Basra / Sadr City Timeline

Events Leading Up To and Following the Government Attack
On the Mahdi Army (and civilians) in Basra and Sadr City

(assembled from a variety of news articles)

For background on Sadr City, see the video US troops target Sadr City (21 mins)
and the New York Times 5/20 map of Sadr City

    Mahdi Army (Jaish al-Mahdi, or JAM) formed "as a rag-tag militia loyal to al-Sadr"  [1]
2006 - 2007
    Maliki repeatedly blocks US-proposed attacks on Madhi Army in Baghdad and south.  [2]
Aug 28-29   In the Shiite holy city of Karbala, fighting between the Madhi Army and the Supreme Iraq Islamic Council (SIIC) kills over 50 and wounds almost 300 during a pilgrimage.  [1]
Maliki goes to Karbala, fires police chief, and Iraqi forces lock down the city, quelling the Shiite-on-Shiite violence.  [1,3]
In response, to the violence, Muqtada al-Sadr declares a six-month cease-fire for the Mahdi Army, just when it "seemed set to consolidate its dominant position over large areas of Iraq."  [1]
Sep   British troops withdraw from Basra city center.  [3]
Dec 16   British turn over control of Basra to Iraqis.  [3]
early Mar   Concern for growing disorder prompts Lt. Gen. Mohan al-Fireji, a senior Iraqi commander in Basra, to propose that additional forces be sent, prompting American and Iraqi officials to develop detailed plan involving the establishment of combat outposts in the city and the deployment of Iraqi SWAT teams, Iraqi Special Forces and Interior Ministry units, as well as Iraqi brigades.  [3]
US Plan:  "senior U.S. military source" quoted on 3/23/08 in Sunday Mirror as saying that the "coalition" would redeploy "thousands" of U.S. marines to Basra, if necessary, after the "huge operation" in Mosul against al Qaeda and nationalist Sunni insurgents was completed.  [2]
Mar 17   Cheney meets with Maliki, then with Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite rival, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which has been pushing for the destruction of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.  [2]
Mar 21   Maliki plan:  Maliki's national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie warns Petraeus (and Crocker) of Maliki's different plan: 10 days -- not the several months envisioned in the Petraeus plan.  [2,3]]
Head of the Basra Operational Command, Gen. Mohan al-Furayji quoted in Independent article that would be a "final battle" in Basra, probably in Summer.  [2]
Mar 22   Maliki tells Petraeus he plans to attack "criminals and gang leaders" in Basra in an Iraqi operation that might need air support from the Americans  [3]
Crocker attributes this to a "Karbala moment" (ref to Aug 07), but Washington intel analyst attributes to desire to weaken or eliminate likely success of Sadr in 10/08 elections, an analysis born out by the subsequent attacks on the Mahdi Army and not on the Shiite militia of Maliki's coalition partner the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.  [3] Maliki later (4/7) tells a CNN reporter that his go-it-alone approach came out of a concern that a confrontation between thousands of U.S. and British troops and the Mahdi Army would further inflame the feelings of Shiites in the south (the most anti-occupation region in the country) about the occupation, with which his own regime has been so tightly linked.  [2]
Mar 24   Iraqi forces start arriving in Basra. As noted above, the Iraqis are not including British in their plans.  [3]
Mar 25   Major fighting begins in Basra.  [3]
Mehdi Army takes control of all Shiite and mixed areas in Baghdad.  [4]
Mar 27   There is a sudden uptick in rocket attacks on the Green Zone.  [5]
Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the day-to-day coalition commander in Iraq, goes to Basra to survey the situation.  [3]
Mar 28   General Austin's senior deputy, Maj. Gen. George J. Flynn, goes to the Basra Operations Center, a command center that was supposed to oversee the military operations, to command a team of American planners and other personnel. With insufficient advisors for large number of incoming Iraqi reinforcements, a company from the First Brigade of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division soldiers is pressed into service as combat advisers, air controllers are positioned to call in airstrikes for Iraqi units, and American transport planes ferry supplies to Iraqi troops.  [3]
~Mar 28-29   U.S. Ambassador Crocker sends USAID officials to help UN with distributing aid in Basra and suggests Maliki start hiring militia members a-la Sunni "Awakening". Iraqi President Jalal Talabani appeals for help to Brig. Gen. Qassem Soleimani of the Iranian Qods force in resolving the fighting. Soleimani helped as a conduit for funds and arms in the Ssddam Hussein days, and has influence in Iraq.  [6] Later, officials involved in negotiations say Maliki was directly involved and agreed to Sadr's demands in advance, but government spokesmen claim the government was not involved in negotiations.  [7]
Mar 30   Sadr announces a nine-point agreement worked out with Iraqi officials who went to Iran to meet with him. In the agreement, he asks the Mahdi Army to "end all military actions in Basra and in all the provinces" and "to cooperate with the government to achieve security," in exchange for amnesty for Mahdi Army fighters and the release of all imprisoned members of the Sadrist movement who have not been convicted of crimes. The government welcomes the announcement, but reports say it isn't clear if they've accepted it.  [7]
Mar 31   The Mahdi Army disappears from Basra streets, and the Iraqi army moves in
The government dismisses 150 police officers and 400 policemen for refusing to fight
The government gives little indication that Sadr's demands are being taken seriously, and say that the government will continue to go after "criminals" but not specifically Mahdi army.
Sadr's people say the truce agreement is with government -- they'll shoot if Americans come.
In Nasyria, 150 have been killed and 300 wounded  [8]
Apr 1   Sadr officials accuse the government of agreement-threatening violations -- random arrests and burnings of houses of Mahdi Army members.  [9]
Apr 5?   Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi signed off on a statement by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and the Shiite vice president, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, expressing support for the Basra crackdown.  [10]
Apr 6   8:00 AM: After week of relative quiet, at 8AM US fires Hellfire missiles after RPG attacks on Iraqi army in Baghdad
3:30 PM: rocket attacks on Green Zone kill 2 soldiers, injure 17.  [5]
Apr 7   In a broadcast interview, Maliki threatens to ban al-Sadr's people from elections unless they disband their militia.  [11]
Apr 9   Petraeus, testifying before the House Foreign Relations Committee, refers to Sadr's following a "legitimate political movement," and says Sadr should not be "backed into a corner from which there is no alternative."  [12]
Apr ??   US and Iraqis push into southern Sadr City, set up US and Iraqi operational bases, plan to launch a program of 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day public works and services-improvement projects to convince the local population that the Iraqi government is better able than Mahdi Army to improve the quality of life in an impoverished expanse of pot-holed streets, open sewers, and joblessness.  [13]
Apr 11   Riyadh al-Nouri, Sadr's director in Najaf, is shot and killed, Sadr initially blames US/Iraqis, then blames Badr Organization.  [13]
Apr 14?   Rocket attacks down to pre-Basra level
Major Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commanding general for Multi-National Forces in Baghdad, is trying to find Mahdi army people willing to work with U.S. to reduce violence
Sadr rejects overtures, calls for end to occupation.  [13]
Apr 15   US starts building wall to isolate Tharwa and Jamilla districts of Sadr City from the heart of Sadr City, allegedly to secure it for reconstruction.  [14]
(See Washington Post map of wall progress as of April 24)
Apr 16   (widely covered) Iraqi Army unit abandons forward post in assault on Sadr City  [15]
Apr 25   al-Sadr issues proclamation urging followers to not kill Iraqis and instead unite with all Iraqis to drive out the occupying forces, for the army and police to stop cooperating with occupying forces and to purge militias from their ranks.  [16]
Maliki announces intention to submit a new Cabinet list in the next few days  [17]
Apr 26   Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi urges the main Sunni bloc, the National Accordance Front, to rejoin the government after a 9-month absence, to "save Iraq." Internal disagreements are delaying this.  [17]
May 10   The Iraqi government and leaders of al-Sadr's movement agree to a truce, again brokered by Iran. Terms: the government takes control of Sadr City, Mahdi Army members not actively involved in fighting will not be arrested.  [18]


1.   Al-Sadr Declares Mahdi Army Ceasefire,  (Richard Beeston, Times (UK) Online, 8/29/07)
2.   Petraeus Hid Maliki Resistance to US Troops in Basra  (Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, 4/17)
3.   U.S. Cites Planning Gaps in Iraqi Assault on Basra  (Michael R. Gordon et al, New York Times, 4/3)
4.   "Handed Over" To a Government Called Sadr  (Ali al-Fadhily, Dahr Jamail, Interpress News Service, 4/2)
5.   Rocket Attacks Kill 2 Soldiers In Green Zone, 1 on U.S. Base  (Ernesto Londoño, Washington Post, 4/7)
6.   Iraq [Government] Increasingly Caught Between US and Iran (Scott Peterson and Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor)
7.   Sadr Offers Deal for Truce as Fighting Persists in Iraq  (Erica Goode, New York Times, 3/31)
8.   Iraq Seems Calmer After Cleric Halts Fighting  (James Glanz, New York Times, 4/1)
9.   Iraqi PM claims Basra 'success'  (Al Jazeera, 4/1)
10.   Iraqi PM Wins Rare Support  (Associated Press, 4/5)
11.   Maliki threatens to bar Sadr from vote (Reuters, 4/7)
12.   General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker Remark on Iraq (General David Petraeus, Ryan Crocker, 4/9)
13.   U.S. Army Hopes To Counter Mahdi Army's Influence in Baghdad  (Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, 4/15)
14.   U.S. Begins Erecting Wall in Sadr City  (Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, 4/18)
15.   Iraqi Unit Flees Post, Despite American's Plea  (Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, 4/17)
16.   Shiite Cleric Tells Followers to End Fighting and Unite Iraqis  (Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, 4/26)
17.   Sunni leader urges bloc to rejoin Iraq Cabinet  (Sameer Yacoub, Boston Globe, 4/27)
18.   Sadrists and Iraqi Government Reach Truce Deal  (Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, 5/11)

Updated: 14 May 2008

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