Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Win Round Three

Although Sadr keeps threatening a third round of an uprising, it sure is looking like we are in round three already, though nobody really admits it.

The Round Three that began over a month ago with Iraq's Knight's Charge offensive in Basra and other regions in southern Iraq against the Sadrists and their Iranian patrons, is continuing:

There have been numerous other air and ground engagements with the Mahdi Army in Sadr City and the surrounding areas over the past several weeks. Since Sadr threatened to conduct a third uprising nine days ago, U.S. and Iraqi troops have killed 186 Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad alone. Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has said he is serious about taking control of Sadr City and disarming and disbanding the Mahdi Army. There are no signs that he plans to halt the offensive.

We are pressing an offensive into Sadr's stronghold of Sadr City and the Iraqis are firm in wanting to defeat Sadr before the October elections. I think Sadr has gotten his round three, but this time we are on offense.

And on the other side, Sadr's boys are certainly willing to fight. Luckily, they aren't any better than they were in 2004.

The Iranians, too, seem to agree that round three is afoot and are waging it more aggressively:

Major General Rick Lynch, commander of US forces in central Iraq, said rocket and mortar attacks by Shiite extremists were "more effective than before."

He charged that this indicated a rise in Iranian help to the militants.

"We are seeing an increase in (Iranian) influence... the number of attacks that are directly attributed to Iranian influence have indeed increased," Lynch said.

"The number of EFP (explosively formed penetrator) attacks have increased, the number of Iranian rocket attacks have indeed increased, the amount of Iranian weapons I am finding on the battlefield has increased. The amount of Shiite extremists who tie their training back to Iran have indeed increased."

Lynch, whose area of operation in Iraq has a long stretch of border with Iran, also charged that his troops have found large numbers of caches of weapons and ammunition bearing Iranian markings.

It has been obvious to me for years that ultimately we would have to take down Sadr and his Iranian backers. While we had more serious problems to deal with first, Sadr was always on the list. We will break him, and this time we'd best make sure he's down for the count.

We can count ourselves lucky that the Sadrists and Iranians didn't challenge us while our surge offensive against al Qaeda in Iraq was underway.