When you read the News reports about the Iraqi Army’s battles in Basra they sound reminiscent of Israel’s battles in the Second Lebanon War. It seems that the terrorists are using the same tactics as those in Lebanon. That should be no surprise. It has reported that as the British cut and ran out of Basra, Hizballah moved in–and now the Iraqi Army is trying to get them out–and the British are back in. Hizballah has joined the armed Shiite groups and criminal gangs battling for control of Basra and its oil resources. Ignored by the international media, the Iraqi Hizballah draws on its Lebanese command for orders, fighters, arms and cash. A tentacle of the Lebanese Shiite terror group has therefore quietly grabbed a piece of the insurgent action in Iraq under the aegis of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards al Qods Brigades.
Iraqi Shiites Copying From Their Hezbollah Cousins in Lebanon?
By Andrew Cochran In reviewing the action this week between Iraqi forces and Shiite militia, it’s instructive to compare press accounts of this conflict to reports from the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel conflict in Lebanon, as posted or discussed on this website. Some examples:
“Hizballah has proven to be a far more effective fighting machine than Israel anticipated, and the Israelis find themselves in a difficult situation: Continued military operations in Lebanon risk escalation and further destabilization, while a quick withdrawal would hand Hizballah a significant victory.” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross (“DGR”), July 18, 2006. “Nasrallah admitted that it took five months of preparation to plan this operation.” Olivier Guitta, July 19. 2006. “A senior Iraqi military adviser has said the crackdown is taking longer than expected, partly because militia fighters have superior weapons.” Washington Post, posted March 28. 2008.
“It’s likely that Israel will begin a major ground engagement within the next two weeks designed to obliterate Hizballah’s infrastructure and neutralize as much of its military wing as possible.” DGR, July 18, 2006. “A source in the police command in Basra said he expected British and U.S. ground units to join the fight in coming days. Shiite fighters gave similar predictions.” Washington Post, March 28. 2008.
There are still unknowns in the current situation. We don’t yet know if Shiite militia possess the range of armaments, the training and discipline displayed by Hezbollah units in 2006, or the same degree of integration with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that Olivier Guitta and Bill Roggio reported here (see Olivier’s July 19, 2006 post and Bill’s July 21, 2006 posts, during the period when our efforts were combined on this website). But it shouldn’t surprise us if we find that the Shiite militias have prepared for the same type of warfare engaged in by their Hezbollah cousins in 2006, using Iranian arms, IRGC advisers and trainers, and similar tactics. The obvious difference between Lebanon 2006 and Iraq 2008 is the direct action in Iraq by the U.S. military, who are now far more efficient in counterinsurgency and urban warfare than the Israelis were entering the 2006 conflict. Did the Shiite militia desire such a reaction? Is that why they shelled the Green Zone so early in the conflict with the Iraqi army, to draw the Americans in and inject more uncertainty over Iraq into the 2008 election cycle? Perhaps, perhaps not – perhaps it was a strategic miscalculation which will lead to the eventual defeat of the Shiite militias. But the Shiite militia leaders have already achieved one strategic goal: they showed Pentagon planners and American voters that the Iraqi army is nowhere ready to secure Iraq, much as Hezbollah exposed the weaknesses in Israeli armed forces. We can also expect that unless the American military completely wipes out the Shiite militia (an unlikely outcome given the tactics of the militia), the Shiites will take another page from Hezbollah leaders and claim victory, thus raising the morale of their followers and their reputation on “the Arab street.” And that would mean another strategic victory for their Iranian backers.