U.S. Troops Hone In On Sadr City

Radical Shiite cleric and a chief of the Mahdi Army militia, Muqtada al-Sadr, addresses his followers after Eid al-Fitr prayer in Najaf, in this Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006 file photo.
AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani
In his first interview since the U.S. troop surge began, anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr went on state-run TV and blamed all of Iraq's problems on the U.S. forces.

If there were no tanks and no fighting jets, there would be no violence in Iraq, he said.

That's ironic coming from the leader of the country's most notorious militia, the Mehdi Army, CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan said.

Sadr's comments are being watched closely by U.S. intelligence, because he's the one man in Iraq who can single-handedly affect the success of the U.S. surge. That's why U.S. troops have finally moved into Sadr City, setting up a joint-security station just on the edge of Sadr's Baghdad stronghold.

From there, the U.S. military says, it now controls about a quarter of Sadr City, a sprawling urban slum that's home to nearly 3 million people.

Video from the U.S. military shows an American attack helicopter destroying rockets set up to fire at the Green Zone from a soccer field next to Sadr City.

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne have also started projects to clean up the streets and improve living conditions for the residents. But the top Iraqi general working with them admits Sadr City's local leaders won't even talk to the U.S. soldiers.

Col. John Castles of the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division says that's because they've been intimidated by extremist elements of Sadr's militia. But he's hoping to overcome that.

"What I would like to see is a closer relationship, particularly with the some of the local government, and try to expand what we can do in this area beyond the quarter where we are now to all the way through," Castles said.

So far Sadr has tolerated the U.S. presence and avoided direct military confrontation. That may change as U.S. forces continue to target his militia and move deeper into his home base.