Six weeks into the surge the vast Baghdad slum called Sadr City is the safest and best-run part of the city—but not because of the stepped-up efforts on the part of government forces. Moqtada al-Sadr is said to be somewhere in Iran, but his representatives run hospitals, school, courts, police, and mosques.
Markets are crowded, shops are open, young men play soccer in well-manicured parks. American troops patrol the streets with Sadr's cooperation; he and his followers have invited U.S.-funded reconstruction projects to revitalize their home turf. One Mahdi Army commander says that his men badly want to fight the Americans. The reason they don't? "It is the order of Sayyid Moqtada Sadr."