Glenn Reynolds from Instapundit taped a call from Michael Yon, who is in Mosul right now, about the Shia militia fight going on in Basra and in Sadr city inside Baghdad. Its quite informative and lasts close to 10 minutes. Well worth the listen:
Reynolds – So how are the US forces there feeling about this? Do they feel that they got the situation reasonably under control or do they think its endangered of getting out of control or are they just waiting to see how things develop?
Yon – Well, I’m in Mosul which is on the other side of the country from Basra. Mosul is where the last big fighting against al-Qaeda has been shaping and al-Qaeda is truly being crushed, I mean there is not a whole lot left of these guys so that’s the good news. The bad news, on the other side of the country, down in Basra, I think a lot of this is wait and see. Also, in Baghdad, a lot of this is wait and see. But you can’t just wait and let the fire burn without checking it so clearly we are already getting involved. There are reports of airstrikes from US planes in Basra and also in Baghdad. There are reports of pretty sharp fighting with US forces in Baghdad. So I would imagine that its going to get worse before it gets better. These militias truly are powerful. The Iraqi army on the other hand are increasingly becoming capable and they certainly are not push overs. The Iraqi army can fight, they cannot sustain themselves but they can definitely fight. They need are support, of course, for logistics and also for air support which is very helpful. Down in Basra there is another wildcard, the Iraqi police in Basra are unreliable. They are the worst police I’ve seen in Iraq actually. So that’s going against us down there. Going forth is the fact that the Iraqi army is quite capable. But, again, the militias are strong and its going to be a very serious fight, if they decide to fight.
Another good quote from Yon is his take on what this fight is about:
The Shia down there will tell you this is not about, this doesn’t have anything to do with religion whatsoever. It’s all about power, its all about money, it’s all about influence.
And the Iraqi government cannot allow the militias to have that power, money, & influence if a Iraqi government is to succeed.
Finally, from Yon:
These are serious setbacks with the Shia militias, but its not the end of the world, its not civil war thats for sure. That ended last year. The civil war ended, especially, when we started beating down al-Qaeda.
The Shia militias are not intractable forces like you have with al-Qaeda. With al-Qaeda we had to kill em, capture em, run em’ out, demoralize them…you know, all those things. We had to physically beat these people. Now with the militias, the Shia militias in particular, a lot of these people are using violence as a negotiating tactic. So this is not necessarily, again this is not a theological splitting of Iraq. Its all about resources and power.