Wednesday, July 06, 2016


It will take a long time to fully digest the Iraq Inquiry report. The discussion of Basra is very interesting. From the executive summary --

784. In March 2008, Prime Minister Maliki instigated the Charge of the Knights to tackle militia groups in Basra. That such an important operation came as a surprise was an indication of the distance between the UK and Iraqi Governments at this point. 
785. When the Charge of the Knights began, the UK found itself to be both compromised in the eyes of the Iraqi Government and unable to offer significant operational support, as a result of the tactical decision to negotiate with JAM [Jaysh al-Mahdi (Sadrist militia)] and the absence of situational awareness in Basra after withdrawing from the Basra Palace site. 
786. On 1 April, Air Chief Marshall Stirrup briefed the Overseas and Defence Sub-Committee of the National Security, International Relations and Development Committee (NSID(OD)) that the UK military task would be complete by the end of 2008; its timetable would not be affected by the Charge of the Knights.

At this stage, the UK was looking to get out of southeastern Iraq no matter what, and they didn't think that the US surge would work. In a sense, like everything in Iraq, they were wrong and right. The surge did stabilize Iraq, and the eventual result of Charge of the Knights was to draw Moqtada al-Sadr into the political sphere, which calmed Basra. But none of the longer-term challenges of Iraq were solved, and by that point it's not clear whether any military solution was available. But that realism edged with cynicism would have more useful in March 2003 than April 2008.

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