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What is the U.S. End Game in Basra?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Various explanations have been posited to make sense of the ongoing Iraqi Army operation codenamed Sawlat al-Fursan (Attack of the Knights), which has been directed against the Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) throughout the south of Iraq. Marc Lynch summarizes the various theories that have gained traction in explaining the motivations for launching the Basra offensive at this juncture, and most of the more persuasive arguments focus on the motivations and rationales of the Iraqi actors:

[1] "Iran is liquidating its no longer useful proxies" theory (which would fit this general line of speculation about Iran's doubts about Sadr and preference for the simultaneously-US backed ISCI) to the generally most prevalent (in the Iraqi and Arab, not just Western, media) [2] "Maliki and ISCI are liquidating their more popular rivals ahead of the provincial elections" theory; the optimistic [3] "Sadr has lost power and now's the time to take him out" theory (thus far not borne out by the course of the fighting, but who knows - it's early, or it could be a miscalculation); [4] Maliki's own "it's time to establish state sovereignty over a 'lost' province" theory (which Bush, of course, has embraced, and is supported by the reporting that the Iraqi Army began its preparations for the attack months ago; but then why isn't he taking on the other militias and warlords? and why would he start now, and in Basra?); and [5] Reidar Visser's "Maliki is trying to build a power base in the Iraqi Army" theory. ...

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