Sunday, March 30, 2008

What's Happening in Iraq?

Reading the newspaper reports of the current flare-up in Iraq and watching the evening news gives the impression that Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi army is clobbering the Iraqi military and police and that things are falling apart in that woeful country.

But then we read someone like Bill Roggio who has done outstanding reporting all through the war, and a quite different picture emerges.

Here are several important facts gleaned from Roggio's Long War Journal:

-- Close to 1000 Mahdi fighters have been killed, wounded, or captured in the last four or five days. This amounts to between 1% and 2% of their fighting force, which is a heavy attrition rate.

-- Despite media palpitations over Iraqi security personnel defecting, the number of such defections in Baghdad is about 15 out of a force of about 50,000. There may have been more in Basra but the numbers are unknown.

-- People in some of the affected towns feel secure enough at this point to demonstrate in support of the government's crackdown on the Mahdi army, and the governing coalition in Baghdad supports it as well.

-- American involvement seems limited. It consists mostly of embedded advisors in Iraqi units, scattered special forces operations, and air strikes.

-- Al Sadr is calling for a cease-fire. Why would he do that unless he realizes that if this battle continues he's going to soon be left without a functioning fighting force and is going to have to take off for Iran again to avoid arrest or worse?

Here's a good rule of thumb: Things are usually not nearly as bad as the Old Media makes them appear to be.