Regular readers know why I’m fairly sure that the decline in coalition fatalities recently can be attributed to the unilateral ceasefire by Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. He announced it in August, deaths were way down in September, and have remained at a low level since October. The announcement of an extension of the ceasefire last month was encouraging, but apparently it won’t last:
The Mahdi Army’s seven-month-long cease-fire appears to have come undone.
Rockets fired from the capital’s Shiite district of Sadr City slammed into the Green Zone Tuesday, the second time in three days, and firefights erupted around Baghdad pitting government and US forces against the militia allied to the influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
At the same time, the oil-export city of Basra became a battleground Tuesday as Iraqi forces, backed by US air power, launched a major crackdown on the Mahdi Army elements. British and US forces were guarding the border with Iran to intercept incoming weapons or fighters, according to a senior security official in Basra. ?
“The cease-fire is over; we have been told to fight the Americans,” said one Mahdi Army militiaman, who was reached by telephone in Sadr City. This same man, when interviewed in January, had stated that he was abiding by the cease-fire and that he was keeping busy running his cellular phone store.
The “surge” was supposed to give time for all parties to work toward political reconciliation. The ceasefire could have had that effect, but there’s no evidence that any of the parties sought or desired such reconciliation. Sadr seems to have used the time to purge disloyal elements from his organization, and to build ties to Iran. He had always been known as anti-Iranian, but apparently he took what reconciliation was on offer.
The end of this ceasefire is bad news. I know that from the time I’ve spent with data on coalition fatalities (and lately, that translates to US fatalities), and others see the same results in civilian casualties (HT: hilzoy). People are going to die, and a lot of them.
The shame of this is that a lot of opponents of war in Iraq were predicting this 5 years ago, and we were ignored. The President brushed us off by saying he didn’t listen to opinion polls, and he brushed off negative intelligence assessments by ginning up bogus evidence. Some congresscritters (and prospective congresscritters) had the courage to demand serious answers to the major flaws in the President’s plan, but too many went with the flow.
The blood of 4,000 American soldiers and untold hundreds of thousands of Iraqis is on George Bush’s hands, but plenty of it trickles off them and onto the hands of those who authorized this catastrophically naive attempt to remake the world at gunpoint. They should have known better, and too few seem to have learned anything from that mistake.
And a special place in hell is reserved for Dick Cheney, who looks at the dead soldiers and claims that, “The president carries the biggest burden, obviously. He’s the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans, but we are fortunate to have a group of men and women, the all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm’s way for the rest of us.”