This article gives a penetrating glimpse into the reality of Baghdad and the rise (and future) of the Mahdi Army.
From the article:
The Hurriyah neighborhood of northwest Baghdad, gripped by a spasm of deadly
ethnic violence a year ago, has grown markedly calmer over the past eight months. It is now the kind of area that both U.S. and Iraqi officials point to when they cite progress at stabilizing Baghdad. But only Shiites are welcome — or safe — in Hurriyah these days. And neither Iraq's government nor U.S. or Iraqi security forces are truly in control. Instead, the Mahdi Army militia runs this area as it does others across Baghdad — manning checkpoints, collecting rental fees for apartments, licensing bus drivers, mediating family fights and even handing out gas for cooking.
The U.S. Army still runs regular patrols, sometimes on foot, sometimes by Humvee. And Iraqi police, on the streets, are nominally in charge. But underneath the calm, an armed group hostile to the United States holds a firm grip on power. Some fear the Mahdi Army is simply biding its time — eager to grab outward control and run things its way whenever U.S. forces pull back.
And how to it get this way--two words: ethnic cleansing...
Until late 2005, Hurriyah was a relatively safe, working-class community of Sunnis and Shiites. The first signs of trouble began that year, when gunmen from a Sunni extremist group began abducting and killing Shiites. In early 2006, Mahdi Army militiamen from their base in nearby Sadr City — about seven miles to the east — set up an office in Hurriyah's main outdoor market, promising Shiites protection. Last fall, fliers went up, warning that 10 Sunnis would die for every Shiite killed. As a wave of Sunni car bomb attacks on Shiites killed hundreds across Baghdad, reprisal attacks on Sunnis steadily escalated. Throughout the fall, dozens of bodies turned up each day in Hurriyah and other neighborhoods. By late November, Sunni mosques in Hurriyah were being attacked, never yet to reopen. U.S. troops came under frequent sniper fire. Schools closed. By early December, almost all Sunnis had fled Hurriyah, except for a handful of elderly Sunnis, and the Mahdi Army was running several checkpoints. By March, Shiites who had been displaced elsewhere were moving into Hurriyah, taking the shops and apartments of Sunnis who had fled.
The Iraqi Army is not going to control the streets in these neighborhoods. The Mahdi Army is running things mafia style and when police/army is weaker than Mafia, then Mafia buys Army and Police. Because otherwise the Army and Police know they will be targets.
Gang on gang warfare. The cleansing is already over---the Sunnis have basically lost. Train the tribesman to fight AQ, prevent the Turks and Saudis from joining in, let the Shia gangs fight each other and get outta the way. People are going to die. The new order is going to be ruthless. Not that the old one wasn't. But the streets are where the power is--not the Green Zone of dithering politicos.