Drive-by shootings are nothing new on Baghdad's streets. But petty murders like Ibrahim's are a sign of a more worrying development. Weeks ago Sadr issued orders for his fighters to lie low as thousands of new U.S. and Iraqi soldiers deployed throughout Baghdad. For the most part they've obeyed—and the resulting drop in sectarian killings was the best news that U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus had to report last week, as he pleaded with congressional leaders to give his security plan time to work. Now individual gunmen and sometimes whole units from Sadr's Mahdi Army are breaking off on their own. The militiamen "are under a lot of pressure, so it's natural for them to shed pieces," says a Coalition official familiar with the group who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive material.
The freelancers add a new dimension to Iraq's already brutal kaleidoscope of violence. In Baghdad, after an initial dramatic drop, the number of corpses being found each morning is on the rise again. Outside the capital, fighters fleeing south have linked up with local Mahdi units; their presence is upsetting the uneasy balance of power struck between various Shiite groups in the region.
Well, duh. So much for the "surge."