Can someone ask Petraeus and Crocker about this: "Iraq's top Shiite religious leaders have told anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr not to disband his Mehdi Army, an al-Sadr spokesman said Monday amid fresh fighting in the militia's Baghdad strongholds."

That looks like Sadr's checkmated Maliki to me. First Maliki tried to crush the Mahdi Army with force. He couldn't. Then both Sadr and Maliki agreed on a political deal to kick the dispute upstairs to the religious authorities. Then the authorities backed Sadr. Meanwhile, as Rich Lowry's friend observes "Sadr's militia is now virtually the only militia left in Iraq that still maintains an outlaw posture, the only one that still challenges the authority of the Iraqi Security Forces or the Coalition." Lowry's pal sees this as bad news for Sadr, but that's wrong -- Sadr's forces are endorsed by the local religious authorities and they're the only ones untainted by collaboration with the extremely unpopular foreign occupiers. That's the position you want to be in.

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