Tuesday, May 20, 2008
On this day:

The Iraqi army stands up as the U.S. stands down

From the New York Times:
BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces rolled unopposed through the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City on Tuesday, a dramatic turnaround from the bitter fighting that has plagued the Baghdad neighborhood for two months, and a qualified success for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

As it did in the southern city of Basra last month, the Iraqi government advanced its goal of establishing sovereignty and curtailing the powers of the militias.

This was a hopeful accomplishment, but one that came with caveats: In both cities, the militias eventually melted away in the face of Iraqi troops backed by American firepower. Thus nobody can say just where the militias might re-emerge or when Iraqi and American forces might need to fight them again.

By late Tuesday, Iraqi troops had pushed deep into the district and set up positions around hospitals and police stations, which the Iraqi government was seeking to bring under its control.

The main military question now is whether Iraqi soldiers can solidify their hold over Sadr City in the coming days. And the main political one is whether the Maliki government will cement its gains by carrying out its long-promised, multimillion-dollar program of economic assistance and job creation to win over a still wary population and erode the militias’ base of support. ...

So far, the Iraqi Army has been a winner. Iraqi commanders received, and sometimes rejected, advice from the American military. But in the end they were able to execute a plan that was very much their own.

This is just the latest bit of encouraging news from Iraq. It seems to me that the retaking of Basra and now Sadr City is a huge political victory for the Maliki government, even if its military significance is qualified. The naysayers continue to say that there has been little to no political reconciliation among the various factions in Iraq, but the fact is that these two operations, as well as the successes in Anbar, were the direct result of just that sort of reconciliation. It has been a slow and arduous process - and it will doubtless remain that way for some time - but the Democratic talking points on Iraq are quickly being overcome by events.

For instance, Barack Obama's campaign web site still says:
The Surge: The goal of the surge was to create space for Iraq's political leaders to reach an agreement to end Iraq's civil war. At great cost, our troops have helped reduce violence in some areas of Iraq, but even those reductions do not get us below the unsustainable levels of violence of mid-2006. Moreover, Iraq's political leaders have made no progress in resolving the political differences at the heart of their civil war.
Obama says he's for change. Perhaps he should start by changing his own rhetoric to match reality.