The 2008 Battle of Sadr City

By David E. Johnson; M. Wade Markel et al. | Go to book overview

The 2008 Battle of Sadr City

Background

A team from RAND Arroyo Center is in the final stages of research on a project for the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, Headquarters, Department of the Army, entitled “The Battle of Sadr City.” The purpose of this project is to provide insights and lessons learned from the Battle of Sadr City that can inform a broader understanding of urban operations and thereby help the U.S. Army evaluate what capabilities it may need in the future.

We know of no full analysis of the 2008 Battle of Sadr City. The action did attract some journalistic attention, mostly because of the extensive use of unmanned drones and other hightechnology assets. Indeed, 60 Minutes aired a segment on the battle.1 However, the battle has received relatively little scholarly attention. The Institute for the Study of War published an accurate descriptive summary of the battle in August 2008, based mostly on press reports.2 Other sources mention it in passing, interpreting its significance but without providing much underlying detail about its conduct. Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn attributes the outcome to Muqtada al-Sadr’s political calculations, while Adeed Dawisha credits Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s resolute behavior with fostering a nonsectarian political climate. Neither have much to say about how the battle’s conduct helped produce the resulting outcome.3 Within U.S. military circles, such debate as has occurred has centered on the relative value of lethal force and reconstruction in counterinsurgency.4 For the most part, however, there has been surprisingly little written that describes or analyzes the battle.

RAND’s study aims to provide a more complete description of the battle (based on primary-source material), to analyze its outcome, and to derive implications for the U.S. Army’s future conduct of land operations. This short paper describes our initial findings.

1 Leslie Stahl, “The Battle of Sadr City,” 60 Minutes, October 12, 2008.

2 Marisa Cochrane, Special Groups Regenerate, Washington, D.C.: Institute for the Study of War, 2008.

3 Patrick Cockburn, Moqtada al-Sadr and the Battle for the Future of Iraq, New York: Scribner, 2008, pp. 98–106; Adeed Dawisha, “Iraq: A Vote Against Sectarianism,” Journal of Democracy, Vol. 21, No. 3, July 2010, pp. 26–40. In a May 2010 article, Geraint Hughes does not even mention the battle, even though he notes the simultaneous battle in Basra (see Geraint Hughes, “The Insurgencies in Iraq, 2003–2009: Origins, Developments and Prospects,” Defence Studies, Vol. 10, No. 1, May 2010, pp. 152–176).

4 See, for example, Craig Collier, “Two Cheers for Lethal Operations,” Armed Forces Journal International, August 2010.

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The 2008 Battle of Sadr City
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • The 2008 Battle of Sadr City 1
  • References 21
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