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The Basra Business

What we know and what we don't.

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* Will Maliki persist in his efforts to disarm JAM and Special Groups or will he lose his nerve? The answer to this question probably depends in large part on whether or not the United States shows a willingness to support the Iraqi Government.

* How will JAM and Special Groups react? Will they continue with or accelerate the offensive they had already been conducting since the start of the year, or has this operation blunted that offensive and thrown them off-balance?

* What does the agreement between tribal leaders in Dhi Qar Province and the Iraqi Government portend? Will the government accept "sons of Iraq" in Shia areas? This development could be the start of a significant shift in the political sands in southern Iraq--or not.

* There are already signs of increasing tension between Sadr and Iran--will they increase or decrease after this conflict?

This operation offers a number of extremely positive signs about the willingness of the Iraqi Government to address a fundamental challenge that has been plaguing it (and us) since 2004, the ability of the ISF to absorb country-wide efforts to light up the Shia community, and the increasingly overt malign role Iran is playing in the conflict. It can provide us with a critical opportunity to increase our influence in Shia Iraq and help encourage the development of local political movements there as we have done in Sunni areas. Most of all, it is the most overt and decisive recent engagement between our Iraqi allies and their Iranian foes. We should have no doubt about where our interests lie.

Frederick W. Kagan, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of The End of the Old Order: Napoleon and Europe, 1801-1805. Kimberly Kagan, the president of the Institute for the Study of War, is the author of The Eye of Command. Her reports and analysis of the Iraq war are available at