Figures compiled by the American military showed that attacks specifically on military targets in Baghdad more than tripled in March, one of many indications that violence has begun to rise again after months of gains in the wake of an American troop increase.
Violence rose in March. Maliki launched his attacks March 25, meaning that most of the rising March violence happened before the (potentially) destabilizing crackdown. Blinded by conventional notions of time and causation, you might even suspect the rising violence prompted the crackdown.
In Iraq, where perceived power is a key to real authority, Iraqis saw the Mahdi Army stopping Mr. Maliki's Basra assault cold, then melting away when Mr. Sadr ordered them to lay down their arms.
Talking about "perceived power" conveniently allows the NYT to avoid reporting whether the actual events in Basra conform to its description of "Iraqis[']" perceptions. (The one Iraqi man on the street who is quoted says something a bit different: "I think Maliki and America are more powerful than [the Mahdi Army], but Maliki alone would be smashed by it." He is the first and last "ordinary citizen" in the story.)
The rest of the piece: "Senior Iraqi officials" see the rallying behind Maliki as "turning point" that could bring political reconciliation. "But for many Iraqis ... Mr. Maliki has cemented his reputation as a tool of the Americans." Nobody is quoted from this "many" except a Sadrist official. ... An NGO type says that the Sadrists are not going to disband, but that they are facing a dilemma because not disbanding might cost them the right to participate in elections. ... A parliamentarian says that disarming the Sadrists is "not an easy job." ... The Times opines that a "truer gauge of the two sides' real power" may come Wednesday, "when Mr. Sadr has called for a million of his followers to march through the streets of Baghdad." (He has now called the march off.)
Then there is the final ominous kicker:
One unexpected bonus for Mr. Maliki is that the Sadrists appear to have been dismayed by the political establishment's decision, at least in public, to back him.
"We were astonished at the political blocs' stance in supporting Maliki's government," said Hassan al-Rubaie, a Sadrist lawmaker.
Even the Sadrists are dismayed by Maliki's breadth of support. Another sign of instability! But of course it's "unexpected." (Really? By Maliki?)
kf Nut Graf: The Iraqi government may be on the verge of collapse, or not, but the NYT's piece doesn't come close to substantiating increased concerns about its stabiity. It's more like the opposite.
I'm not saying that the Times editors are predictable anti-war, anti-Bush types who reflexively leaped to a pessimistic extrapolation from the muddled Basra fighting and imposed that unsupported conclusion on their reporters. But they definitely succeeded in producing the piece that predictable anti-war types would have generated given no more information than the news that Maliki had failed to take all of Basra. Arianna Huffington could have written it from her sofa after coming back from a party. Except it would probably be more convincing. ... 10:44 P.M.