real news from Iraq and fake American news from Iraq

The American press is stunningly bad at reporting on events in Iraq right now. CNN relies on Michael Ware, which is a bit like relying on Ollie North for an account of the Iran-Contra affair – Ware has all but come out in favor of McCain’s occupation forever line. The New York Times crew evidently is not only incapable of reading or speaking Arabic, but relies mostly on the Green Zone for its framework, and has no sources whatsoever in the Mehdi army. The latter is pretty much the condition of the whole of the U.S. press. In one way, it is understandable – establish a source with the Sadrists and watch the U.S. army take your ass to jail. On the other hand, it makes it impossible to trust the NYT or the Washington Post.

LI recommends the BBC news service translations of what is being said in the Arab press. At the present time, according to the Saudi owned Al-Sharq al-Awsat website, there is a dispute about a message being sent around from Sadr, which says:

In his message, a copy of which "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" has obtained, Al-Sadr said: "I advised you in previous statements to be patient and respect the orders of the Hawzah [Shi'i seminary]. I asked you to stand up to the onslaught by the occupier and his lackeys who are implementing his plans that aim to harm the sons of this noble line. Recent events in Basra, Al-Kut, and Al-Sadr City have proved that the Iraqi Government is pressing ahead, in cooperation with the occupation forces, with the implementation of its evil plan and which coincides with the approaching governorates councils' elections for the purpose of distorting the image of Al-Sadr Trend whose supporters are now suffering from continued arrests in all the governorates." The message added: "The violation of the truce we had announced when we froze Imam Al-Mahdi Army that is happening today... I said when we adopted the freezing of the Imam Army under the current conditions that we believed the interest required this freezing. If the resistance continues in this way, it will drain Al-Mahdi Army's moral and material resources and this might make many of our supporters turn against us in addition to the Shi'i public opinion's view of us." It said: "We believe that protection of Al-Sadri line can only be made by remaining silent at present as long as the occupation is in our territories. The events of Al-Diwaniyah and Karbala were the blows that made us think deeply, so to speak, that the confrontation would provide the government with the justification for exploiting the obnoxious occupier's plan and the pretext for imposing the law enforcement plan so as to strike Al-Sadr Trend's sons in Basra and Al-Sadr City. I say it with deep anguish, so to speak, and with much regret that there are renegades from our ranks who did not obey our orders and hid behind the Imam Al-Mahdi Army's cloak. They helped the government and the occupier against themselves and decided to rebel against our orders."

Rather oblique, but the idea has gotten out that Sadr is ordering a stand down. Which is disputed by a leading Al Sadr trend figure in Basra, Al-Bahadili, who put out his own press release:

“He disclosed that he had a meeting with National Guards elements after they surrendered to the "Martyr Al-Sadr" office in Basra, saying "those who surrendered" told him "they were ordered to come to Basra to pursue the oil and drug smuggling gangs and none among them knew they were coming to fight Al-Mahdi Army and that they would have resigned immediately had they known of this before coming here." He added that "the largest number of police and security forces in Basra are Al-Mahdi Army elements and they left their work and sat at home as soon as they learned about the battles' objectives."

This is from Iraqi tv:

“Privately-owned Al-Sharqiyah focused on military developments on the ground. It began its 1100 news bulletin with the news that forces loyal to Muqatada al-Sadr had taken control of the southern Iraqi cities of Al-Nasiriyah and Al-Shatra. The channel added that Iraqi policemen had "remained in their stations", suggesting that they had refused to fight. Although the channel, which broadcasts out of Dubai, did report statements made by a government military commander saying that 120 Mahdi Army fighters had been killed, it also quoted "medical sources" in Basra as saying that only 60 people had been killed throughout the four days of fighting, which served to contradict the military commander's death toll. Over pictures of Mahdi Army fighters dancing on top of a burnt-out Humvees, the channel said that food was running low in Basra and that a five-day ceasefire may come into effect to allow supplies to reach the city.
Continuing its clear anti-government message, the channel reported that the government had imposed a curfew in the capital Baghdad after demonstrations took place there condemning the military campaign against the Mahdi Army and labelling the spokesman of the Baghdad Security Plan as a "the liar of Baghdad." Al-Sharqiyah then reported that Sadrists were banned from praying in the main mosque in Karbala and that "spontaneous demonstrations" had taken place in the city against the move. The channel concluded its morning bulletins with the news that soldiers of the Iraqi Army's Eighth Division stationed in the town of Al-Nu'maniyah had surrendered their weapons to the Mahdi Army. The channel then ran an excerpt from a telephone interview with an Al-Sadr Bureau official who confirmed this news.”

According to the “Government-owned Al-Iraqiyah” tv station, the name of the campaign is "The Charge of the Knights". Al-Iraqiyah showed clips of pro-government demonstrators, but also: “In its coverage throughout the morning, the channel stressed statements made by "his eminence" Muqtada al-Sadr calling for a political resolution to the conflict.”