The Iraqi Army has now spread throughout Sadr City in operations this morning, putting snipers on rooftops and establishing checkpoints throughout the area. The new operation follows on the heels of an agreement from Sadrists not to resist a takeover as long as no American troops accompany the native soldiers into the slums. So far, no resistance has been shown, and residents appear happy to see the Mahdi Army take flight:
Iraq’s army moved on Tuesday to take control of Baghdad’s Sadr City, power base of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, in another step to stamp government authority over areas previously outside its control.
A spokesman for Iraqi security forces in Baghdad, Major-General Qassim Moussawi, said soldiers had launched “Operation Peace” in the sprawling eastern Baghdad slum early on Tuesday.
Iraqi soldiers, who previously controlled only the outer perimeter of Sadr City, advanced deep into the poor suburb, home to 2 million people, without meeting any opposition, he said.
“We are taking control of three-quarters of the city. What is left is the final quarter,” he said, referring to an area where Iraqi security forces had previously ventured only rarely.
Reuters avoids the Basra Narrative in this report, noting the progress of the Maliki government in establishing sovereignty throughout Iraq:
The operation — on the second anniversary of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s swearing-in — marks the latest step by the government to extend control over areas of Iraq that were under the sway of Shi’ite militias or Sunni Arab insurgents.
Maliki personally oversaw the offensive against Shi’ite militias in Basra, which is now under Iraqi army control, and earlier this month he flew to Mosul in the north as his forces launched a push against the Sunni Islamist al Qaeda.
The lack of effective resistance in Sadr City shows how far Moqtada al-Sadr’s star has fallen in Iraq. At one point, the Mahdis had a huge power base in Sadr City thanks to their protection of its residents from Sunni terrorist attacks. When those attacks lessened, the Mahdis turned into thugs, imposing Taliban-like social restrictions and extorting payment in protection rackets. They lost the hearts-and-minds battle on their own, and now Sadr City wants a future without Sadr.
Of course, some wags will still spin this as a victory for Sadr, but that argument has already worn thin. The Iraqi central government has grown strong enough to claim sovereignty over all of Iraq, and Sadr has weakened to the point where capitulation is the only option left to him. Sadr, in the end, proved himself as inept a politician as he was a general.