I was just thinking last week that it seemed strange that, after five years, the war was surprisingly receiving little (at least compared to 2007) play in the media.
But then this week, it looks like the war is back on the news cycle, precipitated by the Maliki government’s decision to launch a heavy assault on the Shiite militia. The Administration is spinning this as a sign of political independence, as this offensive was supposedly entirely coordinated by the Maliki government.
Which begs the question: if this is entirely the effort of the Maliki government, why are American forces involved? I clearly remember administration officials’ singing a different tune last year, when they were all saying that American troops should not play sides in a sectarian conflict.
Over at Crooked Timber, there are a couple of pretty good analysis of the Basra offensive (here and here), taking a deeper look at the political motivations behind the offensive. In short: Maliki needed to show his cards, or at least try to call a bluff on the militias, by launching this offensive in order to show that his government can try to do something even as the troop surge is set to expire, and the next president, whoever that is, will probably start withdrawing troops. Or, alternatively, it could be just a play to get continued American commitment.