The degree of Prime Minister al-Maliki’s leverage over thug cleric Moqtada Sadr is becoming more clear. The New York Times reports that Iraqi troops poured into Sadr City on Tuesday and, meeting little resistance, claimed key positions deep inside the neighborhood that’s been a hub of Shiite militia violence since March. The Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung says this operation is actually being carried out in accordance with last week’s ceasefire arrangement between Sadr and the Iraqi government. The government’s plan to root out criminals and militia members is underway and no one in this bastion of Sadr support seems to be doing a thing about it.
There have been no reported casualties. None. Moreover, “Iraqi troops moved forward without any major incidents.” Virtually every detail in the Times story is encouraging. Not the least of which is the report of Iraqi military self-suffiency:
No American ground forces accompanied the Iraqi troops, not even military advisers. But the Americans shared intelligence, coached the Iraqis during the planning and provided overhead reconnaissance throughout the operation. Still, the operation was very much an Iraqi plan.
This is not an American operation with an Iraqi face or even a joint-operation. This is simply what allies do.
The Los Angeles Times quotes U.S. forces spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Stover:
I think this is the turning point where we start seeing the Special Group criminals picked up by the Iraqi security forces and a lasting peace for the Iraqi people. . . And it will be because they did it, not us.
And at CBS News, lefty blogger Kevin Drum makes the following acknowledgment: “And it’s worth saying that the March operation in Basra looks better now than it did at the time too.” Though, with nothing worrying to write about, he tags his coverage thusly: “It may all go to hell tomorrow. Who knows? For now, though, keep your fingers crossed.”