By Steve Schippert FrontPageMagazine.com May 18, 2007
The progress in the past three short months in Iraq is unmistakable. Since General Petraeus has taken command of MNF-I forces in mid February, the convergence of developments has fundamentally changed the outlook in Iraq. While “The Surge” has dominated discussion – be it on operational tempo within Baghdad or withdrawal timetables within the DC Beltway – progress on several vital fronts is beginning to reshape realities on the ground.
As the contentious internal American political debate continues, our leaders and the American public would do well to acknowledge the significantly changing situation.
In Baghdad, for example, the over-hyped Muqtada al-Sadr has long made tracks for the more hospitable climes of Iran. The Baker Commission’s Iraq Study Group Report estimated the Mahdi Army (Jaish al-Mahdi or JAM) to consist of 40-60 thousand armed fighters. In the absence of its leadership, Sadr’s ‘army’ has splintered into the various bands of Shia street thugs they always were. Sure, there are exceptions, such as the particular hard core ‘extremist’ extra-judicial killing (EJK) cells hunting Sunnis to stoke Iran’s much-desired Iraqi civil war. But an estimated 3,000 Iranian-backed extremists in EJK cells still roaming the streets must be seen as an undeniable improvement over the tens of thousands recently under the Mahdi Army banner.