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Lots of Iraq stuff today:

Michael Yon explains why violence is up in Iraq. Hint: Its not because we’re losing.

Iraqi PM says private army mentality in Iraq is over

Maliki told Miliband, on a surprise visit to Baghdad, that “national reconciliation has been a success and all political parties will return to government. “The ideology of having rival militias is over. The weapon is now in state hands,” the statement said that Maliki told Miliband during their talks.

Sunnis Agree to End Boycott, Rejoin Iraq Government

Iraq’s largest Sunni bloc has agreed to return to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s cabinet after a boycott that lasted nearly a year, several Sunni leaders said on Thursday, citing a recently passed amnesty law and the Maliki government’s crackdown on Shiite militias as reasons for the move. “Our conditions were very clear, and the government achieved some of them,” said Adnan al-Duleimi, the head of Tawafiq, the largest Sunni bloc in the government. Mr. Duleimi said the achievements included “the general amnesty, chasing down the militias and disbanding them and curbing the outlaws.”

The men in black vanish and Basra comes to life

Young women are daring to wear jeans, soldiers listen to pop music on their mobile phones and bands are performing at wedding parties again. All across Iraq’s second city life is improving, a month after Iraqi troops began a surprise crackdown on the black-clad gangs who were allowed to flourish under the British military. The gunmen’s reign had enforced a strict set of religious codes. The contrast could not be more stark with the last time The Times visited Basra in December, when intimidation was rife. Many blame the British for allowing the militias to grow. In the past month Iraqi troops have killed dozens of fighters, made 400 arrests and lost 12 soldiers. At the same time, it is thought that about 60 militia leaders have escaped across the border into Iran or are lying low outside Basra, working out their next move.

Iraq’s Sadr calls for ceasefire to continue

Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr pulled back from confrontation with the government on Friday, asking his followers to continue to observe a shaky ceasefire and not to do battle with government troops. “You are the best who committed and were patient with the decision to cease fire, and were the most obedient to your leader,” said a statement from Sadr, read out by a cleric during Friday prayers at a major mosque in Sadr’s eastern Baghdad stronghold, the Sadr City slum. “I wish you would continue your patience and your belief.” The statement comes less than a week after Sadr threatened to launch an “open war until liberation” if attacks on his followers by U.S.-backed government troops did not cease

US, Iraqi forces engage Mahdi Army in Baghdad, Rashidiyah, Hussaniyah