Iraqi offensive underway against the Mahdi Army in Maysan


Iraqi-tank-Amarah-06142008.jpg

An Iraqi tank is stationed on the main road leading into Amarah. AFP photo.

Iraqi security forces, backed by the US military, have started an operation against the Mahdi Army in the southern border province of Maysan. Amarah, the provincial capital of Maysan, is thought to be one of the locations senior Mahdi Army leader retreated to after Iraqi forces moved into Sadr City last month. Amarah is also a forward command and control hub for Iranian operations in southern Iraq.

Iraqi security forces established checkpoints along the entrances to the province, and have closed down the border crossing to Iran at Al Sheeb, Voices of Iraq reported. Iraqi forces are also patrolling inside Amarah. "Joint patrol vehicles have also been deployed in downtown Amarah city, particularly in the areas of Hitteen, Al Urouba, Maghraba and Al Batira Street," a security source told Voices of Iraq.

The final preparations for operation started late last week as Iraqi forces began amassing at the airport north of Amarah, and set up positions along the major roads leading into the province. Units from Basrah and Baghdad were moved into Maysan to conduct the operation.

The operation began early Saturday after helicopters dropped leaflets in Amarah warning the residents to stay indoors, cooperate with security forces, and provide information on wanted suspects. Leaflets with photographs of wanted Mahdi Army leaders and "wanted persons who have been charged with murder, kidnap and robbery."

There have been no reports of major clashes or the detention of high-value targets. Some of the Mahdi Army leaders in Amarah are believed to have fled into Iran, where Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army, resides.

Amarah is a strategic hub for Iranian operations in southern Iraq

Maysan province is a strategic link for the Ramazan Corps, the Iranian military command set up by Qods Force to direct operations inside Iraq. Amarah serves as the Qods Force-Ramazan Corps forward command and control center inside Iraq as well as one of the major distribution points for weapons in southern Iraq.

The Iraqi security forces have stepped up operations against the Ramazan Corps and the Mahdi Army in the southern provinces over the past several months. Operation Knights' Assault was launched against the Mahdi Army in Basrah on March 25. After six days of heavy fighting, the Mahdi Army pushed for a cease-fire. The Iraqi security forces also dealt the Mahdi Army a heavy blow in the southern provinces of Najaf, Karbala, Qassadiyah, Maysan, and Wasit.

The Iraqi security forces and the US military also confronted the Mahdi Army in Sadr City in Baghdad. After six weeks of heavy fighting, the Mahdi Army and the Iraqi government signed a cease-fire that allowed the military to enter Sadr City uncontested.

During the month of May, the Iraqi security forces expanded operations throughout Basrah province in Az Zubayr, Al Qurnah, and Abu Al Khasib along the Iranian border. This week, an operation kicked off in Dhi Qhar province, which borders Maysan to the southeast.



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READER COMMENTS: "Iraqi offensive underway against the Mahdi Army in Maysan"

Posted by C. Jordan at June 14, 2008 1:46 PM ET:

Go Iraq! Great work keeping up the pressure.

Posted by KaneKaizer at June 14, 2008 1:53 PM ET:

The Iraqi Army's assault on the Mahdi Army has just been relentless for the past few months. If only Sadr himself was in Iraq so that he could be killed or captured.

Posted by Marlin at June 14, 2008 2:03 PM ET:

While opening activities are underway, it would seem the most intensive part of the operation has not yet started.

"The decision to undertake the operation has been taken, but the zero hour has not been set yet," Adel al-Muhoudir, governor of Maysan province, told Reuters.

Reuters: Iraq prepares new drive against armed groups

Posted by DJ Elliott at June 14, 2008 2:18 PM ET:

Why would we want to kill Sadr?

Someone competant might fill his shoes with his death making him a martyr. Hard to fight martyrs.

Sadr is the first since Hitler that has been so incompetant as a leader so as to be a defacto ally...

Posted by amagi at June 14, 2008 3:02 PM ET:

I am seriously impressed by the speed with which this operation is being executed.

Now that I have had a few days to think it over, it occurs to me that all the IA needs to do is secure the area and the border in a meaningful fashion and they will win an extraordinary strategic victory, even if Mahdi VIPs escape to Iran.

Indeed, let them go to Iran and stew in their juices for a bit. Plugging the ratholes will dry up the supply (and resupply) of armaments elsewhere, and the number of daily incidents will fall and more IA resources can be dedicated rebuilding/consolidating gains. If Iran wants to maintain its support for insurgents, it will have to do so by riskier and slower means.

Does all this make sense? Does anyone take issue with this analysis?

By gum, I think we almost have this thing buttoned up. Two years ago, who would have thought it?

Posted by jay at June 14, 2008 3:37 PM ET:

Excellent point, DJ.
As the old Irish saying goes, "better the devil that you know than the one you don't." However, I believe you could probably slip in Chairman Arafat as another incompetent leader. One time, an Israeli sniper had Yasser in his sights and he was uncharacteristically called off. The Israelis knew they were better off having him alive than dead. He bungled so many things that an Israeli politician once said of him, "Arafat never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

Posted by Private Finch at June 14, 2008 4:32 PM ET:

"Why would we want to kill Sadr?

Good question. Sadr is the best ally we have in Iraq. He is so inept he can't organize a one car funeral parade. He is better- off kept alive and hiding behind his wife's fat butt near Tehran. Keep up the good work Mookie. Your Mahdi army is shrinking and getting blown away. It is more like the Mahdi squad.

Posted by Neo at June 14, 2008 4:49 PM ET:

From the Reuters news release:

"Sadr ordered a delegation of clerics to go to Amara for talks with regional officials on how the operation would be carried out, said Sayyid Kareem al-Battat, a delegation member.
Battat said the delegation carried instructions from Sadr for Mehdi Army members to respect the ceasefire ordered by the cleric.
He said the provincial governor had promised security forces would respect human rights and that a committee of tribal leaders would supervise the operation.
"We have no objection to implementing the law and arresting wanted people. We don't think that the operation is directed at Sadr partisans because we are all brothers in the city," Battat said."

I find this absolutely heartwarming. It's wonderful how inclusion works in the Middle East. You just make sure they know whose "Da Man", than kiss and make up. Deal them in if they play nice, and never turn your back on them. It's not that alien of a world. If you know anything about how the mafia worked, than you probably have a pretty good idea how these folks think.

And we can thank Sadr for all of his restraint. He's like a big ol' turkey thermometer. He just pops right up there and signals "done", every time the Mahdi Army gets cooked.

OK guys, that's it for bad puns for me. I'm quiting while I'm ahead.

Posted by Marlin at June 14, 2008 4:56 PM ET:

al-Maliki seems to think this operation is farther along than the news media is reporting.

Iraq's Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Nouri al-Maliki, announced on Saturday that Missan is a disarmed province as of Sunday, giving gunmen four days to hand over their weapons, according to al-Iraqiya TV.

The semi-official station cut their transmission to read out a statement by the Iraqi army's supreme commander Maliki, the prime minister, announcing Missan as a disarmed province as of June 15, 2008.

Aswat al-Iraq: Maliki says Missan disarmed, gives gunmen 4 days to hand over weapons

Posted by Matthew at June 14, 2008 6:35 PM ET:

I just love that there is a cooler on the back of the tank in the photo just as they are on many construction and work vehicles.

Getting the job done, Indeed...

Posted by Trophy Wench at June 14, 2008 9:20 PM ET:

I love how this photographer can make a T-55 look so menacing, but I digress.

amagi, I must say that you are definately on to something. But the real test is going to come next year when the Americans and the coalition overall will have drawn down somewhat. If the IA and INP can not only hold on and consolidate their [the coalitions] gains and do everything that you speculated, Iraq would have come a very long way inteed.

Posted by Marlin at June 15, 2008 10:20 AM ET:

Tactical adjustments continue to be made in Amarah prior to the intensive house-to-house searches still to come.

A new police chief was appointed in Missan province as part of the measures taken by the Iraqi Interior Ministry in preparation for an upcoming security operation, the media and public relations director in Missan's police command said on Sunday.

"A ministerial decree has been issued to appoint Staff Brigadier Saad Ali Aati to replace Major General Ali Waham as the police chief in Missan," Colonel Mahdi Hussein told Aswat al-Iraq-Voices of Iraq- (VOI).

Ali Waham has been moved to another position in the ministry, Hussein noted, providing no further details.

Aswat al-Iraq: New police chief for Missan ahead of security operation

Posted by Mike Hollins at June 16, 2008 4:51 PM ET:

There have been reports that Ali Khamenei has ordered Al Qods training sites evacuated as a precaution in case of a U.S. attack. That must be hindering Iran's covert program to train and equip Iraqis to attack U.S. and Iraqi government forces.

This offensive into Maysan province should hinder it even further. Iraqi government forces will not only be killing and capturing Iranian proxies, but also making it harder for any replacements Iran is able to train to enter Iraq.

Posted by Rhyno327/lrsd at June 18, 2008 11:11 AM ET:

As much as I would like to see Sadr dead, it should have happened early on, before he gained momentum. It would just make him a martyr now. As for Amarah, rid the town of the vermin there, using watever means possible. Avoid civilian casualties the best you can, but air-strikes and armor may be needed, so use it. Does anyone know wat US forces are involved? I have to believe there is US troops and armor ready to roll, just don't know the formation being used. Hopefully they will bag a bunch of Iranians, since they are behind alot of the violence. Godspeed, kick ass.