"..the Mahdi Army controls gas stations, charging preferred Shiite customers a fixed price, regardless of the amount bought, while turning away Sunnis. One of the Iraqi army’s projects in the area is to monitor gas stations to prevent such discrimination and corruption, in some cases temporarily shutting down the stations
"Of all of these, that’s the cash cow," said Frank, the battalion commander. "Jaish al-Mahdi, from our sources, is extremely upset that we’re putting so much pressure on the gas stations. It’s common sense. We’re shutting down the cash flow."
The American soldiers offer rewards to residents who alert them about weapons caches or other signs of criminal activity, but the Mahdi Army offers wider support and will probably remain influential after the Americans have moved on.
"That’s hard for us to combat. We can, and we’ve been trying since we’ve been here, but we’re not giving away homes, whereas JAM is," said Wink, the intelligence officer. "Who are you going to go with — somebody who just gave you a house or U.S. forces saying you shouldn’t follow insurgents?"" WAPO
The Shia Arabs are "cleansing" west Baghdad of Sunni Arab residents. This makes sense from their point pf view. They want the city to be the capital of the rump state of Iraq, the one they are going to dominate under Iranian protection. They hope they will dominate such a state. I say that because the huge majority of Muslims across the world are Sunni. They will never rest until that portion of Islamdom that has been called Iraq is once more free of the rule of the "Safavids," or "Magii" as they call all the Iranian and Iraq Shia.
The Shia (of all kinds) know that the Sunnis feel that way and for that reason they wish to get on with the grim business of ridding themselves of as many Sunni Arabs as they can, while they can. In other words they are taking advantage of the presence of American troops to "take care of business."
Maliki must be grimly amused by the farce of his chats with Petraeus, Crocker and Bush. It would be riotously funny for him if the price of failure in his exploitation of gullibility were not so high. pl