By CONN HALLINAN
Counterpunch Weekend Edition April 12/13 2008
When the Battle of Basra opened on Mar. 25, President Bush described it as a "defining moment" for the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Within days, however, the White House was scrambling to distance itself from the shellacking the Iraqi Army took at the hands of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.
As the Iraqi Army disintegrated in Basra and Baghdad-plus Kut, Amarah, Nasiryah, and Diwaniya, the provincial capitals of four important southern provinces- the Washington Post was quoting administration officials "speaking anonymously" claiming that Maliki "decided to launch the offensive without consulting his U.S. allies."
But as historian and author Gareth Porter points out in the Asia Times, the claim is ludicrous. In fact, the Administration's fingerprints were all over the operation.
"No significant Iraqi military action can be planned without a range of military support functions being undertaken by the U.S. command," Porter argues. When Maliki attacked Basra, U.S. military spokesman, Col. Bill Buckner, announced that "coalition forces" were "providing intelligence, surveillance and support aircraft for the operation."
When the Iraqi Army found itself in trouble, U.S. aircraft bombed and strafed targets in Baghdad and Basra, and U.S. Special Forces teamed up with the Iraqi Army to kill "22 suspected militants" in Basra, according to the U.S. Command. U.S. soldiers also sealed off Sadr City in Baghdad. Lastly, U.S. military's Transition Teams are so deeply embedded in every unit of the Iraq Army that the latter can't spit without getting an okay.
It is increasingly obvious that the White House planned the entire operation. The genesis of the Mar. 25 attack goes back to last August, when Muqtada declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Americans and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's (ISCI) militia, the Badr Brigade. The ceasefire is a major reason why civilian and U.S. casualties have fallen over the past six months.
Maliki's Dawa Party and his allies in the ISCI, have long been at loggerheads with Muqtada over three major issues.
First, Muqtada is a nationalist and deeply opposed to the U.S. occupation, while Maliki and the ISCI's leader, Abdelaziz al-Hakim, support the presence of U.S. troops as a shield against the nationalists. READ ON