is Muqtada al-Sadr.
In a front-page story today headlined “Al-Maliki’s offensive may put Petraeus in hot seat,” the N&O tells readers:
This is not the way that Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, was expected to reappear before Congress.The entire N&O story, datelined Washington and under the byline of Nancy Youssef, a reporter for the N&O’s parent McClatchy News Co. is here.
Violence in Iraq recently had dropped to a nearly three-year low. The once-intransigent Iraqi parliament had passed some key pieces of legislation. Only five U.S. service members had been killed since October in Anbar province, a fraction of the toll a year ago.
But that was before the offensive that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched in the southern port city of Basrah and in Baghdad two weeks ago. Instead of ridding the city of rogue Shiite Muslim militias, the operation exposed the frailty of the U.S.-trained Iraqi military, emboldened rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his fighters, and showcased Iran's powerful influence on Iraq's security and politics.
Today, Petraeus will have to explain to legislators why the United States didn't know about the American-backed Iraqi government's offensive well in advance, as well as whether the drop in violence that followed the dispatch of additional U.S. forces to Iraq may have been temporary. …
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday that al-Maliki "has shown himself to be a political leader who is excessively sectarian, who is incompetent, and who runs a corrupt administration."
He added, "The purpose of the surge clearly has not been achieved."
The Times of London today has a very different account of recent events in Iraq.
Under the headline, “Iraq: Al-Mahdi army offers to lay down its arms,” James Hider reports from Baghdad:
Iraq’s largest and most dangerous militia will voluntarily disband if Shia scholars advise its leader to do so, officials said yesterday — a dramatic move that could quell much of the fighting in the war-torn country.The entire Times of London story is here.
Aides to Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr said that he would send delegations to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a moderate religious leader in Najaf, and to senior clerics in Iran to consult on whether he should stand down his 60,000-strong al-Mahdi Army.
The sudden announcement — the first time that the rebellious cleric had offered to disband his forces — came as US and Iraqi troops were poised for a key offensive into his Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City.
Yesterday streams of refugees were pouring out of Sadr City as automatic gunfire and mortar bomb blasts ripped through the giant slum that is home to 2.5 million people.
Terrified residents scuttled down side streets as tanks trundled along the main thoroughfares, shooting at guerrillas. A massive American and Iraqi security presence had ringed the area, with police and soldiers guarding every exit with many predicting a final, bloody showdown as popular support drained from al-Mahdi Army. ...
An Iraqi police commander whose forces have sealed the eastern approaches to Sadr City said that raids would resume today when a government deadline for the militia to disarm expires.
“I think this time they’re finished,” said Brigadier Ali Ibrahim Daboun. “In all the previous battles, they were attacking and we were on the defensive. Now it’s the other way round.”
At NRO Rich Lowry had an extensive report which includes this:
On the political front, Sadr now finds himself completely isolated. Key leaders of his own movement are now urging him to accept the Maliki government’s demands to disband the militia entirely.Lowry’s entire report’s here.
Why didn’t the N&O and McClatchy tells us the “emboldened rebel Shite cleric” and his gangsters were surrounded, under fierce attack, and offering to lay down their arms?
Never underestimate your enemy. We have many tough fights ahead in Iraq. The situation is dangerous; the political progress is fragile.
But progress in Iraq and maintaining support in America for our government's efforts there have been made much more difficult than they otherwise would be because of what military expert Austin Bey calls “the sensationalist, fear-leveraging slant of most media coverage.”
The N&O/McClatchy story today is one more example of what Bey is talking about.
It hurts our country and civilization’s fight against the terrorists when liberal/leftist news organizations like the N&O engage in slanted reporting on Iraq.
I’ll give the last words to Bey:
The quick [media] damnation of PM Maliki and the Iraqi Army’s efforts last week reveals an immense ignorance of warfare, one still rampant despite six-plus years of alleged experience; it displays not simply hasty, herd-mentality judgmentalism, but demonstrates in trump cards the sensationalist, fear-leveraging slant of most media coverage.Bey's entire post is here.