IRAN: Military Offensive Against Iran May Have Begun In IraqSubmitted by Susan on Sun, 03/30/2008 - 07:04
Direct Offensive Likely by End of May.
First Offensive Underway:
The United States military offensive against Iran may have begun with a swiftly escalating series of operations directed against the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, which had been observing a six month old cease-fire.
Overall circumstances in support of this conclusion:
* If attacks against Iran are to commence soon, then it makes sense to weaken those forces considered likely to irrupt in response to such an attack: Better to attack those forces first and separately, throwing them off balance and subjecting them to prolonged siege, thereby depleting their assets and revealing their larger weapon capabilities and stores, prior to an attack on Iran itself;
* If attacks against Iran are to commence soon, then it makes sense to force an end to the Mahdi Army six month cease-fire and to establish general conditions of conflict, during which accusations and operations against Iran would appear less unprovoked;
* The recent Bush and Cheney "peace" trips occurred within the planning and operating context of not only the current offensive, but also part of an event platform for operations whose scale and duration certainly extend beyond the forces deployed in the port of Basra during the last week in March, leaving the distinct impression US actions are plan rather than event driven.
Iraqi circumstantial elements:
* Operations against the Mahdi Army are large scale, coordinated attacks: Starting with raids and arrests in the Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad and following-up immediately by a claimed 30,000 man police and Iraqi army offensive in Basra, which required months of planning and logistical preparation, even if largely imagined;
* The operations were timed to occur immediately after the Bush-Cheney Middle-East trips and before the administration's presentation of its force level plans to Congress;
* The operations were directed against what US and Iraqi governments say are Iranian assets in Iraq: US and Iraqi government officials have repeatedly charged that the elements attacked were those supported by Iran;
* The local police and army units in Basra were bypassed: long considered unreliable, the Basra police and army units, which were expected to melt away in any general insurrection, have been largely replaced (and possibly contained/detained) by units sent from the north in the Iraqi government's single largest military operation;
* Sadr's call for civil peace demonstrations in Baghdad to protest US attacks were met with an unprecedented three day, 24 hour curfew;
* Throughout all of this, US forces have been held almost entirely in reserve, with their likely use to occur as each Mahdi Army element is fixed in defensive positions by the Iraqi army, depending on circumstances, such as hitting Mahdi Army strong points, supporting weakening Iraqi government operations, and killing/capturing Sadr.
* General Petraeus claimed in a BBC interview about the Green Zone attacks, "Tehran had trained, equipped and funded insurgents who fired the barrage of mortars and rockets."
* General Petraeus in a videoconference with the president on Monday, during the briefings reported by officials, recommended taking "up to two months" to evaluate security in Iraq before considering additional withdrawals.
US circumstantial elements:
* According to a New York Times report on March 28, 2008, Bush attended "three days of briefings with senior advisers and military commanders on the situation in Iraq and the options for reducing the number of American troops there beyond the withdrawals already announced." Given Bush's limited attention span, his attending three days of briefings to discuss planned withdrawals is unbelievable, with plans to attack Iran the far more likely three day topic.
* As soon as the Iraqi operations began in Basra, Bush immediately and personally praised the Iraqi government for its actions, appearing to be part of planned propaganda offensive;
* In the same report, Bush described the operation in Basra as an "offensive" that "builds on the security gains of the surge";
* Finally, the same New York Times report says, "Mr. Bush also accused Iran of arming, training and financing the militias fighting against the Iraqi forces";
* Admiral Fallon's removal takes effect March 31, 2008;
* US Treasury Department undermines Iranian international banking operations.
What are the likely next steps toward an attack on Iran?
* Continuing the current tactical thrust of preemptive strikes against those likely to respond in an attack on Iran, major US military operations on the Iraq-Iran and Iraq-Syria border areas are very likely;
* Various Iranian assets within Iraq will likely be targeted by US and Iraqi government operations;
* Israel may attack Hamas in Gaza as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria;
* The likelihood of a US-Iran naval incident continues.
Overall, US and Iraqi government forces are expected to continue a general offensive against the Mahdi Army in violation of the six month cease-fire, while claiming Iran is responsible for attacks on US forces. Finally, if a bit of tea reading can be forgiven, Bush's confidence and high spirits this week appear to be of the "I have decided" sort. The relief seen just prior to the Iraq invasion: Where he decided to go to war, so the hard part was over, for him, as he sleep like a baby, having made what was arguably the worst strategic blunder in American history.
Note to Reader: Given our conclusion that an attack on Iran is likely before the end of May, it seems appropriate to release near-term assessments of events as they develop, rather than waiting for additional data and time for a more mature appreciation of the situation.