The outbreak this week of fierce militia fighting in several Iraqi cities, including Basra and Baghdad, is a direct threat to the security gains of the U.S. military surge and a reminder of how shaky Iraqâ€™s political situation remains.
After months of keeping a low profile, radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a longtime thorn in the side of the U.S. occupation, is once again rattling sabers and threatening nationwide civil unrest and uprisings.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was in Basra Monday and vowed that the Iraqi government would â€œrestore security, stability, and enforce law in this city.â€ Today he ordered the Shiite militias in Basra to lay down their weapons within 72 hours or face more severe consequences.
As Time magazine noted, this could be his moment of truth. If Iraqi troops can crush the Mahdi Army and the other Shiite militias holding Basra, it could restore some confidence in him and in Iraqâ€™s ability to govern itself. But if the Iraqi troops fail, it could further undermine the government and Maliki.
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