(SLIGHTLY) GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ….There have been a few bits of relatively good news out of Iraq lately. A few weeks ago the standoff at Najaf was settled (fairly) peacefully, and although the status of the city is still murky, open fighting in the streets has been pretty much halted.

Then, a couple of days ago, militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who had spearheaded the insurgency in Najaf, signalled that he might be interested in curbing his militia and taking part in the January election. It’s hard to say how serious his offer is, but it’s a step in a positive direction.

Today, U.S. forces claimed victory in Samarra in an operation that relied heavily on Iraqi forces. As usual, the insurgents “melted away,” so it’s hard to say just how permanent this victory is, but it’s something.

For obvious reasons, it would be foolish to get too excited about all this. As the U.S. commanders admit, holding cities is a lot harder that taking them in the first place. And these bright spots are just that: small spots in an otherwise grim landscape filled with ongoing atrocities.

Still, good news is good news. We can hope it’s a start.

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