Crossfire War – Major Fighting Erupts in Basra Between Iraq Military/Mahdi Army


Crossfire War – Rapid Fire News=Tehran – Najaf – Baghdad WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – El Arish – Gaza – Damascus – Beirut – Baghdad – Najaf/London – Washington – Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – Paris – Rome; Major Fighting Erupts in Several Districts of Basra Between Iraqi Military/Mahdi Army and “Special Groups” Supported by Tehran – Iraq PM al-Maliki Relieves Two Security Officials – “Operation Calvary Assault” – British Forces on Standby – Muqtada al-Sadr Orders Followers to “Strike the Occupiers”

Night Watch: BASRA – Tehran has decided to use its cooperative relationship with Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to lead the Iraq Army into major fighting in Basra a major stronghold of the Mahdi Army and other Shi’ite militia groups supported by Iran. Asharq al-Awsat/AP report the Prime Minister has arrived in Basra to personally oversee the operation after he relieved two senior security officials and I suspect Tehran had al-Maliki remove them because they took their positions seriously. This eruption occurs less than one month after Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Baghdad where it has been no secret Iran has had close relations with Iraq’s government supposedly controlled by the lost alliance of London-Washington. The Mahdi Army became increasingly active earlier this month in Kut, 105 miles southeast of the capital and just forty miles from Iran’s border. Then fighting in Baghdad and now this massive outbreak of warfare in Basra. The action began Monday night when the Iraq government attempted to impose a curfew. [ASHARQALAWSAT]

Najaf – Xinhua reports from his headquarters in Najaf the head of the Mahdi Army, cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, issued this statement as an outline of three steps to allout warfare, “We call on all Iraqis to stage sit-ins in all over the country as a first step, so if the government would not respect our peoples demands, the second step will be civil disobedience in Baghdad and all other provinces. After that we will wait for the third step, which will be decided in time.” A militia officer stated al-Sadr has already called on his followers to “strike the occupiers”. The Mahdi Army demands their followers which have been detained be released. In the meantime al-Maliki has arrived in Basra to conduct “Operation Calvary Assault” with British forces on standby that seem to have no desire to intervene but have said they can provide surveillance information to Iraq’s military. The British turned Basra over to Iraq’s army on December 16. [XINHUA]

al-Tamiya – Most of the fighting is taking place in the al-Tamiya district and five others including, al-Jumhuriya, Five Miles and al-Hayania. Iraqi correspondent Faded Abdul Hassan has told Al Jazeera the main targets of the Mahdi Army have been Presidential Palaces, Iraqi security and military bases including the base in Shatt al-Arab. [ALJAZEERA]

Five Miles – In a startling new development Debka reports a new group has emerged in Basra to join in the fight for control of the oil rich south, the Hezbollah Brigades of Iraq. They emerged in January and work closely with the Mahdi Army and are under the control of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards al Qods Brigades though their orders are sent through Hezbollah in Lebanon. They are by far the most deadly of what the Pentagon calls “special groups” controlled by Iran. This is why the timing of this new eruption is so significant and no coincidence. Tehran is of course aware Jeursalem-Washington have planned and practiced joint operations, even set up a joint operational headquarters, but with massive fighting in Iraq’s south and with Iraq’s army sending reinforcements from all over the country Washington will have to commit more forces to keep the Iraqi army from being defeated. Air units the Pentagon may have planned for use against Syria and Iran will now have to be used in missions over Iraq. And that may not save the government of Nuri al-Maliki which has committed the Iraq military into the trap of Iraq’s south right on Iran’s border. [DEBKA]

Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.