Critics of the US troop surge claim that much of the cause for the tribes in al-Anbar province turning against al-Qaeda is not the increased presence of US troops and an increased working relationship between the tribal sheikhs and US troops, but the result of the heavy handed tactics of al-Qaeda in their relations with the tribes and their enforcement of an extremely obnoxious form of Sharia law. If that is the case then apparently the same is true of the relations between the Shia population of Baghdad and the Mahdi Army:
BAGHDAD, Oct. 11 — In a number of Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, residents are beginning to turn away from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia they once saw as their only protector against Sunni militants. Now they resent it as a band of street thugs without ideology.
The hardening Shiite feeling in Baghdad opens an opportunity for the American military, which has long struggled against the Mahdi Army, as American commanders rely increasingly on tribes and local leaders in their prosecution of the war.
The sectarian landscape has shifted, with Sunni extremists largely defeated in many Shiite neighborhoods, and the war in those places has sunk into a criminality that is often blind to sect.
Like many Shiites, Abbas, the car parts dealer, attributes part of the drop-off to a new precision in American arrests, fed by tips from Shiite residents. Abbas said he and his friends had a name for the Americans, the Janet Brothers, a tongue-in-cheek term of tribal respect that plays off an American name. Another name, Madonna Brothers, refers to the American pop star.
American commanders like Lt. Col. David Oclander, of the Second Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, whose area includes Sadr City and other Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, have seized on that cooperation. In the past month and a half, he said, Shiite leaders have begun to make contact with the Americans. The brigade is now working with 25 sheiks in the Shiite neighborhoods of Shaab and Ur and is interviewing up to 1,200 candidates for semiofficial neighborhood guard positions.
The lieutenant colonel compares the shift among the Shiites to the one in Sunni neighborhoods that began to turn against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Sunni extremist group that American intelligence agencies say is foreign led.
Here's hoping the progress remains steady which it will if the politicians can get their act together.
In related news Back Talk is crunching the numbers and so far October looks to be another month of decreased casualties.
Iraq, War, Shia, Mahdi Army, Anbar