The US are said to seek ways to apply pressure to the “Iraqi government” they themselves put in place. The major goal is to rein in the militias (whether Shiite, especially the two major ones—the Mehdi army and the Badr Brigade— or the Sunni insurgents). This supposes that this puppet government, working from under the umbrella of US firing power, uses force, and quite a bit of it, to break those militias. In other words: the US is apparently encouraging a movement towards dictatorship to take care of its problem which is that it has painted itself into a corner politically and militarily.
I would think that the Maliki government is seen as weak by most Iraqis, because it was chosen by the US, it was selected on the basis of its connections to religiously significant, well-organized and armed movements, and it can’t deliver on promises of order and safety. The inherent weakness of this government means that any of its attempts to reduce the militias’ influence will lead to their further development, since they are the only organizations perceived as capable of delivering a minimum of protection. Unless great force is applied, that is, full dictatorship. In which case, a few hundreds of thousands of people will have died in about 3-4 years because of a war aiming among other things at removing a terrible dictatorship and having another kind of dictatorship as its immediate result. That alone is a terrible result.
But another effect of the war is to strengthen the hand of Iran, Syria, China, and others, without their having to do anything but watch very closely. From a capitalistic point of view (not mine!), it seems that the goal of maintaining control over the financial, political and military aspects of world energy production and consumption has been set back. Good job, white house strategists! The superficial decision-making done on the basis of the neo-cons’ moral and pro-market agenda has had the effect of moving the world towards an uncontrolled, conflict-enhancing, reallocation of resources. A disaster, unless the major actors can read their self-interest through the others’ eyes. The US just showed it couldn’t. Why would others be wiser?