It’s kind of an exciting time, militarily, when a bunch of weekend soldiers can carry a weapon in the trunks of their cars, weapons that will actually intimidate troops in APCs. Morale trumps light armor every time. (Air power and MBTs are another story.)
The Army only intervened when it was time to give Hezbollah everything it wanted: the right to a separate comm network, and the rehiring of their Airport Security dude. As for the latter demand, I’m not saying smuggling was involved or anything but somebody’s got to get those West-Beirut party kids their E and coke, and having your man in charge of airport security sure would make it easier to bring in da stuff, whether it’s Semtex or pure Bolivian. If the guy was worth going to war for, he must be doing something pretty darned important.
Once their demands were met, Hezbollah packed the weapons in the trunks and headed home for supper. That was another very smart move. One thing you can sort of figure out without being Einstein is that this is not a good era for military occupations of other tribes’ territory. What you want is to impose your will militarily, then get out before you become the occupier. That’s exactly what the Hezzies did—wish we could learn a thing or two from them.
So Lebanon right now has a simple box score: Hezzies everything, Old Bosses nothing. Now, let’s zip to the other side of the Middle East and see how the Iraqi game is going. About the same, actually. Weirdly the same. What just happened in Lebanon happened six weeks ago in Iraq: weak central government tries to "assert itself" against rising Shia militia, gets smacked down, then after the smackdown, the Shia militia hands back territory. In the case of Iraq, it was a Shia government, so this was all Shia-on-Shia violence, Maliki’s army vs. Sadr’s militia.
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There’s still a lot of argument about whether the US pushed Maliki’s government into this or tried to stop them from attacking. I hear from sources in Iraq that US officers advising Maliki warned him that his "army" (basically Badr Brigade vets wearing Iraqi National uniform) weren’t good enough to take on Sadr’s militia on their home ground, but woke up to find the armored columns already moving south to Basra and east into Sadr City. They should have stayed in bed, as the saying goes, because if they’d had another nap—say an hour or so—they’d have seen the same columns breaking all speed limits coming back to base, stomped to within an inch of their lives.
And now for the odd item out: what’s Mosul got to do with it? There are two things going on. At a tactical level, it’s simple: Mosul and Al Qaeda in Iraq is a target that the Iraqi Army might actually be able to handle. They need a morale-building fight against a softer opponent after getting their asses kicked in Basra and Sadr City, and the Sunni jihadi nutcases are an easy target. There aren’t many of them, they’re foreign imports with no neighborhood base (they’ve alienated just about every Sunni Iraqi alive), and they’re more interested in dying than fighting. A counter-insurgency officer’s dream opponent.
There was a story last week that showed why the Iraqi Army would rather fight Al Q than keep battering its head against the Sadrists in East Baghdad. This Iraqi officer was whining, "The Shia in this neighborhood PROMISED us that they’d let us patrol in our vehicles and tell us where the IEDs were buried, they PROMISED, and then within ten meters of leaving our base three IEDs went off under us! It’s not fair!"