Sunday, April 20, 2008

A View to a Kill

U.S. soldier on patrol

FutureJacked readers will almost certainly already be aware of this, but let's review quickly:

Moqtada al-Sadr issues 'all-out-war' ultimatum
Deborah Haynes in Baghdad
The head of the most powerful Shia militia in Iraq has threatened all-out war in a final ultimatum unless Iraqi and US forces halt operations against his fighters.

The prospect of a showdown with the al-Mahdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who launched two uprisings against US forces in 2004, comes as fears mount of a renewed campaign of bloodletting by Sunni Islamist al-Qaeda. An upsurge in violence on these two, key fronts could unravel a raft of security gains made by the US military over the past year, at a time when more than 20,000 US troops are withdrawing from the country.

Hojatoleslam al-Sadr issued his threat to Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, last night as operations against his forces continued in the southern oil-hub of Basra, the Baghdad slum of Sadr City and elsewhere...

Let's develop a list of things to watch for as this unfolds. I have an even more keen interest in this region of the planet these days as a good Friend of FutureJacked is about to deploy to the sandbox in the near future.

Look for initial "victories" by Iraqi "national army" forces (mostly old Badr Brigade types and tribals allied with them) supported by U.S. and British arms. Look for initial gains in Baghdad as well, especially if the U.S. can get enough walls up quickly and begin partitioning Sadr City.

4GW outfits like Sadr's collection of forces (and the various gangs and other tribals in Basra) are going to appear to lose big at first. There will be airstrikes. There will be neighborhoods "taken". Blood will fill the media stream and expect to see high body counts for "militants" and "insurgents".

Please keep your eyes peeled for secondary stories, though. This will tell the tale of whether the Coalition forces are backing the right strongman to impose order or whether we have backed unpopular militias to make sure that any success must be dependent upon keeping U.S. forces in-country:

  • Keep a tally of the bombardment of the Green Zone. Coalition forces will work hard to push "secure" zones out as far away from the Green Zone as possible. With the proliferation of crude rocket tech, this could be difficult to achieve.
  • Keep an eye on the petroleum infrastructure. If al-Sadr's folks want to get real nasty, look to see bombings of pipelines, refineries and the other usual suspects that go along with 4GW destabilization of infrastructure.
  • Logistcs, logistics, logistics. Watch for attacks on the supply convoys that feed Coalition forces in Baghdad. That long road from Kuwait could get even longer. This could lead to significant, if temporary and spotty, supply shortages at just the wrong time.
  • The rise (or fall) of the Blame Iran meme. This, in my opinion, may well be the key fallout of this upcoming wave of violence (if al-Sadr makes good on his threat to go to war). If we see mostly references to how local forces are attacking off their own resources, then that means the U.S. and Iran are working towards an agreement or have one in place and al-Sadr was the lamb to be sacrificed. If we see continuous drumbeats of "Iran is supplying terrorists with EFPs, rockets and arms" then, my friends, my long months of hoping for a dramatic diplomatic breakthrough between the U.S. and Iran may well be dashed and we'll have to reactivate the Iran WarWatch.

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