Monday, March 31, 2008

Mahdi Army ceasefire

What could have led to the cease fire called yesterday by Moqtada Sadr? Let's ask the BBC:

Moqtada Sadr's statement on Sunday said: "Because of the religious responsibility, and to stop Iraqi blood being shed... we call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and all other provinces..."

The BBC's Adam Brookes in Baghdad says this means the Mehdi Army will remain intact.

He says that although the move gives Mr Maliki a chance to claim victory, the central demand has not been met and this is not a resolution of the conflict.

The situation had appeared to be deteriorating on Saturday, with fierce fighting in both Baghdad and Basra.

Coalition forces had become more involved, with US air raids in the two cities in recent days, and British forces joining the fighting in Basra.
So things were going badly for the Iraqi army, fighting the Mahdi followers of Moqtada Sadr? It was jolly kind of the Mahdis to call a halt.

Perhaps not:
With the fifth day of fighting in Baghdad, Basrah and the South completed, the Mahdi Army has suffered major losses over the past 36 hours. The Mahdi Army has not fared well over the past five days of fighting, losing an estimated two percent of its combat power, using the best case estimate for the size of the militia.

A look at the open source press reports from the US and Iraqi military and the established newspapers indicates 145 Mahdi Army fighters were killed, 81 were wounded, 98 were captured, and 30 surrendered during the past 36 hours.

Since the fighting began on Tuesday 358 Mahdi Army fighters were killed, 531 were wounded, 343 were captured, and 30 surrendered. The US and Iraqi security forces have killed 125 Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad alone, while Iraqi security forces have killed 140 Mahdi fighters in Basra.
Ah. Perhaps that's why Sadr blinked.


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