Iraq army tightens grip on southern city
Iraq's security forces tightened their grip on the southern city of Amara on Monday and appealed to Shi'ite militias to hand over heavy weapons before a government deadline for launching a crackdown.
"Our military forces ... have completed their deployment to ensure control of the whole city," the Iraqi Army's deputy chief of staff, Nasir al-Abadi, said in a statement.
The show of force in Amara, a stronghold of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia, is the latest stage in the government drive to extend its authority to areas that had been controlled by Shi'ite militias or Sunni insurgents.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has given "outlaws" and "criminals" in Amara and the rest of the southern province of Maysan until Wednesday to surrender and hand over weapons.
He has authorized security forces to launch major operations from Thursday, saying the state must end "chaos" and crime in the impoverished province bordering Iran.
Abadi appealed to "deceived people" to seize the opportunity and take their weapons to collection points at the local airport, stadium and police stations.
Maliki has already sent the Iraqi army, with U.S. support, into Mehdi Army bastions in Baghdad and the southern oil city of Basra and launched a campaign against al Qaeda Sunni Arab insurgents in the northern city of Mosul.
Maliki, criticized in the past for lacking resolve to stabilize Iraq, has gained a measure of respect at home and abroad with the offensives that have helped reduce violence to the lowest level in over four years.
The campaigns underscore the Shi'ite-led government's desire to take more control of security from the 150,000 U.S. troops in the country.
What scares me the most is that if Mr. Obama gets elected this November he has promised to reverse our course in Iraq. Right now, Iraq is our ally. But if we leave them without helping them secure their country they will go elsewhere for security. And that place would probably be Iran.