When Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki launched his crackdown on the al-Sadr militias in Basra, George Bush said that it was "a defining moment". The phrase "clarifying moment" had already been used for another ill-advised crackdown on a Shiite militia -- the Bush/Blair backed Israeli attack on Hezbollah.
Notwithstanding the resulting humiliation for al-Maliki, he apparently can't get enough of these defining moments --
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, said he plans to launch more security crackdowns like the one in Basra against "criminal gangs" in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. Speaking to reporters, he singled out Sadr City and Shula — two Mahdi Army militia strongholds in Baghdad — as likely targets in the future operations.
Al-Maliki did not mention by name the Mahdi Army militia, but said those areas are under the influence of "criminal gangs." "We cannot remain silent about our people and families in Sadr City, Shula and other areas ... while they are held hostage by gangs that control them. We must liberate these cities because we came (to office) to serve them," he said at a news conference.
One factor in this decision is that he knows that even if he gets in trouble in these urban assault operations, the US and UK will back him up with firepower, even at the risk of major casualties.
This is what the presence of US troops is encouraging. There couldn't be a clearer case against the surge.