Maliki's Midas Touch

But as Maliki bore the brunt of international backlash over the execution of the operation, he stood his ground.

And although many of the Shiite fighters melted into the streets, a little over a month later, the city is being called the "new city of hope." Not perfect by any means, but there are steady reports of businesses reopening, women cautiously baring skin and life being somewhat manageable. Success.

The Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites alike all eventually lauded the Basra operation as a huge success and whole-heartedly backed Maliki in his next endeavor — to revisit Mosul, and take on al Qaeda.

On May 9, late at night, we received word of an indefinite curfew in all of Nineva province. The next day, on May 10, Operation Lion's Roar surged ahead.

Acutely aware of his political momentum, on May 12, Maliki, accompanied by crews from Al Iraqia TV, the official state-run media outlet — went to Mosul — and Maliki personally, and publicly, took charge of the military operations there.

He was the lead story and plastered across almost every local front page.

In the first five days of Operation Lion's Roar, more than 500 terrorists and militants had been reportedly captured. Success. This time, with the Sunnis and Kurds behind him.

Then one week ago, on May 20, 10,000 Iraqi Army soldiers, backed by tanks (and U.S. air support), strolled into Sadr City. Not a single bullet was fired and there haven't been any gunfights, airstrikes or rockets launched into, or out of, Sadr City since.

(Two days earlier, the Iraqi Army quietly went into Sadr City and met with Sadr officials to coordinate the military operation in the city. After the meeting, they quietly left the city to return to their position on the outskirts.)

Now, U.S. military officers believe there was a contributing element of fatigue — Sadr City residents were fed up. Tired of being trapped in their homes amid a daily routine of airstrikes, gunfights and roadblocks, their lives had effectively come to a standstill.

Nevertheless, today, both Maliki and Sadr seem to be on the verge of declaring victory in the eastern Baghdad slum.

Sadr is trying to grasp on to a sliver of political leverage, claiming to have struck the deal which brought his people their livelihoods back. While Maliki is lauding the latest in a series of successes to ensure security and a regained national unity to his country.

Certainly, it seems as though there is little Maliki can do wrong these days. With provincial elections around the corner, an Iraqi future without Maliki is almost impossible to imagine.

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