WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus said Thursday the Iraqi government's willingness to take on a Shiite militia was a turning point in the conflict.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is considering his nomination to head the U.S. Central Command, Petraeus said the action "made an enormous statement about (the) willingness (of the Shiite-led government) to serve all Iraqis."
"The result was increased support from those who had criticized him (Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki) for a long time for turning a blind eye to the militia," said Petraeus, who earlier testified he may recommend another drawdown in U.S. troops in Iraq in September.
Petraeus said Maliki has indicated he's willing to "go after all parties that are threatening the security and stability of Iraq," citing the recent operations against al-Qaida and its Sunni allies in Mosul and Ninawa.
Petraeus noted dissident Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr issued a cease-fire last fall, realizing the actions of certain militia elements "were creating problems" and actually undermining support for his movement.