Troops Move in To Amara; Awakening Mounts Party;

Iraqi government troops began fanning through Amara and other towns of Maysan Province in the Shiite South on Thursday morning. Shiite militiamen, having been given three days to put away their heavier weapons, appear to have largely melted away for the time being. There were no reported clashes, and the army did not declare a curfew. The governor of Maysan, Adil Mahudar of the Sadr Movement, said that there had been extensive coordination with tribal sheikhs and with civil society organizations.

Iraqi forces maintained that 60 militiamen surrendered ahead of the operation. The offices of the Sadr Movement in Amara were abandoned on Thursday morning and the outside walls pockmarked with bullet holes. That tells me that that push on Maysan Province was an attempt to weaken the Sadrists in the one province they presently control. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq needs Maysan if he is to achieve his goal of melding 8 southern Shiite provinces into a single super-province.

Al-Hayat says that nevertheless, Sadrist leaders hailed al-Maliki for keeping his pledge not to arbitrarily arrest large numbers of Sadrists in the province. Still, Al-Hayat says that provincial council members, clergymen and local notables made a concerted effort to monitor the influx of Iraqi troops to ensure that they did not commit excesses.

Al-Hayat says that Maysan was a refuge for dissidents from Saddam in the old days, and is now again a refuge, this time for those fleeing al-Maliki.

The Awakening Councils in Iraq’s Sunni Arab provinces are attempting to become a political force in the upcoming provincial elections, writes Michael Gisick. They seem likely to give the fundamentalist Iraqi Islamic Party a run for its money, but the idea that they will emerge as a national trans-ethnic political party strikes me as fanciful.

Trudy Rubin suggests that, ironically, the reduction of political violence in Iraq in the past seven months has laid the groundwork for Iraqi politicians to play hardball with the US on the Status of Forces Agreement now being negotiated. She argues that the stronger a position the Iraqis can maintain in the negotiations, the more likely it is US troops will start coming home.

Antiwar.com covers political violence on Wednesday, reporting 14 Iraqis killed in bombings and shootings, and 53 wounded.

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Wednesday. Although the attacks are wounding more persons than they are killing, the pattern of the bombings continues to suggest an active Sunni Arab insurgency that targets specific government and police officials in a quest to forestall the stabilization of the new order in Iraq.

‘ Baghdad

- The casualties of Tuesday’s car bomb in the northwest Baghdad neighborhood of Hurriyah increased from 51 people killed to 63 people killed, police and medical sources said.

- A roadside bomb targeted a car in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karrada. Four people were wounded, including two officers who worked with the Ministry of Interior.

- Two dead bodies were found in Baghdad today: one was found in Al-Qanat Street in east Baghdad and one was found in Saidiyah in southwest Baghdad.

Mosul

- A car bomb targeted a convoy of Iraqi Army vehicles in the Rashidiyah suburb of Mosul. Four people were injured, including three soldiers and a woman.

- A car bomb detonated in Al-Karama neighborhood in Mosul. Eight people were injured in the blast, Iraqi police said. The U.S.-led coalition forces said that 14 people were injured in a statement.

Kirkuk

- On Wednesday morning a roadside bomb targeted a police patrol in downtown Kirkuk. Three policemen were injured.

- Around 10 a.m. a roadside bomb targeted a police patrol in Al-Wasiti neighborhood in downtown Kirkuk city. One policeman was killed and another was injured. ‘