Violence dropped sharply in the southern Iraqi city of Basra after anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called his fighters off the streets on Sunday. But there were still sporadic clashes in Baghdad, where fighting broke out after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a crackdown by Iraqi security forces on Shiite militias. (Reuters)
What the commentators said
So much for the “clueless” media reports suggesting that Iraq had erupted in rebellion, said Ed Morrissey in Hot Air, and was “on the brink of collapse.” Here’s what really happened: The British pullback in Basra left the city “in the hands of militias and gangsters,” and the Iraqi government regained control as soon as its security forces were strong enough. And Sadr, the “Fearless Leader” of the Mahdi Army, promptly surrendered.
It’s early to claim victory, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Sadr's forces Army might not “even heed” his orders to put down their weapons. Maliki will have to order his "fledgling" forces to keep pushing until they have taken complete control of Basra, or risk leaving the demoralizing impression that he and his army backed down after encountering “more resistance than they expected.”
Don’t believe the “rosy picture” President Bush is trying to paint of this bungled offensive, said Trudy Rubin in The Philadelphia Inquirer (free registration). Restoring “law and order” in Basra is a fine goal, but “the inept Maliki seems to have gotten himself in way over his head.” And by rushing in without giving the U.S. so much as a heads up, he may have undermined “the fragile gains that gave Iraqis some hope that their nightmare might finally end.”
"What a humiliation for Maliki," said Kevin Drum in Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog. To get the troublesome cleric to put down his arms, Maliki’s allies had to go—on their own initiative, not Maliki’s—to Sadr’s Iranian masters and ask them to stop sending him weapons. So, not only did Maliki “blink first,” but his own people “undermined what little authority he had left.”