As part of a political deal after the 2010 elections, Premier Maliki agreed to cede Maysan over to the Sadrists in return for their backing. On December 28, the provincial council voted to elect Ali Dway of the Sadrist Trend the new governor, as the old one was appointed Human Rights Minister. From 2005-2009 the Sadrists had controlled Maysan, and then suffered a huge setback in the 2009 provincial elections, winning only seven out of 27 seats. Maliki made a backroom deal with them to give them back the governorate if they supported his drive for another term as premier.
This change in rule has greatly complicated the work of the Americans there. The former governor, who was from Maliki’s State of Law, was close to the American Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). The new Governor Dway refused to meet with U.S. personnel, and told local agencies and non-government organizations not to cooperate with them either. The Americans responded in turn, by cutting their training of local forces there.
The security situation in southern Iraq has also deteriorated as of late. As the December 31, 2011 deadline for United States troops to withdraw approaches, the number of attacks against them in southern and central Iraq has increased as Shiite militants want to take responsibility for them leaving. A U.S. military spokesman said that the number of incidents against U.S. forces went from 93 in February, to 128 in March, to 162 by April. Most of these attacks consist of rocket and mortar fire upon bases, and bombings against convoys bringing supplies or ferrying soldiers and civilians around for reconstruction and training missions. Few if any of these are ever reported on, and are only known to the perpetrators and their targets.
|(New York Times)|
The local government has been uncooperative when it comes to these breaches of security, and is becoming more and more antagonistic towards the U.S. Governor Dway was quoted as saying that he had no responsibility to stop these incidents in his governorate. His spokesman even denied that there were any attacks upon Americans in Maysan. Dway even attended the funeral of the militant who accidentally killed himself with the Katusha in March. Then at the end of May, a joint U.S.-Iraqi force conducted a helicopter raid upon a village and arrested five people. The head of the provincial council claimed they were not informed of the operation, and said that it was a violation of the country’s sovereignty. The head of the security committee on the council claimed that Iraqi forces could handle local security without the help of the U.S., and then denounced the Americans. On May 30, the council voted to ban U.S. troops from operating in Maysan, and threatened to suspend their work if the U.S. committed a similar operation again. The antagonistic relationship between the new Sadrist led administration and the Americans is unlikely to thaw any time soon. This fits in with the narrative Sadr has sown since the 2003 invasion as an Iraqi nationalist, and one of the most staunchest opponents of the American occupation of the country. Now that his followers have regained control of Maysan, they want to make it clear that they will have nothing to do with the U.S.
The overall situation for the U.S. soldiers and civilians working in Maysan has worsened since the Sadrists regained control of the governorate. They have had to cut their operations and training missions, and are coming under increasing fire from Shiite militants. The governor and provincial council have refused to work with them, and are now ordering them out. They have no authority over the U.S. presence however, as that lays with the central government, but it is a symbolic message sent by the Sadrists letting the Americans know that they are not wanted there anymore. The PRTs are due to drawdown this summer, and the soldiers will leave with them. When they do, Maysan may revert to a militia haven, and a smuggling route for weapons from Iran into Iraq as it was before. It’s up to the Sadrists to decide whether they want to return to their old ways or try to actually govern Maysan this time as it is one of the poorest regions in the country.
Aswat al-Iraq, “2 IEDs defused on road used by Iraqi, U.S. forces in Amara,” 1/2/11
- “Armed man killed when firing Katusha rocket on Amara Military Airport,” 3/23/11
- “Bomb explodes near U.S. patrol in Amara,” 4/1/11
- “Explosive charge blows off against U.S. patrol in Amara,” 5/14/11
- “Protest against US-Iraqi Force operation in Missan,” 5/29/11
- “Voting to prevent U.S. forces from entering Missan,” 5/30/11
Al-Kaabi, Ahmed, “Maysan provincial council deplores the airdrops,” Radio Free Iraq, 5/29/11
Lando, Ben, “Iraq Militants Ratchet Up Attacks on U.S.,” Wall Street Journal, 5/24/11
Schmidt, Michael, and Healy, Jack, “Iraqi Shiite Militias Again Post a Threat as U.S. Forces Leave,” New York Times, 5/26/11