If you're playing along at home, you might want to put this one away for future reference: Gen. George Case, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said today that "it appears that the crisis has passed." We all hope he's right, of course, but it's hard to be optimistic. At least 58 people were killed in continuing violence Thursday, and Iraqi security forces in body armor were patrolling the streets of Baghad Friday to enforce yet another daytime curfew. Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force has begun moving AC-130 "flying gunships" into an air base in Iraq as the military seeks new ways to fight off the insurgency and stem the damage of sectarian fighting.
The president will meet with military commanders next week to discuss troop levels in Iraq; as we noted earlier this week, talk of a troop draw-down this spring may have to be put off in light of the violence that has ripped at Iraq since the destruction of the Askariya mosque in Samarra.
And while Casey insists that Iraq isn't on the brink of civil war anymore, he acknowledges that the situation could change in an instant. "We all should be clear," he told Pentagon reporters today. "Iraqis remain under threat of terrorist attack by those who will stop at nothing to undermine the formation of the constitutionally elected government." In what sounds like a road map for those terrorists, Casey added: "I think it's safe to say that a major attack, particularly on a religious site, would have a significant impact on the situation here coming in the next couple of days."