Thursday, April 19, 2007

MND-SE & Op Telic

27 Feb 07
We live on the Multi-National Division-Southeast (MND-SE) compound at Basrah International Airport. On the compound we have British, Aussie, Danish, Czech, Ghurka, Contract, Latvian, Lithuanian, Iraqi, and US forces. I’m told that nearby there are Japanese and Korean compounds as well. The British are the largest with over 7,000 troops on the ground and have Army, Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Navy, and Royal Marines here. The Japanese and Koreans have some 2,000 each. The others have 500 or less each.

Tony Blair recently announced the British will reduce their forces here to something like 5,500. However, they are increasing their operations in Afghanistan by over 1,000 so it’s almost a wash. For perspective, we have around 1 million in all our armed forces. The Brits have just more than 100,000 in all their services combined.

The US calls the operation here, “Operation Iraqi Freedom” while the Brits call it “Operation Telic,” and the Danish call it “Dancon.” Not certain if the differences are in name only or if there’s some political/rule of engagement differences as well.

Someone asked why the majority population (Shiias) is getting attacked so much by the minority (Sunnis). The answer is the religious head of the Shiias in Iraq—Grand Ayatollah Sistani. To try to draw a western similarity, a “Grand Ayatollah” is like the Pope. A simple “Ayatollah” is like a cardinal and is under the Grand Ayatollah. Grand Ayatollah Sistani issued a “fatwah”—a religious mandate—that the Shiias would not take up arms and would work with Coalition powers in order to expedite rebuilding Iraq.

Sunni insurgents from Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and other Sunni nations have capitalized on the Shiia fatwah and have begun attacking Shiias, one because they hate Shiias, two to discredit the western powers (esp the US), three to create a terrorist stronghold in Iraq, and four to maintain their social standing at the top of the Iraqi hierarchy.

Muqtada Al Sadr is a Shiia cleric or priest who rose to fame on his father’s coat tails. His father was a religious leader and had become a Grand Ayatollah before being assassinated. Muqtada ignored Sistani’s fatwah and created the “Mahdi Army,” a growing militia group, to fight the insurgents, to fight the US, and to grab the power left unguarded by other clerics who obey the fatwah. He’s been fairly successful.

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