The London Times has an interesting piece on how the Iraqi Army won in Basra. It claims that the key factor was Iran cutting off support for Sadr:
Once the British withdrew from the city centre to Basra airport last summer, the situation changed. Suddenly it was Moqtadr al-Sadr and his rag-tag fighters who were the dominant force in the Basra region. The Iranian backed Badr Organisation, which is well represented in Iraq’s police and military, was sidelined. There were real fears that the Sadrists could consolidate their gains on the ground in local elections planned for October and eclipse the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Badr’s political wing.
For once the interests of America, Britain, Iran and the Iraqi government coincided with disastrous results for Mr al-Sadr and his fighters. Isolated and abandoned they fled, were captured or killed from what were once their impregnable fiefdoms in Basra. Mr al-Sadr was left to lick his wounds and complain that the Government had forgotten that they were all “brothers”.
This is at odds with much of the other reporting, so I’m not sure I buy it, but it’s food for thought.
What this does illustrate is that the media was grossly premature in declaring defeat. In fact, the Basra operation has proven to be a total victory for the Iraqi government. (It reminds me of the week during the invasion that we were supposedly losing. Heaven knows how they would have reported the Battle of the Bulge!)