Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, addressed throngs of Shiite worshippers in the holy city of Karbala on Thursday, the commemoration of the 40th day after the martyrdom of the grandson of the prophet Mohammed, Hussein. As they chanted, "Ali w'yak Ali," Ali we are with you Ali, referring to the revered cousin of the prophet Mohammed, Maliki declared that reconciliation had been achieved.
"We said 'national reconciliation among the sons of Iraq' and it succeeded," he told the crowd. "Iraqis once again became brothers, cooperating and loving one another. Harmony and loving has returned as it was. Now there is unity instead of civil war."
When he said it, our Iraqi staff chuckled. Yes the unidentified bodies in Baghdad have dropped, but violence has crept back up slightly, this month and the last, in the capital. The first day of February at least 99 people died in coordinated bombings here and when Shiites walked to Karbala, at least 40 died in a bombing at a roadside tent that offered refreshments to the pious walking to Karbala.
One of our Shiite Iraqi staffers asked if Maliki would go to Adil, a restive Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad where Sunni insurgents still operate and Shiites know they are not welcome. Maybe he can check out Hurriyah where Sunni residents have not returned. They were run out of the neighborhood in 2006 and some men were burned alive.
Maybe he can ask the more than 88,000 mostly Sunni contractors that work with the U.S. to fight Al Qaida how they feel about the reconciliation effort. Many of them are former insurgents, very few have been absorbed into the government. People complain now that many act as warlords, in each neighborhood the law is in their hands.
He may want to see what's happening in Basra where Shiite groups battle for power with bullets or ask the tribal sheikhs who are being targeted for turning on Al Qaida.
Things are a bit better, but is this victory?