Iraq “Civil War” Sitrep II

Fighting in Doura district of Baghdad seems to be locus of fighting; QRFs established to address hot spots

It is quite difficult at this point in time to sort out the ‘day to day’ insurgency related violence from the violence related to the destruction of the dome of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. Reuters provides an update on the major security incidents in Iraq forthe 26th of February. While it is pure speculation, the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Basra (three of the bombers were wounded during premature detonation), a drive by shooting on youths playing soccer in Baqubah nd the fighting in Baghdad’s Doura district likely are directly related to destruction of mosque.

The fighting in Baghdad’s Doura district is the heaviest, with 15 killed and 45 wounded during mortar exchanges. Journalists/blogger Christopher Albritton, who is living in Baghdad, was extremely negative about the prospects on February 25th , (“We have reached a point where the facade of the “political process” has been shredded.”) and was predicting an all out collapse of the government and full blown civil war. According to Mr. Allbritton, the government (or “government” as the “objective” reporter Chris Allbritton refers to it) was not entering the fray on the streets of Baghdad. Today, Mr. Allbritton backtracks (“Well, maybe I spoke too soon.”) and reports the Iraqi Security Forces along with Coalition air support are engaging in Doura.

As I type, the mixed neighborhood of Doura, to the south of me, is reeling under a mortar barrage. The refinery there is on fire, it looks like. Fifteen people have been killed and 45 wounded as of last count. I have no idea how many mortars have landed, they’ve been so numerous. The sky is abuzz with Coalition choppers and Iraqi Army units have been seen crossing the Two-Story Bridge from Karradah to Doura.

Doura itself is a mixed neighborhood, with both Sunni and Shi’a residents. For months now, it’s been a very nasty place and it’s the current HQ for Al Qaeda in Iraq fighters in Baghdad. You don’t go to Doura unless you’re looking for trouble.

There is no word if the Iraqi Army mechanized division or the Interior Ministry’s mechanized brigade are engaging in Doura, but it is highly likely as this appears to be the Iraqi Quick Reaction Force. The Washington Times’ Rowan Scarborough reports the U.S. military has set up quick reaction forces and are monitoring the Iraqi Security Forces actions via Unmanned aerial Vehicles and embedded Military Training Teams, and are prepared to provide assistance if needed. The Iraqis are being given the lead in this fight.

While much of the focus is on the divisions between various Sunni and Shiite groups, Gateway Pundit rounds up the news of the unity demonstrations being held throughout Iraq, in cities such as Basra, Mosul, Hillah, Al Kut, and Karbala.

The Jordan Times looks at how the “Wolf Brigade” is transitioning to an effective elite unit that is gaining the respect of the Iraqi people in Ramadi. All hope is not lost for the Iraqi police, and it should be remembered that 2006 is considered to be “the year of the police” – where police units are to be trained up to improve their effectiveness.

Again, it appears the Iraqi government is beginning to assert itself and push security units into the fray. As Mr. Allbritton notes, Doura is no place for the meek. It should also be noted that the oversimplification of Shiite and Sunni relations is a big source of misinformation in the press. Mr. Allbritton, in his February 25th posting, questions Shiite military and police units would turn on their “brethren” in the Madhi or Badr militias. Or would Sunni police forces “confiscate the AK-47s of their mujahideen brothers off to fight the Shi’ite members of the 1st Division down the road?”

Mr. Allbritton forgets the 2004 assault on the Shrine of Imam Ali, where Muqtada al-Sadr’s forces were routed by U.S. forces accompanied by Shiite militiamen of the Thulfiqar Army and the Ansar Sistani, which Mr. Allbritton witnessed first hand (and, incidentally, he also predicted the government would collapse and Sadr was extremely popular and would be victorious). Sadr is very unpopular in many Shiite circles, just as the “mujahideen” are very unpopular in many Sunni circles. That’s why there has been so much Red-on-Red fighting between insurgents, tribes and al Qaeda. The sectarian devides exist, and have existed for hundreds of years, and should not be oversimplified or confused with a civil war.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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13 Comments

  • Jamison1 says:

    The mosque bombing is looking to be an inside job:
    On who is responsible for the recent bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra:
    MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, IRAQ’S NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, the blueprint of that unfortunate event, the blueprints of Al Qaida in Iraq is there.
    It’s the same design, the same method, the same objective they wanted to achieve, which is a civil war. They wanted to drive a wedge between the two communities in Iraq, between the Shia and Sunnis. And they’ve been trying this for the last two and a half years and they failed miserably in this.
    And I think also this is one of the most horrible, really terrible attacks on the doctrine, on the belief of the largest community in Iraq. And still, Iraqi people have proven that they’ve gone through this difficulty yet again and they have shown the Al Qaida and the outside world that they will never be driven to the civil war.
    BLITZER: So when you say Al Qaida in Iraq, you mean Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? Is that right?
    AL-RUBAIE: That’s absolutely right.
    It’s the same organization of Al Qaida, this international terrorist organization, and one — the branch of it in Iraq is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi leading this terrible attack, terrorist attacks against our people.
    BLITZER: Have your security or police forces…
    AL-RUBAIE: And against our — and against…
    BLITZER: … arrested anyone?
    AL-RUBAIE: Well, we have arrested 10 people. Four from the guards of the Golden Tomb (ph) shrine. And six — there were in the city of Samarra, just moved in and rented a place. Six young people there. So we are investigating them.
    We have a very — there are two leads and these leads are very, very good in our investigation. And we will reveal this in the very near future, inshallah.
    //transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0602/26/le.01.html

  • hamidreza says:

    Its time to pickup Sadr and to dock him.
    Sadr’s ordered his Mahdi army (which exists in violation of the law) to attack Sunni mosques, and only later retracted that – this is enough evidence to book him right next to Saddam. If he resists or dies in the capture operation, so be it. He has enough murder on his hands, when he tortured killed 200 Najaf citizens during his occupation of Najaf in 2004.
    I think most Sunnis, nationalist and Islamists, would not mind the arrest of Sadr. I doubt that Sistani would mind that either. Shiite seculars would love to see that. That remains Badr, Dawa, and Fazila. I believe Badr would not mind elimination of Sadr, and the rest can be bought off. Kurds would certainly support this.
    Time to get rid of this anti-Iraqi pro-Iranian traitorous hardliner element trying to institute Taliban society with himself at its head, whose only claim to fame is that his Daddy was murdered by Saddam.
    Iraqi intelligence and special units with the backing of the American special forces should get into action.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Bill,
    As you are aware, part of COIN operations is waiting for people in a given area to “want to be free” of the insurgency. Every major city in the world has a neighborhood where the police won’t go. The Dora District is such a place. Decrying that America is on the verge of Civil War because of what might happen in South Central LA is a bit of an exaggeration.
    I read the full transcript at CNN provided by Jamison. My read is that the Iraqi’s are getting very good intelligience from a very fed up population.

  • Bill Faith says:

    I can’t seem to leave you trackbacks — I thought TypePad and Movable Type were both on the same side but sometimes they don’t get along. I linked from //www.smalltownveteran.net/posts/2006/02/bill_roggio_ira_1.html on the outside chance I have any readers that haven’t found your place yet.

  • hamidreza says:

    It is interesting that ICG, a liberal-left think tank is calling for, enough to religion in Iraq (after 3 whole years), and demanding clamp down on militias and religious parties. I guess the Samarra incident frayed their nerves.
    //www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/GEO654287.htm
    Looks like they are calling for clamp down, and for US and the international community to tighten the screws in Iraq. Which basically means picking up the mollas and their associates. For example if the 30 parliamentarians of Sadr are arrested, then that will remove the logjam to the formation of a new government. Hmmm…. what happened to “religion legitimate voice of the oppressed” by these half-wits? Are the liberals-lefts starting to wake up?

  • I’m not forgetting Najaf… I was in the shrine for much of the last three days of that conflict. And I reported that the people of Najaf were very critical of al-Sadr. It is in Kut and Sadr City (and other southern cities) that al-Sadr is popular.
    I predicted the repercussions against Allawi’s government would be severe if he ordered troops to storm the shrine. Thankfully, that didn’t happen because Sistani showed up at the last minute and brokered a peace deal. The respect he commanded then is lessened today, because of 18 more months of bloodshed against the Shi’a.
    I’m not sure what you mean that I predicted Sadr would emerge victorious. The Mahdi Army wasn’t defeated in Najaf; as I mentioned, the big battle was averted by Sistani. His fighters escaped, with their arms and al-Sadr is now a major powerbroker in parliament. His militiamen dominate swaths of the security forces. Sounds pretty victorious to me. He’s sure got more influence than Khalilzad does.
    Each time al-Sadr goes up against the United States he emerges politically more powerful. He doesn’t have to win battles to gain stature, which is something military-minded people never seem to grasp.
    You mention I simplify Sunni-Shi’ite tensions, but you seem to have forgotten that Sadr and Badr forces fought street battles across the south in August 2005. I don’t for a minute think Sadr and Badr are close buddies.

  • Marlin says:

    Stars and Stripes has an article today that describes the red-on-red fighting that occurred in Mahmudiyah in the last day or so.
    “An unprecedented firefight between a Shiite militia and a Sunni tribe broke out on the edge of the city here, the latest sign of heightened sectarian tensions in this demographically mixed area 25 miles south of Baghdad.
    U.S. troops kept their distance from the gunbattle that erupted after several mortar rounds lobbed into the city appeared to target a local headquarters compound of the Mahdi militia, a Shiite-run organization that has operated discreetly here for months.
    “That is the first time we’ve seen the Mahdi militia go on the offensive during normal hours,”

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Chris,
    You made my points for me with respect to the divides within Shiite factions. Again, you asked if Shiite would oppose Shiite, and Sunni oppose Sunni. We have concrete evidence this has occurred. Personally, I think it was a mistake for Sadr to have been let go in 2004, and yes, he weils far too much influence in Iraq for my liking. But his forces did take a pounding in Najaf, and he negotiated out of a position of weakness, not strength. He misplayed his hand and overestimated his power base. Seems he did so again this week. And i think its a mistake to comparehis power base and popularity with that of Sistani’s.
    Marlin,
    If the reader digs deeper into the article you linked they will find the Iraqi Army went up against the Sadr Madhi Army in Mahmudiyah.

  • cjr says:

    //pentagonchannel.feedroom.com/iframeset.jsp?ord=211051
    Over at the Pentagon Channel, there is an excellent briefing by Gen Lynch(Feb 25) on VERIFIED attacks since the mosque bombing. Seems there are fewer than have been reported in the media. 22 VERIFIED attacks on mosques of which 6 have sustained substanial damage….

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Christopher Allbritton,
    “Each time al-Sadr goes up against the United States he emerges politically more powerful.”
    Exactly, going up against the “Great Satan” and living to tell the story builds stature in that part of the world.
    Who wins politically in an Iraqi Army vs Mehdi Militia battle?
    There is no anti-occupation sentiment to exploit in that scenario.

  • Enigma says:

    Christopher Allbritton,
    “Each time al-Sadr goes up against the United States he emerges politically more powerful.”
    Exactly, going up against the “Great Satan” and living to tell the story builds stature in that part of the world.

    It was in that way that Saddam claimed victory over the US in the Gulf War. Perception is reality. That incidentally is a lesson our media knows all too well.

  • FOR IRAQI UNITY… BUT AGAINST AMERICA: THE DOUBLE-EDGE OF IRAQI NATIONALISM

    Since last Wednesday’s attack on the Askariya Mosque in Samarra, there was a surge in violence that day and the next, followed by relative calm on Friday as radical Shia Islamist Moqtada Sadr called in his militia, followed by more…

  • hamidreza says:

    Juan Cole reports the end of the love-fest between Sadr and the Sunnis, ever since Mahdi army attacked, some say 60, mosques. This has come as a surprise to Cole, “the Shiite expert”, that there has been breakup.
    And when the mosque was bombed, Sadr was in Lebanon and then went straight to Tehran. If this is not sign of treason, then you cannot call a Sunni a nationalist.
    Its time for the Iraqi intellience to pick him up. I think Hakim and Dawa and certainly Sistani would love to see him eliminated. Also, arrest the 30 Sadr parliamentarians for stoking flames of revenge and sectarianism. Any non-Sistani Shiite mollah that sermonizes on Fridays against the occupation should be picked up.

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