As I said in an earlier post, things here are both better and worse than what is being reported. I say that because, while things were/are, in my opinion much worse in Basrah than the media reports (probably because they won't go down there and don't know.), things in other parts of southern Iraq are better than reported. If they are reported at all.
In several other southern Iraqi cities, the Iraqi Army, and the lesser known ISWAT units, kicked JAM's ass. In at least one town they pretty much eradicated JAM and destroyed the OMS office (the political front for JAM) where weapons were cached. That success is due to the dedicated training provided these forces by their US counterparts. I know our guys did a great job, and our "top ten" board was almost cleaned off.
While it is accepted in US media that the recent clash was a victory for Sadr, alternative analysis concludes that he is left much more isolated, both from a people tired of fighting, and from the political process. And possible from the militia itself too. This does not mean there will be more stability, it could lead to more fighting if he is weakened. Only time, not newscasters and pundits, will tell.
The Long War Journal hits on this with Ayatollah Sistani on the Mahdi Army
The move caused panic inside the Sadrist movement as their political isolation became apparent. "We, the Sadrists, are in a predicament," Hassan al Rubaie, a Sadrist member of parliament said the day the Political Council for National Security announced the plan. "Our political isolation was very clear and real during the meeting."I am certainly not trying to cheerlead, there is a lot to be disappointed about in the recent fighting, but there needs to be better balance in reporting. As for specifics, I can't provide them here, you'll need to do your own digging. (Or buy me several rounds of Tequila when I'm home [;)