In March the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police, with limited support from American and British forces, took back control of the port city of Basrah from assorted bands of smugglers and puritanical thugs under the aeges of the Jaysh al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) and Iranian-supported "special groups". While Prime Minister al-Maliki's new-found willingness to confront Shi'a extremist groups closely tied to his political base was a welcome development, at first the rather slapdash execution of the operation rightly made concerned observers a bit nervous. I stated back in April (a bit boldly, in hindsight) that the IA had proven the naysayers wrong, and it seems the center continues to hold as IA and government-aligned civilian militias keep the peace. Basrah joins the majority of Iraqi cities on the path toward a semblance of normalcy, something even the Washington Post can celebrate with a photoessay of life cautiously coming out of the shadows. At the start of the Basrah operation, I called these "dangerous but hopeful times for Iraq". The danger is most certainly not past, and any progress is reversible. But these pictures speak to the power of hope.