The Diwaniyah Battle


Muqtada al-Sadr.

Sadr calls for Iraqi Security Forces to end the fighting in Diwaniyah as the Iraqi military and U.S. forces pursue the Mahdi Army

Operation Black Eagle, the security operation against Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army in the central Shia city of Diwaniyah, has entered its fourth day. The last news from the city indicates 39 fighters have been captured and “several” killed. Two known insurgent leaders have also been captured during the operation.

The Diwaniyah operations demonstrates how the Baghdad Security Plan is now expanding beyond Baghdad and even the Baghdad belts. Diwaniyah is about 90 miles southeast of Baghdad. While the city is much more distant than other cities and regions where the Coalition is focusing operations, such as Baqubah nd the Diyala River Valley, it still has a strategic importance.

Preparations for the Diwaniyah operation could be seen in the central and southern regions of Baghdad. Omar at Iraq the Model reported an unusual influx of armored vehicles in Rusafa, just south of Sadr City on April 5. It appears U.S. and Iraqi forces positioned armor to both block reinforcements from Sadr City as and act as a quick reaction force support operations in Diwaniyah if the need arose.

Diwaniyah is the city where large segments of Sadr’s Mahdi Army fled to after the commencement of the Baghdad Security Plan, a U.S. intelligence official told us. With the split in Sadr’s Mahdi Army, and a large segment looking to reconcile with the Iraqi government, the extremist elements of the militia have hunkered down in Diwaniyah. Security in Diwaniyah is said to have been deteriorating since the Mahdi Army concentrated power in the city. The Iraqi government and Coalition is pursuing the Mahdi Army holdovers remaining in Diwaniyah.

Sadr’s plea for Iraqi forces to break for the Coalition and halt the fighting shows he is concerned his forces in Diwaniyah are facing a very real threat. Yesterday, Sadr issued an official statement, “which was distributed in the holy Shi’ite city of Najaf and stamped with Sadr’s seal.” The statement called for Iraqi Security Forces to end the fighting against the Mahdi Army. Reuters excerpts portions of Sadr’s letter:

“And here we can see in … (Diwaniyah), a civil strife the occupier planned, to drag the brothers into clashing, fighting and even killing… Oh (Mahdi Army) and my brothers (Iraqi forces) enough of this clashing and killing. This is success for your enemy … and (Iraqi army and police) don’t be dragged behind the enemy… God has ordered you to be patient in front of the enemy and to unify your efforts against it, not against the sons of Iraq.”

The operation in Diwaniyah is likely an attempt to preempt Sadr’s forces. Sadr called for a protest against the U.S. occupation on April 9, the date of Iraq’s liberation from the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. Sadr shrewdly asked Iraqis to fly the Iraqi flag to capitalize on the patriotism of Iraqis. Sadr instructed his followers to demonstrate in Najaf.

The demonstration in Najaf has been muted. While the Middle East Online claimed “hundreds of thousands of Shiites burned and trampled on US flags,” the reality is the protest was far smaller than Sadr would have liked. Reuters puts the protest size in the thousands, and during a press round table briefing today, Rear Admiral Mark Fox noted the Coalition is closely monitoring the protest, and put the numbers at 5 to 7 thousand. The protest is monitored both on the ground and via air, which allows for a relatively accurate count of the numbers of protesters.

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



  • C-Low says:

    The leadership speaking leading to this rally should be monitored, followed then either arrested or killed. I have yet to understand why we in the west watch rallies of our enemies Mehdi, Hezbollah, Hamas, ect… but do nothing. The hardest thing about insurgent warfare is getting your enemy to mass so our firepower can be brought to bear, a rally is not a political statment of free speech its a target rich envioroment wrapped and delivered.

  • BobK says:

    Posted by C-Low | April 9, 2007 9:52 AM
    While this sounds great on the face of it, it would backfire if done immediately. Days or weeks from now however!!
    I believe that part of the plan is to allow this protest and then POINT out how they are NOW able to protest without fear of the Government. Trying to show that freedom is working and has its benefits for the masses. Note Gen P’s statement today.
    Not a very good showing for Sadr if only 5000 protested. In his better days that would be 10’s to 100’s of thousands for sure.

  • Toad says:

    In response to WTF:
    You are correct in many ways and I share your feelings. Unfortunately this country is not fighting a war where our survival is at stake. (Even though our survival might be in the long run.) The lives of our soldiers are at stake, but the american people and government have restricted their effectiveness by imposing “game rules” that hogtie our abilities. If we were truly fighting this war as a matter of survival, we would be killing every person who picked up a weapon against us, even after we extracted any available information. How can we win when we keep releasing the bad guys and we are not allowed to shoot one of them who has dropped his weapon and is running away? “We” are not showing that we are serious about winning this thing and it is killing our guys. I really believe that if we had been more ruthless to begin with this thing would have been over by now and the world’s perception of us would have been better than it is now. I’d rather the world fear us since that would surely protect us more in the future. They surely don’t respect us now as we blunder through this thing and get blamed for everything that is wrong in the world.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 04/09/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  • C-Low says:

    I agree freedom of speech is OK and good however respect of freedom of speech doesnt mean you have to let your enemies rally too. Freedom of speech does not apply to inciting violence or doing saying things that cost lives.
    These rallies are not protected freedom of speech this is the enemy rallying gathering thier forces for battle. Just becuase they dont wear uniforms doesnt mean they should be allowed to mass rally in public and stump for recruits and money from the gen pop as freedom of speech.
    I believe Bush made a decision early on to go with the low casualties SLOW win over a extended period of time rather than the FAST high casualty brutal screw the hearts and minds all we want is respect or if nessecary fear option. I would be willing to bet that when you broke down that 60% or so who are opposed to Bushs handling of the WOT I would guess a good 40% worth of that 60% are of the above mind with a meager 20% who are the retard surrender we are the problem anti war pansies.
    I somewhat sign onto the slow option and do support US being as open and freedom of speech fair with the gen pop but once a group crosses the red line of inciting violence agianst US or IG forces thier should be no quarter given and absolutley no doubt left to the fact we will pursue with utter decamtion thier entire org no mercy. Gen pop may choose to speak another point of view but when they call for attacks or even incite for such then they should be faded pernamently ASAP so everyone understands you can talk to the US but not even threaten action.

  • crosspatch says:

    The press seems to be playing Sadr up to be a bigger player than he might really be at the moment inside Iraq. Today’s US press is full of stories about him yet he may not be nearly as significant as the press is portraying him to be.
    His organization itself is apparently fractured and I have not yet been able to get a clear picture of how much of it is still loyal to him. Whatever it is, it is certainly less than it was several months ago. There are other Shiite blocs in play that are more supportive of the Baghdad security plan that have more seats in government and have a lot of sway in areas such as Sadr City. The Mahdi Army is by no means the only group active there. We don’t hear much about SCIRI and the Badr Brigades recently.
    Our press seems to be bent on agitation and somehow playing Sadr up to be a larger force than he is. Maybe because it sells ad views, I don’t know. I am taking it all with several grains of salt. The press has been playing up Sadr’s “announcement” yet I have not heard of any great increase in violence associated with the demonstrations in Najaf or anywhere else in Iraq today. Much of the hype could be and probably is more of media reports feeding on themselves than any reflection of the reality on the ground.
    To give an example, I found this story: “Sadr sacks representatives in Parliament” on an Iraqi site. They themselves aren’t clear that anyone has given up their seat. Sadr might not be in a position to control his own bloc in government anymore.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “I agree freedom of speech is OK and good however respect of freedom of speech doesnt mean you have to let your enemies rally too.”
    “Mass Rallies” release “Endorphins”…that brain chemical that makes people feel happy. Happy people tend not to run around killing people.

  • We don’t need to be machine gunning crowds of demonstrators.
    I have been to Ad Diwaniyah many times and I enjoyed every visit. The people were friendly. Sadr’s people have infiltrated the city and there is no telling how many town’s people are attending the demonstration due to fear that they were being watched.
    Taking to the street and acting like an idiot is a right that we in the United States exercise at frequent intervals. The Iraqis have a lot to be frustrated about.

  • C-Low says:

    Soldier Dad
    Rallys Endophens also create mob mentalities and riots, recruiting and organizational stages.
    I am all for freedom of speech but that does mean to allow freedom of speech we must accept suicide. Certian things don’t mix Democratic Freedom and Islamic Radicalism, Capitolism and Communism they don’t mix. Islamic Radicalism only wins once and then thier is no more freedom democracy, Communism only wins once and there is no Capitolism. That is suicide for a ideology to be forced to allow another ideology thats central tenet is destroy the host idology be allowed.
    Worst case you either end up with a Russian roulet game that at some point in time you will lose a round and its over for you, or best case you survive and make a comeback but have to start all over from scratch becuase everything was absolutley reversed.
    To allow Sadr who crossed the red line of freedom of speech by openly promoteing killing US soldiers guest of the IG is retarted everyone that showed at that rally were enemies. In the states you cannot incite violence you cannot have a Nazi rally after screaming about how all X race or say Police must be killed ASAP. And that is for damm good sane reasons.
    The west needs to take the PC, the distortions of the meanings of Freedom, Democracy, Capitolism the LLL’s have made into the norm through the schools and WAKE UP.

  • crosspatch says:

    Well, that rally has been planned for a long time. My take is that Moqtada was trying to take advantage of it and gain some publicity and it worked at least as the Western press is concerned. But it is now Tuesday morning in Iraq and as far as I can tell, there were no massive uprisings yesterday against US troops anywhere in the country. Just because Moqtada al Sadr calls for something doesn’t mean a lot of people are going to do his bidding. He ran away to Iran, his organization is apparently fractured, and this is the second time in about a month that he has issued calls to action that have apparently been ignored.

  • The Diwaniyah Battle

    Courtesy of The Fourth Rail:
    Sadr calls for Iraqi security forces to end the fighting in Diwaniyah as the Iraqi military and U.S. forces pursue the Mahdi Army
    Operation Black Eagle, the security operation against Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army i…

  • C-Low says:

    My appologies Bill didn’t mean to hijack your post with a personal rant that I drug way to far.

  • Tom W. says:

    The surest way to destroy the incredible progress we’ve made in Iraq is to start attacking protest marches.
    Luckily the people in charge of this war aren’t idiots.

  • Luis says:

    C-Low, you claim capitalism and Communism don’t mix, but keep in mind that the USA is pushing HARD to bring back the Baathists into the Iraqi government. That’s the latest fad, after de-Baathification flopped.
    Have you forgotten how socialist the Baathists are? Nationalizing the oil companies, for starters.

  • red says:

    USA is pushing HARD to bring back the Baathists into the Iraqi government. That’s the latest fad, after de-Baathification flopped.
    Of course another name for that is political reconciliation. It seems to me that a month ago everyone was saying that the solution was policital not military. We also know that many “Bathist” just like many “Nazis” were forced to join the party just to secure a livelihood. Insurgencies historically end with accomodations like this.
    Or are you an ethnic cleansing enthusiast?

  • greg says:

    Shooting up a crowd of demonstrators would be about the dumbest move we could make and is exactly what our enemies pray we will do. Just like Ahmadinejad really wants us to bomb him so the populace will rally around him. Provoking us to do something that will create a huge backlash is thier strategy. Let’s not advocate handing them a victory that they cannot win unless we take their bait. We have to be smarter than them and so far the US military has proven that it is…

  • Neo-andertal says:

    So how many people were at this protest anyway. We seem to be getting numbers from all over the place. The sad part is most of the people quoted were nowhere in the area of the protest and are quoting numbers second hand, often from the belligerent parties themselves. I kept my ears open today for how the press would carry this. My extreme example for the day was Edward Wong of the New York Times on McNeal/Lehrer News Hour. Early in the interview Wong said Tens of thousand marching but later went on say some estimates were of half a million people at the March. Well that’s a nice big range, anywhere from under 10,000 on up to half a million. I’d like to know whose making the estimate of half a million that Ed Wong was reporting.
    I was lucky I didn’t have anything in my hands to throw at the Television. I could even imagine Rear Admiral Mark Fox’s people giving a low figure, but not that far off.
    By the way the Ed Wong interview is on the pbs site. under the title “Thousands of Shiites Protest U.S. Occupation in Iraq”

  • Neo-andertal says:

    Guess that answers my question about the troop movements in east Baghdad last week. I wasn’t thinking Diwaniyah. Looks like they are trying to clear problems within current areas of control before stretching the fight too much further northward.

  • Caesar says:

    In terms of how many people were at the demonstration, I recommend you take a good survey at the various aerial fotos available on the web. You can make a good estimate based on what is out there.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    Yes it seems the militaries estimates are based on aerial photos. I get two widely used estimates. The first of 5,000 to 7,000 from Rear Admiral Mark Fox and repeated by another army official (source was named but I don’t remember it). There is a second figure of 15,000 from an unnamed Air Force source on several sites also claiming to be from aerial photos.
    I haven’t actually seen the aerials on this and doubt if I could give you any sort of quick estimate from one anyway. (they didn’t teach estimating crowds from aerial photos where I went to school) Anyhow, the two estimates are aren’t that different. So far our prestigious reporter from the NYT is the only one suggesting anything near half a million.

  • crosspatch says:

    “USA is pushing HARD to bring back the Baathists into the Iraqi government. That’s the latest fad, after de-Baathification flopped.”
    Something that doesn’t seem to be fully appreciated by many is that most of the old army didn’t pledge their loyalty to Iraq, they pledged it to Saddam personally. They pledged an oath on their personal honor and in those tribes, such an oath is more binding than any legal contract might be in our culture. To go back on such an oath would basically make your name “Mudd” for the rest of your life.
    The old army and civil servants could not be trusted as long as Saddam was still alive and real efforts to reintegrate them into the military and the government have only started since Saddam was executed.
    Remember that at first Saddam escaped our Baghdad assault and was at large with his sons in the countryside. We were basically forced at that point to dismiss the entire army and civil service as we could not trust them not to harbor Saddam. Once caught, we couldn’t trust them not to attempt to spring him. We didn’t have any choice but “de-Ba’athification”. The re-integration has only been possible since Saddam’s execution and is now moving forward. It isn’t a “fad”, it just wasn’t possible before.

  • BBC online said there were “hundreds of thousands” at the rally in Najaf while the NYT and Wash. Post said “tens of thousands.”
    Regardless of the actual number, Sadr achieved his objective of world headlines and television visuals of Iraqis demonstrating against the U.S. involvement in Iraq.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    On subject of crowd. A light division has more people than in this photo. I was trained in imagery interpretation. The coalition had preditors up to monitor this event. The press didn’t…
    As to the de-baathification:
    – In the IA only Majors and below are automatic.
    – LTC/Col has to be vetted and may have to settle for pension.
    – Generals are getting pensioned.
    Junior personnel are more adjustible and less corrupted for the most part. The more senior the former-baathest is, the more likely they are to be corrupt. The program is not letting the seniors back in…

  • BobK says:

    Release Date: 4/10/2007
    Release Number: 07-01-03P
    Description: BAGHDAD – A peaceful protest organized by Muqtada Al Sadr’s political organization occurred in Najaf April 9.
    Protestors demonstrated against coalition presence in Iraq.
    Approximately 15,000 attended the protest said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, public affairs officer for Multi-National Division – Baghdad.

  • crosspatch says:

    “Junior personnel are more adjustible and less corrupted for the most part. The more senior the former-baathest is, the more likely they are to be corrupt.”
    Of course. You didn’t get selected to become a senior officer unless Saddam was pleased with you. And should there be any reason for him to suspect you of anything but 100% loyalty to him, you would have been purged. So yes, it is reasonable to assume that anyone in a senior position would be especially useless as any kind of effective independent leader because effective independent thinkers would have been eliminated as a threat.
    But even at lower levels there would have been problems as individuals and tribal leaders would have pledged their respective individual or collective tribal loyalty to Saddam personally. It would have been impossible to re-activate the old Iraqi army while Saddam was a fugative or a prisoner.
    I don’t think that aspect of the situation gets enough consideration in discussions of the decision to disband the Iraqi army and tribal resistance to the MNF-I. Now that Saddam is gone, we have seen considerable progress in the tribes throwing their lot in with the government. They are no longer bound under an oath of honor to resist in the name of Saddam.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    That is why they waited until after the execution to announce this. Had to remove that problem first…

  • crosspatch says:

    Exactly. But too often I hear criticism of the disbanding the old Iraqi army and that comes, I believe, from people without an full appreciation for the problems NOT disbanding it could have caused.

  • crosspatch says:

    And to illustrate: If we had reconstituted the Iraqi army, Saddam and his sons along with his remaining top command staff would have probably been spirited off to Syria to form a government in exile. I have seen indications to support that this was, in fact, a plan of Saddam’s.
    At that point you would be forced to disband that army anyway but now it is much more dangerous. It is not only disbanded (dispersed and no longer under the control of the government) but the enemy command is still exists but in an area we couldn’t touch and has relatively easy communications into our area of operations. You think the insurgency we have seen from al Qaida is bad? That is nothing compared to what we would have seen if this had happened.
    Because of current domestic politics, many are unable to fully appreciate that move. History will likely show the immediate disbanding of that army as having been crucial in eventually bringing order to Iraq and bringing the reign of Saddam Hussein to an end.


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