Report: Iraqi security forces preparing operation against Mahdi Army in Maysan

Map of Iraq. Click to view.

The Iraqi government is expanding its operations in the South into the Sadrist and Mahdi Army stronghold in Maysan province, according to reports.

“Maysan witnessed on Thursday the arrival of large numbers of national police forces from Baghdad and Iraqi army troops from Basrah,” a source in the province told Voices of Iraq. “The operation includes pursuing person wanted for judiciary authorities, removing all excesses, searching for medium and heavy weapons and evacuating government buildings” illegally occupied by political parties and movements.

Iraqi forces are said to be massing at the military airport outside of Amarah, the provincial capital. Police are said to establishing checkpoints along the roads entering the province.

An operation in Maysan was predicted by Nibras Kazimi on May 24. “Arrest warrants for Maysan officials are being prepared, and intelligence is being gathered about other Sadrist leaders who have gone into hiding there,” Kazimi said, noting the province has long been a safe haven for the Mahdi Army and the Sadrist movement, and heavily influenced by Iran’s Qods Force.

Maysan 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 ceasefire. The Iraqi security forces also dealt the Mahdi Army a heavy blow in the southern provinces of Najaf, Karbala, Qassadiyah, 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 ceasefire 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.

Activity in Wasit province

With Iraqi forces massing in Maysan, activity has picked up in Wasit province, which borders Maysan to the north. Police reportedly arrested Sheikh Hussein Yassin Ubaid al Attabi, a senior member of the Sadrist movement in Al Kut.

Meanwhile, Coalition forces captured an “Iranian-trained weapons smuggler” in Al Kut. US and Iraqi forces have captured six senior Special Groups leaders in Wasit province since June 3.

The Mahdi Army has stepped up attacks in Wasit province. Two policemen were killed and three were wounded in a roadside bombing attack in Al Kut. Three civilians were wounded in a separate roadside bomb attack.

In Basrah, Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured a “Special Groups criminal … involved in the kidnapping and killing of Iraqi Army soldiers and murder of Iraqi civilians.”

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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  • Old Sailor says:

    I have to say that I’m getting more and more encouraged every time I read the news about Iraq lately. The IA is really looking a lot better than it used to. Congratulations, General Petraeus and all the coalition troops in Iraq! Great job.

  • cjr says:

    If this operation kicks of in June, then the ISF will have kicked off 4 major operations in 4 months: Mosul, Basrah, Sadr City, Maysan. Quite a display of capability and agility.
    Who would have predicted this would be possible back in February?

  • amagi says:

    I’m concerned. This seems too early. I was prepared for this to take place in late August/September, but if the IA was stretched thin with Mosul/Sadr City, I don’t see how they are going to mass effectively in Maysan. This will be where they will find not only the stiffest resistance, but also the greatest logistical challenge, no? Everything up to this point seemed to me right on schedule (almost too much so in the case of Basra), but this has me nervous for some reason.
    What will the committed forces look like? Does DJ know? Are they prepared to sit in the area indefinitely? Is this happening now to demonstrate Iraq’s ability to function independent of Coalition forces vis-a-vis the hotly debated Status of Forces Agreement, or was it simply ‘time’?

  • Matthew (in Aus) says:

    Amagi, I think the most underreported story of the campaign over the last few months is the fact that IA deployed forces from Anbar and Baghdad to Basra over a few days at the end of March using C-130s and then throughout April conducted a number of operations a distance outside Basra (ie in Qurnah, Zubayr, Umm Qasr, etc). Bill and DJ can expand on the logistics of the IA more than I can, but it seems to me like they have the capability…

  • DJ Elliott says:

    There is no hard opensource data on who is in this except that they came from Basrah and Baghdad.
    Put that together with orders issued to redeploy the reinforcements that have been clearing Basrah, which indicates they are done with clearing ops there.
    They reinforced Basrah with a Div(+) including INP.
    Also, the 14th Div is scheduled to get the 53rd Bde this month.
    Part of what went to Basrah has already shown up in Sadr City. My guess is that what is left is taking the slow road home via Maysan…
    Divisional sized force and not amatures.
    Note: One of the 10th Div’s problem Brigades, that had been in Maysan, shifted to Baghdad tempararily in May. Where it can be watched more closely…

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Note: Standard Task Force mix that the ISF has been using for these ops is one INP Bde and two-three IA Bdes (EG Diwaniyah.)
    They augmented a bit more for Basrah, Mosul, and Sadr City but, Those were denser populated areas.
    The size of the ops has grown but, the average of one major op a month has been constant for more than four months…

  • pedestrian says:

    Operation summary:
    Operation completed in Basra, 75% of Mosul under control, now Maysan is to be engaged.

  • mjr007 says:

    This is great news. The backfill IA troops holding in Basrah while more experienced level troops head north.
    Great to hear Kazimi’s prediction come to fruition.
    Rolling up the ratlines east and south out of Sadr City/New Baghdad and north out of Basrah. Pinching the remaining Ramazan Corps into Amarah and Maysan.
    Absolutely textbook operations. Congratulations General Petraeus and all.

  • CW4, EN says:

    The IA is coming up to speed. No army has been formed, trained and been made operational overnight. These are the freedom fighters, taking back the country from the thugs and pretenders.
    Have faith.
    “All battles are fought by scared men who would rather be somewhere else.”

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 06/13/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

  • C. Jordan says:

    Al-Sadr raising a new army? From Iran i’m sure.
    Al-Sadr: New force to fight U.S. in Iraq
    “Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is establishing a new fighting force to battle U.S.-led troops in Iraq, he said in a letter read in Iraqi mosques Friday.
    Al-Sadr’s letter said that “the resistance will be exclusively conducted by only one group. This new group will be defined soon by me.”

  • Marlin says:

    I am all for the Iraqis regaining control of Amarah. This is an action that has been a long time coming. However, this observation doesn’t surprise me either.

    Amarah, a longtime safe haven for anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, is about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad and is separated from Iran by marshes that have been used by smugglers for centuries.
    Security officials say senior militia leaders have left for Iran and only lower-level militiamen were left in Amarah.

    Associated Press: Iraqi army gears up for next operation in Amarah


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