More Basra

MORE BASRA….I don’t think James Joyner is right when he suggests that Muqtada al-Sadr “sued for peace” in Basra on Sunday, since, after all, it was Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s side that made overtures to Sadr, not the other way around. But his analogy with Israel’s offensive against Lebanon two years ago has occurred to me as well:

The parallels between this action and the Israelis’ 2006 invasion of Lebanon to take on Hezbollah are striking. In both cases, the party that initiated the escalation into high level conflict inflicted substantial damage on their adversary and were able to claim military victory. At the same time, neither came anywhere close to achieving their political objectives. In assessing the 2006 action, I concluded that Israel therefore lost. Absent substantial new information, I’d have to conclude that Maliki was the loser here for the same reason.

This seems right to me — though I’m not sure Maliki even achieved much of a tactical victory in this case — and the rest of his conclusions seem pretty close to the mark as well. One thing that’s still not clear, though, is exactly what role Maliki played in the negotiations with Sadr. Leila Fadel of McClatchy quotes a Dawa legislator saying that “the Prime Minister was only informed. It was a political maneuver by us,” but that can be interpreted several ways. Possibilities: (a) It’s the truth. A faction of Maliki’s party got fed up with him and headed off to Qom on their own, stopping just long enough to let him know they were going. (b) The Dawa legislator is just puffing himself up. Maliki was actually part of the plan all along. (c) It’s deliberate misinformation, an attempt to make it seem as though Maliki was willing to keep up the fight and only succumbed to pressure from his own party. (d) Something else. Stay tuned.