Very long article covering the city of Sadr City.
One year ago, Moqtada al Sadr’s radical Mahdi Army militia strongholds in Basra and Sadr City were two of the biggest threats remaining to the Iraqi republic. Al Qaeda in Iraq had been reduced to a remnant, but the country still was a violent mirror of Lebanon. Hezbollah threatens the Lebanese capital and can start unilateral wars on a whim, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki had to ask himself if that was the kind of country he hoped to be left with as Americans talked of a combat force draw down. Lebanon has neither a capable national army nor tens of thousands of foreign troops on her soil as backup. The Iraqis did, though. Their army, with help from the American military, was ordered into the southern city of Basra to purge the streets of the Shia militiamen. After nail-biting fits and starts, the Iraqis prevailed. Then they stormed Sadr City and took back the last bastion of resistance in the capital.
I visited Sadr City on my recent trip to Iraq, and I expected to be horrified when I got there. It was safer than it had been, of course, but it was still known as the great slum of Baghdad – like Hezbollah’s dahiyeh south of Beirut, only bigger and meaner. Almost as many people live in Sadr City as in all of Lebanon. Much of Iraq looks like a slum as it is, so an actual slum in Iraq must look like…what?
Most Iraqi cities look more or less like every other Iraqi city, but there are exceptions.