Here's a general roundup of recent events in Iraq.

Sadr City cordon controversy. The Belmont Club discusses Nouri Maliki's recent order for the US to withdraw the military cordon around Sadr City. Quoting Jules Crittenden
On the streets of Baghdad, where the Shiites are celebrating the removal of the coalition cordon, Moqtada al-Sadr has another victory, and al-Maliki has demonstrated he is no U.S. puppet. ...

Al-Maliki has been increasingly defiant of the United States in recent weeks. To some extent, this is to be expected. Al-Maliki must maintain his credibility with Iraqis. But his coddling of the Shiite militias goes beyond that. Maliki, as other observers have noted, senses the danger of a U.S. abandonment, and also senses that militant Shia is the ultimate source of power in Iraq. His own ticket to the future. ...

[The US should] provoke a fight with [Sadr's] forces, and destroy them.

Wretchard responds:
The emergence of an independent Iraqi government complicates and simplifies things. It simplifies things in that the US can focus more on advancing its own national interests and less on the interests of the Iraqi government. We have given them a hand, now we must give ourselves a hand. And the question is, whatever Maliki thinks of the Shi'ite militias, is it in America's best interests to see them flourish? Do they hold an American soldier and can we let them? Those are the relevant questions. And strategically the answers to those questions must be answered in the best American interests.

Full post at the link. Here's the Little Green Footballs post on the story:
There’s a lot of second-guessing about Iraq these days, and a lot of people attempting to analyze where mistakes were made. In my book, one of the worst mistakes was our failure to kill Muqtada al-Sadr, a man who deserves to meet the business end of a Hellfire missile if anyone ever did.

LGF comment thread here. And here's the news item:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Exploiting GOP vulnerability in the Nov. 7 elections, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki flexed his political muscle Tuesday and won U.S. agreement to lift military blockades on Sadr City and another Shiite enclave where an American soldier was abducted. U.S. forces, who had set up the checkpoints in Baghdad last week as part of an unsuccessful search for the soldier, drove away in Humvees and armored personnel carriers at the 5 p.m. deadline set by al-Maliki. Iraqi troops, who had manned the checkpoints with the Americans, loaded coils of razor wire and red traffic cones onto pickup trucks.

US translator Ahmed Qusai al-Taei abducted. Gateway Pundit:
Ahmed Qusai al-Taei was dragged away by the Mahdi Army while visiting his in-laws in Baghdad last Monday. ... The U.S. military has said the soldier was of Iraqi descent and that he was visiting family in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karradah when he was abducted.

Here's the horrifying news report:
According to a report in Monday editions of The New York Times, the relatives said that the soldier, previously unidentified by the U.S. government, is Ahmed Qusai al-Taei, a 41-year-old Iraqi-American. The family did not know he was a soldier until after the kidnapping, the relatives said.

Taei married a 26-year-old college student, Israa Abdul-Satar, three months ago, the family said. They showed visitors photographs of the couple's wedding and honeymoon, the newspaper reported.

The relatives said members of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia came to the wife's home on Oct. 23 and dragged Taei into their car.

"They were saying, 'He's an American journalist,'" said a woman who claimed she was the soldier's mother-in-law and asked that she be identified only by her nickname, Um Omar, because of fear of reprisals. "We were saying, 'No, he's an Iraqi.'"

Ahmed Abdul-Satar, who said he was the soldier's brother-in-law, recounted a frantic scene from the kidnapping, with the women of the family screaming and begging the gunmen not to take Taei.

Anbar Salvation Council. The Mesopotamian has been following a citizens' posse known as the Anbar Salvation Council. From an October 24 post:
Actually, I think one of the most important developments recently is the situation in the Anbar and the rise of the anti-terrorist movement there in more developed and explicit form. This movement should neither be underestimated nor overestimated. But it is certainly real and a considerable split in the Tribes of the Dulaim. The U.S. forces have done a lot of work in this front since the beginning and have put in quite a lot of effort and have tried various approaches. In the Anbar, the Iraqi Government does not really exist at all, and it is only the American forces that have any real presence there apart from the various terrorist groups of-course. In the last year or so it seems that the Americans have been using a more subtle approach in trying to corner the enemy in certain locations and surround him without confronting him directly. It seems that he was allowed to concentrate in certain points (in and near the city of Ramadi) and almost given the freedom to exist and fester within these narrow boundaries. Thus the hapless inhabitants of these towns, such as Ramadi, were given the dubious honor of experiencing all the pleasures of living under the yoke of these hordes of Mujahideen who actually surpassed the Taliban in their zeal for various Godly practices.

For instance, here are some of the things that were declared haram (forbidden), not to mention the usual prohibitions of Islam that everybody knows:

- It is haram for men(let alone women) to wear shorts and even jeans, indeed the captain of the Iraqi tennis team was murdered in Baghdad for just this sin as he was leaving his house wearing one (to play tennis).
- It is haram for women to drive. Many women were murdered for this particular sin.
- It is haram to listen to music.
- Haircuts and hairdressing is haram and barbers and barber shops have been favorite targets.

All that is very well but wait for this:

- “Turshi”(pickled vegetables) is haram. I am told by some of my Ramadi acquaintances that jars of “Turshi” are secretly passed around much in the same way that drugs are traded elsewhere.
- Sammoun (bread that is baked in what is considered western style) is haram, and hence the many attacks on bakeries guilty of this practice.
- Last but not least, spoons forks and any such cutlery are haram !!!! The pious Islamic way is to eat with one’s bare hands.

But there's a reaction against this fanatical thuggery:
... And thus I can tell you with certainty, and based on personal acquaintances with people from that province, that the anti-terrorist movement there is real and widespread and given the right support and encouragement it could result in totally cleaning the Anbar in its entirety, which would be an important turning point in this war.

The fact that this "Anbar Salvation Council" that has proved its commitment against the terrorists is composed of the most Sunni of Sunnies, has the important effect of counteracting the sectarian tensions. And indeed already, strong expressions of support from the South and from Shiaa quarters have been expressed. The importance of this development should not be lost in the midst of the general “mess” (as expressed lately by President Bush). It is, in fact an opportunity to clean up this most strategic province and achieve an important milestone in this struggle. However, it is right that this movement should be carefully controlled and integrated within the framework of the Law and the Government. The locals have quite superior knowledge and intelligence of the nature and identity of the various terrorist groups, and have proved on several occasions their effectiveness against such groups. It is after all their homes and families that they are fighting for and they are not going to go elsewhere once they are in full control of their towns and villages.

But on October 29, Alaa reports:
The official spokesman for the "Anbar Salvation Council" has just appeared on the Al-Iraqia T.V. He announced that the Americans told the Council that if it tried to enter Ramadi to chase the terrorists out they would be confronting the American forces !! An astounding revelation which leaves one dumbfounded. From my own private sources, I heard many times that the Americans are not encouraging anti-terrorist elements to launch any large scale action against the enemy. Now this is stated openly by one of the official spokesmen of the Council. I wonder what is the real strategy of the Americans? I am mystified.

A variety of ideas are expressed in the comments thread on this post; well worth a read.

Healing Iraq on latest developments. Zeyad's October 28 post carries detailed accounts of some recent events in Baghdad:
Mahdi Army groups in Sadr City are accusing SCIRI of setting up the American military operation against them. This could spell further trouble in Shi’ite cities in the south and another confrontation between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi security forces (dominated by SCIRI and Badr).

Sources in Sadr City reported that a son of Abu Dera’ and an aide were killed in the first American raid against the Chuwadir area of Sadr City Wednesday. Abu Dera’ is a feared name in Sadr City and Sunnis accuse him of atrocities against their community in several districts surrounding Sadr City. It’s hard to get facts about him since he has become a sort of a legend in that area of Baghdad, but people now claim that Sadr personally appointed him the responsibility of cleaning up the ranks of the Mahdi Army in Sadr City and that he has started cracking down on rival gangs and splinter Mahdi Army groups in the area. Following the American raid, he is reported to have fled behind the Sadda and is now in the Al-Amin district, just southeast of Sadr City. Clashes are still reported from Sadr City and American troops have blocked all main streets leading into the huge slum.

Tensions are still high in Amara, Diwaniya and Samawa. There was a failed assassination attempt against the military intelligence commander (a SCIRI member) in Samawa, and there were clashes between militias and the Iraqi police in Suwayra southeast of Baghdad. All are signs of the increasing distrust between the Sadrist movement and SCIRI, which form the largest blocs inside the UIA.

There was a brief scare at Najaf Thursday when local authorities closed down the shrine for an hour, citing a security threat. The shrine has been opened since but there are speculations on several Iraqi message boards that an incident at the shrine may be created in order to relieve the current tensions between the U.S. and the Shia and in order to speed up the formation of the Shi’ite federal region in the south.

In a related development, Muqtada Al-Sadr issued instructions to his followers yesterday to avoid an open confrontation with American troops and what he described as “their Nawasib followers.” Nawasib in Shia literature roughly translates to ‘those who have set themselves against the prophet’s household.’ It’s a historical reference to Muslim caliphs and armies who have persecuted the prophet’s grandsons and their followers (the Shia). The term is used today in Iraq among Shi’ite circles as a veiled code for Sunnis, although they deny that and say they only mean terrorists who target the Shia. ...

Full post at the link, with a detailed map and Zeyad's translation of Muqty's statement.

Rumsfeld endorses plan to increase Iraqi army. Iraq the Model reports:
A plan to increase the numbers of Iraqi security forces was announced yesterday and the plan was immediately approved and endorsed by defense secretary Rumsfeld.

There was still some controversy and uncertainty about the number of troops that are intended to be added.

But according to this fresh press release from the Iraqi cabinet (from Voice of Iraq/Arabic) the planned increase will include adding 18800 soldiers to the units of the army overseen by the defense ministry. It remains unclear how many troops will be added to the police forces or border guards.

The press release mentioned that those 18800 troops will be distributed over several wide regions of the country including; Kirkuk, Anbar, Diyala, Salah Addin, Baghdad, Middle Euphrates and the Southern region.

IraqPundit: Don't abandon Iraqis. Finally, here's IraqPundit echoing Michael Rubin's column in the Financial Times: '"It would be a mistake to abandon democracy" in Iraq, he wrote. "To do so would reaffirm the worst conspiracies about coalition intentions and drive Iraq into the arms of neighbouring states." Rubin, addressing a mostly European readership, concludes that "While many in Britain and Europe believe war in Iraq to be illegal, they should not sacrifice ordinary Iraqis on the altar of anti-Americanism."' Indeed.