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Friday, March 28

"Unrest?"

More like "Round 2."

While the Bushite Junta, John McCain and the neoconservaties ("Getting Shit Wrong Since 1992") were crowing about how the Surge in Iraq was turning that benighted country into a Happy Land of Hearts and Flowers, things were happening.

The brass over there slowed down the release of hostages - er, soldiers - to their anxiously waiting families. Explanation? They wanted a pause to see what progress they've made. From a purely military standpoint, I can actually appreciate that; you need to stop and assess what's going on, then adapt. It's an organic, dare I say evolutionary process.

But at the same time we paused at 140,000 troops, the Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki decided to impose the central government's writ upon the southern city of Basra. Basra has the distinctions of being Iraq's second-largest city, its major oil hub and almost completely dominated by sectarian militias and criminal gangs since Saddam Hussein's troops were pushed out by our invasion in 2003.

The British last year withdrrew their last forces from Basra proper, for the relative safety of the air base outside the city.

The major militia in Basra is the JAM, or Jamiat al-Mahdi or Mahdi Army, headed by a Shiite cleric named Moqtada al-Sadr. He declared a unilateral cease-fire last year, and even the US grudgingly concedes that the cease-fire helped with the surge to quiet things down a tad.

Now, here's where things get interesting; the core of the Iraqi Army is made up of two militias, that of the Dawa Party and that of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Guess who is the leader of the Dawa Party's militia?

Nouri al-Maliki.

It's been accused that al-Maliki is trying to crack down on the JAM in order to reduce its influence in the provincial elections coming up in October, although the official line is that the Army's just trying to impose order.

Meanwhile, armed clashes and protests sparked by the Army's incursion into Basra have spread into seven other cities and towns, including the Shiite holy city of Kerbala and Baghdad, where mortar rounds and rockets have been launched into the so-called Green Zone. People living in that walled compound have been told to stay close to reinforced shelters and keep their helmets and body armor handy.

Yep, looks like The Surge was working - but not any longer.

Will the Iraqi army finally manage to do a job all on its own? Or will JAM beat their ass?

Stay tuned.

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