A question or two about Iran would have been welcome here but it’s still worth your time. Interesting that he expresses support for Maliki when Allawi and Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani are in Riyadh, possibly negotiating his ouster. Also interesting is what he says about Sunni jihadis having already been caught trying to infiltrate Sadr City and pull off another spectacular attack along the lines of the Samarra bombing to get the sectarian war hopping again. I hope security is tight in Najaf and Karbala; if they can’t provoke the Shia in Baghdad, those would be the logical next targets.

The man who would benefit most from a major Sunni attack is reportedly still in Iran. Richard Miniter of Pajamas Media is hearing that the U.S. is trying to take advantage by negotiating the dissolution of the Mahdi Army:

With al-Sadr’s paymasters gone many mid-level commanders are unpaid. And so are the fighters under them. (In the Mahdi Army, commanders are responsible for the financial well-being of the men under their command.) Some have resorted to extortion, robbery and violent crimes. They are desperate for money. And they are also being hunted by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers throughout Iraq.

This has created a unique opportunity for American and allied troops, intelligence sources say.

Through intermediaries — known in spook-speak as “assets” — a handful of Mahdi Army leaders have approached allied forces and begun negotiating.

The theory here, I guess, is that we’re going to buy off the Shiites — whose poverty is such as to make U.S. troops vomit — with jobs, and then hopefully create a vibrant enough economy around them that Sadr won’t be able to afford them when he finally comes home, even though he’ll come bearing Iranian money and his own messianic religious/personal charisma. That’s a tall order for a superpower that’s on the clock. I think that’s probably why the U.S. wants Allawi as PM eventually. You can’t trust a religious Shiite to move on another religious Shiite when the time comes. And it will come.

Still, the news is good in Baghdad. Not quite as good as this much-linked article would seem to suggest (it’s describing U.S. troop deaths in Baghdad only, not in the entire country as the lede hints), but still good. And like Petraeus says, it’s early. Only two brigades are on the streets in Baghdad right now. By the end of May there’ll be five.