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In Baghdad Slum, GIs, Sadr Adapt to Peace

An Iraqi family pleads with American soldiers to improve electric and other services in Sadr City.
Ben Gilbert, NPR
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An Iraqi family pleads with American soldiers to improve electric and other services in Sadr City.
Children run up to a mortar round on the side of a highway as Americans searching for roadside bombs move in to inspect it.  The shell turned out to be a dud.
Eric Westervelt, NPR /
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Children run up to a mortar round on the side of a highway as Americans searching for roadside bombs move in to inspect it. The shell turned out to be a dud.

A tenuous peace holds in Sadr City between U.S. forces and followers of militant anti-American cleric Moktada Sadr. Mehdi militiamen who were shooting at U.S. soldiers last summer are now helping man Iraqi police checkpoints and assisting in reconstruction.

Sadr has re-emerged after a period of quiet following two failed uprisings against U.S. forces. The Shiite firebrand is still calling for a quick withdrawal of the American military and the release of followers detained by U.S. and Iraqi troops. But Sadr is also working to re-invent his movement as a populist political force.

Complicating any dialogue is continued skepticism that Sadr has full control over the volatile foot soldiers in his movement. As one American soldier said of the tense peace in Sadr City, "I could get back in the tank. But I don't like tanks. I'd just as soon drive around here in the Humvee and hand out chickens."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.