This BBC article announces another bit hit for US and Iraqi troops with the headline "Iraq Clashes Kill 250 Militants". As I always try to do with such battle reports, I look to see what sect the casualties belong to. Sure enough, this is yet another big pile of Sunni insurgent bodies.
The US government made it clear that it intended to take on all sides, and al-Maliki, Iraq's embattled prime minister, was put on notice to go after al-Sadr's militia allies, the Mahdi Army. We did read that about 600 (out of several thousand) Mahdi members were taken into custody (that means, I think, alive) in an early sweep. Yet the deaths seem to be piling up mostly on the Sunni side. Is that because it is now only the Sunni insurgents who are engaged in wholesale attacks on their religious enemies? But then, you have to wonder what the Shiite militia are doing, and why.
Could it be that, as at least one report suggests, the Shiite militia are slipping away into the Iran sanctuary? It has become clear that the US, likely barring the case of hot pursuit, will not take the battle in Iraq into Iran territory. So, with the security forces mainly under Shiite control and heavily infiltrated by Shiite militia members, it makes sense for the rest of their members to leave town or otherwise lay low until the joint initiative takes down the Sunni insurgents.
I'm sure that the Iran leadership will be fine with that, but what will the Sunni Arab leaders in the region think about it? Are they also willing to tolerate what looks like an increasingly enduring Shiite ascendancy in whatever remains at the federal level in Iraq, as long as religious sentiments do not lead to total domination of Baghdad by Tehran? After all, there is a sliver lining to this thundercloud for the monarchies and other authoritarian governments, if the better part of the foreign allies of the Sunni insurgents are eliminated and are not able to maintain an Iraqi launching pad for subversive activities back in the rest of the Arab world. That's a big if, but with US unable to cast poxes on both houses, it may be the most they can hope for.