The biggest story for this week is the dog that didn’t bark: Al Najaf. Just 40 days ago, the celebration of Ashura was marked by numerous explosions around the mosque in Al Najaf. Yet with all the violence leading up to Arba’een, this last weekend’s festivities went off with very little if any violence. The pilgrims are quietly making their way home, and the Coalition is making strides with Sistani to bring order back to the city without having to resort to violence. This is important, because a shootout in Najaf which did damage to the holy sites (which inevitably would be where the bad guys would be shooting from) would go along way to alienating the Shias. All told, Najaf to date appears to be benefiting from a well-orchestrated strategy by both the military and the diplomats, who appear to be applying pressure while at the same time capitalizing on the rift between Sistani and Al Sadr. While there is still the potential for things to got terribly wrong, the accomplishments to date are significant. It is the biggest story of the week that you didn’t hear.
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