American officials were expecting a gradual, methodical operation when Nouri al-Maliki moved Iraqi troops into Basra to restore order in the city. What they witnessed instead was a rush job: an Iraqi raid that had little forethought and began even before the last of the soldiers had arrived. "He went in with a stick and he poked a hornet's nest," one coalition official told the New York Times.
President Bush has hailed the Iraqi offensive against the Sadrist seizure of Basra as a "defining moment," but it was little more than an improvisation, insiders say. As the bloodshed mounted, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker jumped in to provide both military and political support. “Nothing was in place from our side,” said Crocker. “It all had to be put together.”