He was ahead of the curve by a few days in noting the drop in violence in the city. Last week the Times of London finally caught up. Lots of qualifiers here — no one knows if the peace is being imposed by the Iraqi army, by the militias themselves, or by the tribal leaders to whom the militias answer, and as Yon notes, the lines between those three groups aren’t exactly razor sharp. “We’ve seen it turn on and off like a light switch in Anbar province, for instance,” he says, referring to the violence. Nic Robertson also notes a worrisome trend towards greater Iranian influence in the area, including an uptick in Farsi speakers. Same question as I asked in last night’s good news post: What game are the Shiites playing here? If SCIRI wants the south free and clear from Baghdad’s influence, why let the Iraqi army come down there and gain a foothold? Possible answer: They’ve calculated that it’s more important right now to show that the Shiite provinces can maintain law and order with minimal help from the Iraqi government, which bolsters the case for the federalist model that SCIRI wants so badly. Political developments are trending that way in the U.S. too. The goal would be to keep things calm and quiet at least until parliament puts something on the books formally endorsing the federalist approach. Then then Shiite parties can start carving up the south the way they want.