A brave band of Iraqi women are defying insurgent threats and taking back their streets.
Wednesday's vote on a security pact to allow US troops to remain in Iraq for three more years is being seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Maliki's performance.
The U.S. military says that an increasingly capable Iraqi Army could assume primary combat responsibility by mid-2009.
The amount of cargo coming into Umm Qasr has tripled since April.
The British role in the southern Iraqi oil city, once lorded over by Mahdi Army militiamen and criminal gangs, may end in early 2009 if new security gains take hold.
Afghan and NATO officials are seeing a rise in numbers of foreign fighters in Afghanistan at the same time US officials say attacks by Al Qaeda in Iraq have sharply dropped.
Moqtada al-Sadr instructed his militiamen to join a new social wing of his anti-American Shiite army.
The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq aims to capitalize on the disarray within Moqtada al-Sadr's movement ahead of provincial elections planned for October.