The Battle for Najaf

THE BATTLE FOR NAJAF….The New York Times reports on the recent battle between Iraqi government forces and the previously obscure “Soldiers of Heaven” that took place in Najaf over the weekend:

Iraqi forces were surprised and nearly overwhelmed by the ferocity of an obscure renegade militia in a weekend battle near the holy city of Najaf and needed far more help from American forces than previously disclosed, American and Iraqi officials said Monday.

….Only a month ago, in an elaborate handover ceremony, the American command transferred security authority over Najaf to the Iraqis.

….Among the troubling questions raised is how hundreds of armed men were able to set up such an elaborate encampment, which Iraqi officials said included tunnels, trenches and a series of blockades, only 10 miles northeast of Najaf. After the fight was over, Iraqi officials said they discovered at least two antiaircraft weapons as well as 40 heavy machine guns.

Over at Outside the Beltway, Dave Schuler comments, “Aren’t large pitched battles like this characteristic of insurgencies that believe they are on the upswing? Not particularly good news.” I don’t know if we can really draw that conclusion from this single action, but it’s a thought worth pondering.