April 26, 2008

Children Swimming in Chocolate Streams . . .

. . . in Basra?

Dr. iRack has detected a new narrative coming out of the Iraqi Government (and MNF-I). The story goes something like this. "Once upon a time, a brave prime minister took on the criminals trying to destroy his kingdom. He sent a 'charge of the knights' deep into the rogue principality of Basra to slay the minions of the evil wizard Sadr and save countless damsels in distress. After a shakey start, the knights vanquished their foes. The black-pajama-clad-ninja-JAM-gangster-flying-monkeys flew away, and life returned to the streets. The world turned from black-and-white to technocolor. Damsels felt free to let down their hair and don multi-colored robes, children frolicked and went joyously back to school, long-delayed weddings commenced, popular bards were able to share their mirth-filled tunes, and celebratory gunfire rang throughout the land. And so they all lived happily ever after."

For an eye-witness account of this transformation which basically tells this story (minus the sarcasm), see this piece in the London Times.

There seem to be many morals to this tale:

1. The limp-wristed British were defeated in Basra, but with a wee-bit of manly American help (advisors, air support), the JAMsters were sent scurrying.

2. The ISF (especially the Iraqi army) is more capable than all those playa-haters like the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction claim, despite all the difficulties during the early phase of the Basra operation and the need to fire 1,300 deserters who refused to fight JAM.

3. Sadr is soooooo 2006 (which is why the ISF in Basra went about systematically tearing down his posters in the neighborhoods they occupied). Maliki is the "It" guy in 2008! Or, as Randy Jackson might say: "He is crazy molten hot dawg!"

Yeah, we'll see. Dr. iRack is always skeptical of stories suggesting that Iraqi kids are swimming in chocolate streams ("Team America"-style), especially when the only chocolate streams in Basra are the open pools of sewage running through every neighborhood. I suspect things really have gotten better in swaths of the city as JAM has faded away and the Iraqi Army has taken over. G*d knows, the reign of the militias has been a horrible blow to the cosmoplitan tradition in Basra, not to mention the human rights of untold number of local residents. But JAM has not yet been defeated, they've just disappeared. According to the same London Times story:

In the past month Iraqi troops have killed dozens of fighters, made 400 arrests and lost 12 soldiers. At the same time, it is thought that about 60 militia leaders have escaped across the border into Iran or are lying low outside Basra, working out their next move.

So, to get serious for a moment, the ISF + U.S. (and some British) advisors appear to have conducted a "clear" operation, with the help of an Iranian brokered de-escalation. We'll see if they can "hold" or "build," and thereby prevent a reinfiltration by JAMsters coming back over the border from Iran (or simply coming out of their basements after putting their black JAMmies back on), and win loyalty for the Iraqi government. Let's hope we've seen more than a mere changing of the gangs . . . er, I mean guard, and that life really returns to Basra.