From Juan Cole.
Al-Zaman says that the police force in Basra suffered numerous mutinies and instances of insubordination, with policemen refusing to fire on the Mahdi Army. The government response was to undertake a widespread purge of disloyal elements.
[Hmm. I wonder where fired policemen with combat training and guns could find another job . . . Maybe with the Mahdi Army?]
Another question: Where the Iraqi government will find replacement police with combat training who are willing to fight?
The tableau above is tragicomic. The Iraqi security forces haven’t even begun to take key Mahdi Army territory in Basra, and in fact have been rebuffed. The Mahdi Army claims to have captured heavy arms and even Iraqi soldiers from the government. The minister of defense admits that.
The Iraqi and US governments badly underestimated what it would take to defeat the Mahdi Army. If anything the Mahdi Army is holding its own, if not actually advancing. The current US airstrikes are deeply stupid and seem guaranteed to drive civilians to the other side.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of civilians who just want the madness to end are caught in the cross fire.