The New Strategy

THE NEW STRATEGY….From the president’s speech tonight:

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents, and there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.

….In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods. And Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.

Am I reading this right? I assume the primary “neighborhood” in question is Sadr City — which is actually about half of Baghdad — and that the plan is to send American troops into Sadr City with new rules of engagement that place fewer “restrictions” on what they can do. In other words, conduct a full-on war against Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army.

Color me profoundly skeptical. If that’s the plan, it sure doesn’t sound like a renewed commitment to counterinsurgency to me. Nor does it sound to me like something Maliki can even begin to genuinely support. In fact, I imagine that the life of his government can be measured in hours from the moment there’s any significant troop surge into Sadr City.

But maybe I’m reading this wrong. Comments?

UPDATE: Noah Shachtman suggests my reading might be 180 degrees backwards.