August 15, 2004
Battle Blog 8-15 August 2004By Douglas Hanson
The Battle Blog will continue to focus on operations of the Multi—National Forces (MNF) and Iraqi forces against the militia of radical Shia leader, Muqtada al—Sadr. A special edition of the Battle Blog earlier this week covered the initial fighting which occurred on August 5, discussed the friendly order of battle, and focused on the fighting to seize the Wadi al—Salam cemetery.
Since that time, the MNF and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have seized the vast majority of the city of Najaf, and have completely surrounded and cut—off al—Sadr in the area of the Imam Ali Shrine. Once al—Sadr came to grips with his deteriorating situation, he immediately called for truce negotiations. The MNF and ISF called a halt in their operations to give Iraq's national security adviser, Mouwaffaq al—Rubaie, an opportunity to broker a truce. However, the talks were broken off, and Prime Minister Iyad Allawi authorized the resumption of military action in Najaf.
While Najaf is the center of al—Sadr's power, there are other areas of Iraq that have also seen fighting between MNF and Sadr's militia.
Sadr City, Baghdad
The Shia neighborhood of Baghdad has also seen an increase of violence due to the actions of Sadr's militia. The US 1st Cavalry Division has responsibility for security in Baghdad, and the division commander, Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, said that the fighting is causing improvement projects in Sadr City to be delayed. Insurgency attacks delay Sadr City projects covers Maj. Gen. Chiarelli's press conference on August 8, when he noted that the violence has prevented Iraqis from going to work and has therefore caused the loss of 15,000 jobs. This, of course, is an important objective in the terrorists' campaign to turn the populace against the interim Iraqi government.
Work has temporarily halted on projects on sewage systems, water systems, solid waste disposal and electrical power. Chiarelli also stressed that
"Soldiers and members of the Iraqi security forces have fought and bled together in Sadr City. Over the past three days, heroic Iraqi Soldiers and police, supported by coalition Soldiers have battled the insurgents and maintained control of the streets."
Iraqi Police and Iraqi National guard troops teamed with US Special Forces to take the fight to Mehdi militia forces in Al Kut. In a US CENTCOM press release, the city governor thinks the battle 'may have broken the back of anti—Iraqi forces in the city.' The fight started as Shia militia members attacked and overran Iraqi police stations. In the pivotal battle, Iraqi forces launched an assault across the Tigris River while under fire, to seize a key bridge in the city. Iraqi forces continue to hold the bridge. Also, an AC—130 gunship destroyed the building housing the 'Al Kut Sadr Bureau," and other buildings that had been occupied by the Mehdi militia.
This past week, Iraqi Security Forces assisted by US Marines successfully raided the Saleh mosque just outside of Kufa. ISF lead the way in raid on Muqtada Militia describes the successful raid where several militia members were killed and eight were captured. US Marines cordoned off the area, and established blocking positions to prevent militia members from escaping, but the raid itself was accomplished solely by the ISF.
The article above also notes that Iraqi National Guardsmen and Marines from the 11th MEU executed a joint raid on Sadr's own neighborhood in Najaf. The Sadr neighborhood has been a hotbed of violence, and fortified positions had been constructed in the streets along with weapons caches. In addition, the article said that
Its presence stood as a significant threat to a secure and stable Najaf. The area raided consisted of two medical clinics/hospitals occupied by the Muqtada Militia for more than four months, and the al—Sadr house itself. Muqtada Sadr was not present at the house, nor was he expected to be.
The above article also has some very interesting information that naturally conflicts with major press accounts of the situation in Najaf. For example, the MNF article notes that the wounds Sadr supposedly suffered at the hands of MNF must be viewed with a jaundiced eye, as there were no MNF operations at the time. Therefore, if his 'wounds' are real, it would present some very interesting possibilities as to their true cause.
As of this morning, the major press is reporting that fighting has resumed in the center of Najaf. That the MNF and ISF control the majority of the city with no vast Shia 'uprising' materializing across southern Iraq spells doom for al—Sadr, and is good news for the MNF and the Iraqi interim government. However, the US and Iraq are now arriving at a crucial time when it is important that the ISF deal directly with Sadr and his henchmen in the so—called 'holy shrines' of Najaf, whose status continues to be abused by Sadr's thugs.
It is also a crucial time from a geo—strategic aspect in the entire Central Region. As Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely said on Fox News this week, Najaf is at the end of the Iranian 'rat line.' The ISF and the MNF must destroy Iran's influence in Iraq, otherwise stability and democracy in the country will be threatened for the foreseeable future. After all, Iran has publicly announced its intentions. It's time the Iraqis show resolve in the face of their traditional enemy. Thankfully, Prime Minster Allawi's authorization for further military action shows he knows the stakes in the bigger battle for freedom.
[Editor's Note: Starting next week, Battle Blog will move from Sundays to Monday morning postings]