Friday, February 1, 2008

Iraq - War, Peace, the Economy, & Progress

There is much to report on Iraq, though none of it appears in the MSM. Below is a rollup of recent news of the war, the continuing gains in security, and economic gains in Iraq.


There is little direct reporting in the MSM from Iraq these days. Fighting does go on, with Mosul being the main battleground today. This from the Long War Journal:

Al Qaeda is still is able to operate in Mosul, and maintains its only established supply line to Syria in the Mosul region, according to a December 2007 assessment of the terror group's capabilities by Multinational Forces Iraq. "In ... Mosul and the rest of Ninewa province we still have a very tough fight to go," said Major General Mark Hertling, the commander of Multinational Division North said in a press briefing on Jan. 22, just one day prior to a major attack in the city.

. . . "We have formed an operations centre in Ninewa (province) for a final war against Al-Qaeda and the remnants of the former (Saddam Hussein) regime," Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said on Jan. 25. "Today our forces are moving towards Mosul. What we have planned in Ninewa will be final. It will be a decisive battle." . .

Read the article. What is heartening about this particular battle is the degree to which it is being led and fought by Iraqi forces. As Bill Rogio notes, "This is a capacity that was nearly nonexistent just one year ago when the surge began . . ."

(Update): Al Qaeda is still able to pull off the occasional suicide bombing, the most recent using tactics utterly inhumane and despicable. Al Qaeda has been blamed for tricking two women afflicted with Down's Syndrome into becoming human bombs:

Two women suicide bombers who have killed nearly 80 people in Baghdad were Down's Syndrome victims exploited by al Qaida.

The explosives were detonated by remote control in a co-ordinated attack after the women walked into separate crowded markets, said the chief Iraqi military spokesman in Baghdad General Qassim al-Moussawi.

Other officials said the women were apparently unaware of what they were doing in what could be a new method by suspected Sunni insurgents to subvert toughened security measures. . .

Read the article. (H/T Jawa Report) Why is it that I expect that this will make it into the arguments posed by our far left as to why we need to surrender in Iraq?

Elsewhere in Iraq, the Pax American is taking hold. Violence continues to fall. The "January 2008 figure" for Iraqi civilian deaths "was more than 76 percent lower than the 1,971 civilians killed in January 2007 when Iraq was on the brink of sectarian civil war." "As the security situation has improved in the southern belts of Baghdad, coalition officials find themselves more involved with building local governance capacity and creating jobs." Michael Yon recently posted from his embed with the 1-4 Cav in a mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhood in the south of Baghdad:

. . . The 1-4 CAV has not been attacked since 9 September 2007. This is incredible, considering that their AO had been one of the worst battlegrounds in Iraq. I remember my first embed with 1-4 CAV in late March 2007. As soon as I arrived, I went out on a raid; the next day we were in a firefight. But even then, there were glints of hope. Now it’s nothing but tea and progress.

. . . There is so much cooperation between the 1-4 CAV soldiers and their Iraqi neighbors, both Sunni and Shia, it seems surreal. Lieutenant Colonel James Crider, commander of the 1-4 CAV, told me the story of one local bad guy who had been detained but was released, only to return to the neighborhood. Within a day, eleven Iraqis had either called in to 1-4 CAVs tip line, or stopped soldiers on the streets to report the bad guy’s presence. Incidents like this explain why Al Qaeda is having a hard time trying to re-germinate here.

Read the entire article. And, via Political Insecurity, there is this post from Michael Totten:

At the end of 2006 there were 3,000 Marines in Fallujah. Despite what you might expect during a surge of troops to Iraq, that number has been reduced by 90 percent. All Iraqi Army soldiers have likewise redeployed from the city. A skeleton crew of a mere 250 Marines is all that remains as the United States wraps up its final mission in what was once Iraq's most violent city.

“The Iraqi Police could almost take over now,” Second Lieutenant Gary Laughlin told me. “Most logistics problems are slowly being resolved. My platoon will probably be the last one out here in the Jolan neighborhood.” . . .

One of the major turning points in Iraq came with the Anbar Awakening and the creation of the Concerned Local Citizens Brigades to patrol their neighborhoods. The number of people involved in the CLCB has grown to 80,000, and are made up of 80 percent are Sunni and 20 percent Shiite. They have been paid $300 a month by the U.S.. As the program looks to conclude, the question has been whether these individuals would be absorbed into the security apparatus. According to Military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, some 20% of these individuals have requested to join either the police or the military, and about half, or 9,000 have now been screened and are either undergoing training or on the list to enter training. The screening process is ongoing for the other 9,000.

With the Pax Americana descending upon Iraq comes the ability to rebuild infrastructure and the economy. The Times reports:

Oil production in Iraq is at its highest level since the US-led invasion of 2003, reaching 2.4 million barrels a day, thanks largely to improved security measures in the north.

The country’s Oil Ministry will shortly invite international oil companies to bid for contracts to help Iraq to boost output at its investment-starved "super-giant" oilfields. Production is expected to pass the prewar level of 2.6 million barrels by the end of the year, and Hussain al-Shahristani, the Iraqi Oil Minister, told The Times that he expected production to reach six million barrels a day within four years.

The International Monetary Fund predicts that Iraq’s economy, boosted by rising oil revenues, will grow by more than 7 per cent this year. . .

Read the article. If you want to beat the recession and take part in a dynamic economy, it would seem that you need to move to Baghdad.

Probably the best sign of all in terms of anecdotal evidence of the peace descending on Iraq comes from Iraqi Pundit:

Those who believe fearful Iraqis have locked themselves in, and are barely surviving a civil war might be surprised to learn that my fellow countrymen have managed to blend the newest technology with dark-edge humour. They are using the novelty of YouTube as a vehicle for expression and entertainment, mocking Iraq's firebrand buffoons and having a little fun at the expense of Western soldiers.

Iraqis have been posting clips on the popular Internet video site showing male U.S. soldiers dancing good-naturedly if clumsily with their Iraqi counterparts or with people in the streets. "One hilarious minute-long segment captures an American military policeman, complete with flak jacket and weapon, spinning round and round while a group of Iraqi policemen cheer him on," says AFP.

To the animation taken from the film Happy Feet, Moktada Al Sadr "is portrayed as the 'chief' penguin who dances while his follower penguins shout his name. The over-dubbed Arabic music is taken from a rally held by the militia and Sadr's supporters." . . .

Read the entire post here.

Not all reports about Iraq are good – or accurate. For those types of reports, we turn to America’s MSM and, today, the Washington Post. Dana Priest of WaPo tells the tragic tale of soldiers committing suicide in 2007, laying the tragedy on the stress of the wars. And she tells us that this number of soldier suicides in 2007 is the largest in any single year. Gateway Pundit tells us what Dana Priest and WaPo do not. The suicide rate for military personnel is the same as if not lower than that for the general population, and indeed, the suicide rate among our soldiers has been significantly lower during the war years of the Bush presidency than it was under the Clinton presidency. What a sorry lot they are at WaPo.

The reality is that Iraq remains a place where peace and democracy will only take permanent hold through long term vigilance and bravery by those utterly determined to succeed. Big problems loom on the horizon. The two biggest threats to Iraq now are Kurdish separatism and Iranian interference. I blog on the former separately today.

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