Crossfire War – Fighting in Iraq Spreads to Other Cities-Iraq PM Issues Demand

Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – NAJAF – BAGHDAD WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – El Arish – Damascus – Beirut – Ramallah – Gaza – Baghdad – Najaf/London – Washington – Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – Paris – Rome; Iraq PM Issues 72 Hour Ultimatum as Fighting Spreads to Other Cities in Iraq South – Rocket – Mortar Fire Hit Green Zone Third Time This Week – Iraq Sends More Reinforcements South

Night Watch: BASRA – The Iraq government is rushing more reinforcements south to Basra as fighting erupted heavily on the second day Wednesday morning. This movement of troops from Karbala is quite a risk since it is another major city in the Shi’ite south of the country where the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr is strongest. Especially since Ashraq al-Awsat/Reuters report the fighting is no longer confined to Basra but has spread into Sadr City-Baghdad and Kut where this action really began more than a week ago (Mar. 13-08) though disturbances there were also reported on Dec. 16. It was mentioned then that Kut, 105 miles southeast of the capital, is just forty miles from Iran’s border and has long been used by Tehran to monitor the occupation. As far back as Aug. 28, 2005 linked to a Der Speigel article that mentioned Kut was used by Iranian agents to track US Army movements to Baghdad in 2003 during Saddam Hussein’s removal. And that since then Tehran has been directing their contacts, including with the Iraq government, through Iran’s villa embassy in Baghdad. [ASHARQALAWSAT]

Now Tehran is using their working relationship with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to direct more of Iraq’s army to a defeat in the south in what has become the life and death struggle of not only Iraq’s new army but for what is left of the Iraq government in Baghdad which London-Washington are depending on to stablize the country, an impossibility. I suspect since the new Iraq Army reinforcements have come from Karbala, just forty miles south of the capital, fighting will now probably erupt there. This is the beginning of the debacle as Prime Minister al-Maliki has just issued a 72 hour ultimatum for the fighters to lay down their weapons or face arrest. In the meantime the head of the Madhi Army, Muqtada al-Sadr has issued his own ultimatum and is threatening to call for nationwide “civil revolt.”

The latest casualties’ figures are in Basra 40 killed and 200 wounded, in Baghad-Sadr City 14 killed and 140 wounded. There are no figures for Kut where the Mahdi Army has taken control of seven districts. In the meantime for the third day this week the International Green Zone in Baghdad, where most embassies are located, has come under fire injuring three U. S. officials. In Basra a resident Kareem stated, “The situation is so tense. I did not go to work today. Nobody is going to work. There are gunmen at every intersection.” Despite the heavy fighting an official with Iraq’s South Oil Company said there is yet no reduction in output or exports.

Sadr City – Hundreds of al-Sadr’s supporters seem to have answered his call for civil disobedience with a march in Sadr City. One of the march leaders issued this statement, “We strongly condemn the assaults being conducted by the occupation forces along with the Iraqi security forces who have sold themselves to the renegade occupiers.” This sounds like a statement written in Tehran. [JPOST]

The Jerusalem Post/AP report so far the Prime Minister al-Maliki has not yet requested any assistance from the British forces at their airport base outside Basra. This is extremely significant as British warplanes are currently providing aerial surveillance. I suspect Tehran has instructed the Prime Minister to wait for the 72 hour ultimatum to pass Friday, as fighting increases, before he calls on assistance from London-Washington. The Pentagon has projected withdrawing 20,000 troops by year’s end and the last thing Iran wants to see are for those units to be deployed in other regional theatres like the Balkans. It is quite possible when the UK/US enter the fighting the least Tehran will do is increase its support for the Mahdi Army and have them use their most powerful weaponry. But I would not be surprised if Iran issues its own ultimatum demanding the Iraq government end its offensive and if not then Iran will enter the war by targeting the military bases of not only Iraq’s military but also of the UK/US. Tehran was always preparing for (f)allout direct conflict with the West and as I mentioned yesterday heavier action in Iraq will end any chance for joint operations between Israel and the Pentagon.

Basra – This link is from Xinhua with several news photos from Basra. [XINHUA]

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.