A year ago many neighborhoods in Baghdad were controlled by militant forces, but twelve months later due to more troops, new allies, and a few lucky breaks the situation is not as dismal looking. Today’s problem is how to build on whatever success ensued over the past year, but, when one examines that issue, things do not appear as bright. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is still struggling to create a viable government and bridge differences between Sunni and Shiites. The most fortunate aspect of the surge was inept policies by al-Qaeda which angered civilians by indiscriminate suicide bombing and creating ongoing terror that disrupted normal life. Many Sunni groups turned on al-Qaeda just as the surge began which proved to be among the most important factors in achieving success.
In all, 831 American troops died during the surge although a majority of the casualties occurred during the initial six months of the operation. Iraqi civilian casualties are now closer to what they were in 2005. An unexpected factor is the role of Iran which supposedly supports the current Iraq government. Iranian agents no longer give unqualified support to the Mahdi army of al-Sadr. There is still an Iranian presence and its agents continue supporting various groups within Iraq. It has most probably thrown its support behind the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council of Abdu-Aziz al-Hakim, the nation’s most powerful Shiite leader.