Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An information-operation based on three fictions

The Sadrist trend has published the text of the 14-point agreement, in printed characters so that anyone can read it, together with an introductory statement in Moqtada al-Sadr's own hand, which is a little more difficult to read. The key part of the handwritten remarks says this:
In the event of commitment by this government to the clauses that have been signed by the brothers assigned by us under the seal of this office, then the faithful should commit to what is contained therein and comply with it. However [or "provided that"] there is formed a supervisory council for the implementation of the agreement, so as to protect the power [or honor] of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi resistance."
So the first point is that this doesn't appear to be the unconditional commitment that the information-machine says it is. Secondly, given that air-strikes and other actions by the American forces have been a major recent point of contention, let's have a look at what the agreement has to say about the role of the foreign forces. Surprisingly enough, the only reference to the foreign forces is in point 12, which says:
Where the above points [legitimate law-enforcement, searches and so on] require it, the government is the relevant party for determining what Iraqi force is required for the extension of security in the city, avoiding recourse to foreign forces.
That is the only reference to the foreign forces in the whole agreement. What then, you may ask, is the spokesman for the American forces talking about when he says (as quoted this morning by AlHayat):
"The American forces are still present in Sadr City, and they have not withdrawn, as it is spelled out in the latest agreement signed by Sadr and the Shiite parliamentary parties". He added that "the mission of the American forces is now to support the Iraqi forces", indicating that "the movements of the American forces in the city have been very limited in the last couple of days, but armed persons have continued through yesterday to target the American forces, contrary to what is spelled out in the latest agreement."
And the answer is, the US forces' spokesperson is making this up, because the agreement nowhere mentions the foreign forces, except in Clause 12, as noted above, where the point is that the Iraqi forces will avoid having recourse to them.

So the points so far are: (1) The agreement doesn't say anything about the foreign forces or about firing on them or not firing on them. The commitment is to not interfere with the Iraqi forces in their legitimate law-enforcement activities, or with the operation of government institutions--and the agreement does specifically include "the Green Zone" under that heading. The American forces would like to think they are an Iraqi government institution, but pretending they come under that umbrella in the agreement is pure fiction. And (2) Sadr spelled out for his followers in the introductory message that, in any event, the obligation on Sadrists to comply with the terms of the agreement depends on government compliance. And he added that there is to be a supervisory council to protect the interests of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi resistance.

Finally, the story this morning about an "agreement to disband the Mahdi Army" includes a similar piece of misinformation. Juan Cole, for instance, quotes the UIA spokesman Jalaladdin al-Saghir as having told AlHayat that "Sadr made an undertaking to dissolve the Mahdi Army". That isn't what Saghir said. He said: "The agreement recently formed with the Sadrists will lead eventually to the dissolution of the Mahdi Army", indicating that "the agreement did not mention that directly", adding however that the references in the agreement to not carrying weapons in public, turning over wanted persons, the authority of the state, and so on "cannot be interpreted except as a necessity for dissolving the Mahdi Army, sooner or later."

The three fictions, when you put them together, form part of an info-ops campaign to the following effect: (1) The Sadrists have collapsed morally because they have committed not to fire on the occupation forces; (2) they have collapsed strategically because (some say) they agreed to dissolve the Mahdi Army; and (3) the focus of attention now is supposedly on Moqtada's ability to control the Mahdi Army, not on the destabilizing belligerence of the American forces, whose presence in Sadr City isn't authorized by the agreement in the first place.


Anonymous b. said...

The first website you link to seems not exist (anymore?)

9:52 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Hmmm It is the "Kufa news agency" a major Sadrist site. Now instead of a 404 you get "stopped for maintenance purposes". Stand by. We'll see what's there when it comes back.

10:18 AM  
Blogger badger said...

The text is also available on another Sadrist site, and just to be on the safe side, I've copied it to the following post. (Which is a dog's breakfast format-wise, but at least it's there).

10:41 AM  
Anonymous b. said...

Which is a dog's breakfast format-wise

yeah - on fire fox your whole side is now more or less unreadable. Looks like you copied some html from your cache and posted that.

Maybe this would work:
Load that html in an offline browser, make a screen shot and post that.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forget about what the agreement says about US troops. We all know very well that what makes Sadr/Mahdi death squads to behave is force and not fluffy niceties and appeal to Imams. Without US forces, there will be no teeth to this agreement.

The real question is what does it say about heavy/medium arms? This is what keeps Mahdi and Sadr afloat as their popularity is tied to how much they can extort and intimidate the population - and this cannot be done without arms.

Badger, can you translate the clauses related to heavy/medium arms - thanks.


1:29 PM  

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