Ed Morrissey at Hot Air follows the narrative in Iraq as it actually plays out for the Iraqis and the world, unsurprisingly a different view than the media. He follows Maliki's travels and notes a very important message has been sent and received.
Maliki’s presence sends a message to Iraqis in Mosul that the central government will not allow terrorists to create a state within a state. Having the leader of the elected government ride into Mosul at the head of a column of Iraqi soldiers gives AQI an answer to its terrorist attacks, which is that Iraq will not be terrorized into retreat. If Maliki can face down a native Shi’ite extremist like Sadr in Basra and Sadr City, he won’t get intimidated by a handful of foreign Sunni lunatics who kill more of their sectarian brethren than anyone else.
Over the last six weeks, Maliki has staged an impressive show of statesmanship and command. He has used his resources daringly and adapted well to changing conditions and tactical setbacks to liberate large swaths of his country from militias and thugs. If he can crush AQI in Mosul in the near future, he may well set Iraq on a path of unity and strength that could barely be predicted at the end of 2006.
Maliki has been much maligned in the press as unable to create unity or at least put Iraq on the path to reconciliation. Much of that criticism ignored the fact that reconciliation is near impossible during sectarian violence and until the people could feel safe in their homes and markets nothing was going forward. Well, we accomplished that and lo and behold old feckless Maliki turned out to have a whole bunch of feck.
The Battle of Basra where the Maliki government defeated Sadr's thugs represented a major turning point for Iraq as it was the first battle led and won by the Iraqi forces themselves. Then the dregs of the JAM Militias in Sadr City signed a cease fire that would more properly be called a surrender. Now he capitalizes on these and goes straight to the last infestation in Mosul. He rides at the head of a column of victorious Iraqi soldiers who just created mounds of dead tangos in Basra and I don't think anyone would predict any chance of success for the bad guys in Mosul. So where will that leave Maliki and the Iraqis overall.
One of the solutions for Iraq suggested in a strange alliance by RealPolitik types on the right and some cut and runners on the left was to install another strongman to replace Saddam. It is the risk-aversion, washing my hands of this solution, but it was always a gutless, weaseling out of a responsibility we took on by deposing Hussein. The idea wasn't bad because having another strong man in charge wouldn't help, it probably would. It was bad because we should not be in the business of creating puppet dictatorships.
But if a homegrown strongman could rise out of the hell that was Iraq for the past few years, then good on him. Maliki survived the horrors and now has emerged at the other end as the classic Big Man in Iraqi/Arab society, the mighty warrior who crushes his foes scattering their bodies and then is magnanimous in victory helping all members of the al Iraqi tribe. He's not there yet, but it is exactly the kind of narrative that could unite the country. Good luck.