Kevin Drum notes that Moqtada al-Sadr has extended his cease-fire for another six months. This is abundantly good news, and as the Washington Post points out, this cease-fire is at least as significant a factor in the drop in violence as the "surge".
I've updated the figure above from what I posted at the State of the Union. It remains the case that a model of fatalities since the ceasefire is a much stronger fit than a model of fatalities since the
surge" began. Coalition fatalities have been flat since last October, and fell substantially in September. The long-term trend was upward in August, suggesting that the military escalation was not the dominant force.
It isn't clear why Sadr called the ceasefire, nor why he chose to continue it. It is an encouraging sign, but without knowing what motivates Sadr, it's too early to say whether this situation is sustainable. The Post suggests that this corresponds to Sadr's desire to strengthen his political position. That may not be the best thing for Iraq, or for United States interests in the region.
"That may not be the best thing for Iraq, or for United States interests in the region."
It's hard to figure what would actually be good at this point. Ignoring his many faults, Sadr is probably the only genuine nationalist figure with any real influence in the region. The only other option in that regard is "rebaathification", and after that, you have partitioning, which Turkey and Iran are simply not going to accept.
Iraq is a long term disaster, no matter how its remaining proponents sugarcoat it.
"It's hard to figure what would actually be good at this point."
True dat. It's nigh impossible to see how this could possibly end well. We invaded because of the fantasy that invading would produce a secular, liberal democracy, with Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds dancing happily together. No sane person thought that could possibly happen, but the reality on the ground is worse, in many ways, than even pessimists thought it would be. Ethnic cleansing is still going on, even with Americans there. Our presence just keeps the process more orderly.
It remains the case that a model of fatalities since the ceasefire is a much stronger fit than a model of fatalities since the surge" began.
Eyeballing the chart it sure looks like the R^2 would be lower post-ceasefire than post-surge, but the data is too thin for my tastes to attach much certainty to that conclusion. Let's hope we get several more data points just like it.
It might be interesting to look at the window between the beginning of the surge and the beginning of the Sadr cease-fire. Unfortunately, there are only a few points. And it's all complicated by the possibility that the process of the surge, and the process of the cease fire, were not uniform, as well as the effects of one or more unmentioned factors.