Tom Ricks:

I thought some of the surge-era deals in Iraq would unravel but I didn't think that would begin happening this quickly... I think Maliki's gambit is to crack down on the Sunnis while American forces are still available in sufficient numbers to back him up. This is a turning into a test of strength, Sunni vs. Shiite.

There's more. If the Awakening fighting spreads, I wouldn't be surprised to see Moqtada al-Sadr's Shiite militia re-emerge.


I've always thought the Sunni Awakening forced him to go to ground, because he didn't want to be the only guy taking on American forces. But if the Sunnis are on the attack again, it might be game on for him as well. I am reminded of Ambassador Ryan Crocker's worry, expressed in my new book and elsewhere, that the future of Iraq was something like Lebanon. That is, it has a government, but it is shaky, and there is violence in the streets, with some political parties having armed wings that are outside the control of the government.

The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid calls this all "potentially worrisome." When Shadid begins to worry, we all should. He's the guy who back in early 2004 used to encourage me to take taxis around Baghdad.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.