New York Times
Posted online: Monday, July 28, 2008
It is a remarkable change from past years, when the militia, led by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, controlled a broad swath of
Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki struck another blow this spring, when he led a military operation against it in
The shift, if it holds, would solidify a transfer of power from al-Sadr, who had lorded his once broad political support over the Government, to al-Maliki, who is increasingly seen as a true national leader.
It is part of a general decline in violence that is resonating in American as well as Iraqi politics — John McCain argues that the advances in Iraq would have been impossible without the increase in American troops known as the surge.
The Mahdi Army’s decline also means that the Iraqi state, all but impotent in the early years of the war, has begun to act the part, taking over delivery of some services and control of some neighbourhoods.
“The Iraqi Government broke their branches and took down their tree,” said Abu Amjad, a civil servant who lives in
The change is showing up in the lives of ordinary people. The price of cooking gas is less than a fifth of what it was when the militia controlled local gas stations, and kerosene for heating has also become much less expensive.
In a sign of weakness, Shiite tribes in several neighbourhoods are asking for compensation from militia members’ families for past wrongs.
The security gains are in the hands of unseasoned Iraqi soldiers at checkpoints spread throughout
The Mahdi Army might be weak, but it is not gone. Iraqis will vote in provincial elections in December. The weakening of the Sadrists in national politics clears the stage for the group’s most bitter rival — a Shiite party led by another cleric, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.
The militia is painting its response on