1% of the IPs. This should
    not be viewed as a systemic issue and represents an improvement on
    several orders of magnitude from years ago when defections were far
    greater in magnitude and scope.

    This offensive is not against Sadr or a particular religious sect.
    This Government of Iraq has done a very good job of publicizing and conveying to the people of this country that they are not targeting a sect, they are targeting criminal elements that serve oppress this country and the government.

    This conveyance has been confirmed in many conversations I have had with numerous Iraqi's (from senior Ministry of Oil officials, middle management, to the janitors who live in Sadr City and work in my building, to include all sects).
    Many see this as the right action, as strengthening the Government and as courage from the Prime Minister, even I didn't believe that.
    When you here that coming from a White House press secretary, you tend to not believe it, however, when it comes from the people who live in the very society it affects, it carries more significance.