Battle in Basra

PW says the combat has been intense, and that bombs have been dropped on some Mehdi Army fighters. There are some casualties. The Mehdi Army has been given a 72 hour ultimatum to give up its weapons. (Prime Minister Maliki traveled to Basra to oversee this military operation, so how big of a gamble is this for him?) It wouldn't look good if the Mehdi Army were to take over the streets. This is an inter-Shia power struggle between forces of Maliki and Sadr. (Does Maliki have the ability to reign in all these Shia factions?) He doesn't have his own militia and he doesn't have experience but he does have the state forces. (Can you substantiate reports of Mehdi Army victories?) There are unconfirmed reports that the Mehdi Army has caused Iraqi Army forces to flee, but it certainly is a stalemate. (What about the residents of Basra?) In opinion polls, people don't like the militias, but they're too afraid to do anything about it. the police is key. In the past the police have been reluctant to act against the Mehdi Army but now they're joining in.

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