General Wolff in Iraq: Democratic Senate Caucus is Wrong
Command Sergeant Major Ciotola on Harry Reid - MUST READ of the DAY

The Weekly Fishwrap

LT Fishman delivers his weekly look at things in Iraq going well.

Good News Iraq Weekly Report 1 July, First Lieutenant Jarred A. Fishman, USAFR

2) Iraq's June civilian death toll down sharply
By Alister BullSun Jul 1, 5:05 AM ET  Reuters The number of civilians killed in Iraq fell sharply in June to the lowest monthly total since a U.S.-backed security clampdown was launched in February, Iraqi government figures showed on Sunday. The data, obtained from the ministries of interior, defense and health, showed 1,227 civilians died violently in June, a 36-percent fall from May and the lowest level in five months. U.S. military officials said it was premature to draw conclusions about the effects of the crackdown, which is seen as a last ditch effort to avert full-scale sectarian civil war between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs. "We continue to be cautiously optimistic, (but) we are still very early in this process," said U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Garver. President George W. Bush is under growing pressure from opposition Democrats and senior figures in his own Republican Party to show his war strategy is working after ordering 28,000 more soldiers to Iraq. There are now 157,000 U.S. troops in the country. While U.S. military officials say the number of attacks across Iraq has remained steady in recent months, there has been a reduction in the past few weeks in the amount of big car bombings that often cause a heavy loss of life. "Although the number of car bombs ... has remained relatively constant since almost November, the effects of those has come down significantly," Major-General Joseph Fil, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, said during a live link-up with Pentagon reporters on Friday. One of the key aims of the crackdown is to dismantle car bomb networks operated by Sunni Islamist al Qaeda in and around Baghdad and to protect vulnerable places such as outdoor markets with high concrete walls to keep bombers out. U.S. officials accuse al Qaeda of trying to tip Iraq into all-out sectarian civil war by attacking Shi'ites targets. A car bomb attack at a Shi'ite mosque in central Baghdad on June 19 killed 87 people, the deadliest attack in the capital since 140 people perished in a Baghdad market bomb in April. The number of bodies found daily around Baghdad, a barometer of the activities of sectarian death squads, has also shown a decline during the crackdown. Police said they had found 16 bodies on Saturday in the capital, compared with 40 or 50 daily last year. However, on many days the average has been about 20 to 30 bodies found. The Iraqi data showed 222 Iraqi police and soldiers were also killed in June, slightly higher than the previous month. It also showed that 416 insurgents and militants were killed in June and 2,262 were detained. Fil said almost half of Baghdad's 474 neighborhoods were under effective control after having been cleared of militants. The core of U.S. strategy is "clear, hold and build" -- flushing militants from their strongholds, preventing them from returning with stepped-up security, and winning the trust and support of locals by improving basic services.

3) Iraqi army making strides in Baqubah
Troops begin patrolling the lawless provincial capital along with Americans. Their control of the streets is key to U.S. efforts.  HYPERLINK ",1,5735361.story?page=1&coll=la-news-a_section&ctrack=2&cset=true",1,5735361.story?page=1&coll=la-news-a_section&ctrack=2&cset=true
By Alexandra Zavis Los Angeles Times Staff Writer June 24, 2007 OFFENSIVE IN BAQUBAH — Lt. Qusai had his doubts last week when he took his men into an insurgent haven in the western part of this city for the first time."Honestly, I thought this operation would never be successful because I had information that Al Qaeda had big guns and RPGs," rocket-propelled grenades, said the Iraqi army commander who provided only one name. "We thought that all the people here are terrorists and everyone is bad, even the women and children."To his surprise, many of the Sunni Arabs welcomed the Iraqi soldiers who followed U.S. infantrymen through the dusty, bomb-scarred streets, which shimmered in the blazing heat. One man offered them glasses of water on a tray, and a woman wept at the sight of them."It was the worst part of the city," said the stocky, no-nonsense officer wearing camouflage and leather gloves. "But I found … that not all the people here are bad."The patrols, which began Thursday, were a small step toward returning Iraqi security forces to three western Baqubah neighborhoods they had largely abandoned. Al Qaeda-linked insurgents overran large parts of the city, which they declared the capital of their shadow government, the Islamic State of Iraq.

The Iraqi troops' ability to control the streets of Baqubah is a crucial component of the U.S. plan to assert government control over the lawless capital of Diyala province, which lies between Baghdad and the border with Iran."They will be the forces that retain, hold and secure the neighborhoods" after U.S. troops have swept through, said Army Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, deputy commanding officer for operations in northern Iraq. After the U.S. military gave Iraqi forces lead responsibility for the province last summer, security began to break down. There were reports of sweeping raids and abusive treatment by the Shiite-dominated Iraqi police force and army against Sunni Arabs, who have a slight majority in Diyala, U.S. Army officers said.Al Qaeda poured fighters into the region after a U.S. troop buildup in Baghdad and setbacks in Al Anbar province, where Sunni tribesmen have sided with the government forces. Fighting in Diyala now accounts for more U.S. troop deaths than in Al Anbar.Masked men who drive through some neighborhoods with guns poking out their car windows have overwhelmed the fledgling government forces.Before dawn on June 8, dozens of fighters overran the home of Baqubah's police chief, Col. Ali Jorani, killing his wife, two brothers and 11 bodyguards. Jorani was not at home at the time.His predecessor in the job, Safa Atimimi, died in an April 23 car bombing that killed nine others.Late last year, the U.S. military stepped up oversight and training of the Iraqi security forces.When U.S. reinforcements arrived from Baghdad in mid-March, they began systematically pursuing the insurgents one neighborhood at a time, then setting up permanent bases. Two east Baqubah neighborhoods have been largely pacified, U.S. commanders said. About 10,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops are involved in the campaign, launched Tuesday in west Baqubah. In Khatoon, the southernmost section of the operations area, the U.S. military conducted earth-shaking bombing runs and house-to-house searches for two days, punctuated by occasional gunfights, before bringing in the Iraqi troops. Not a 'ragtag bunch'- The Iraqi soldiers who deployed Thursday appeared more professional than their predecessors. They were in full uniform and body armor. Most carried assault rifles, and a few were armed with rocket-propelled grenades. "They weren't a ragtag bunch," said Capt. Matthew Ryan James, commander of the Army's Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, which rides in armored Strykers.To try to get additional information from residents, James sent them to areas that had been largely cleared by the Americans. "We just want to introduce them to the neighborhood and maybe pick up some human intel," he said.James said he was impressed with the Iraqis' ability to pick up on details and lead the Americans to weapons caches. On their first day, the Iraqis made three arrests.The Iraqi soldiers also took charge of supplying food and water to their troops, rather than relying on U.S. transportation, James said.The troops were enthusiastic about patrolling with the Americans but became more hesitant when asked to enter a building on their own. "They like you to be with them," said Sgt. Corey Oliver of Alpha Company's 3rd Platoon.When residents pointed out vehicles used by insurgents, the Iraqi soldiers wanted to burn them. The Americans allowed it, explaining that it sent a message to the community that the Iraqi army was in charge. But the Americans said the Iraqis need to earn the trust of residents who can point out the insurgents in their midst.The Iraqis were said to be polite to the families they met last week. Many homes, however, were abandoned as residents fled the U.S. offensive. In one empty house, the Iraqis helped themselves to sodas and candy and offered to share with their American counterparts. At another home, they watched television, soldiers said. When they found a water tank, they paused in their search to take baths.Fear and reliefThough some residents said they were willing to work with the Iraqi security forces to end the lawlessness in their area, many were fearful of them.One elderly woman shrouded in black tipped off U.S. troops about homes used by insurgents. She pleaded tearfully with them to make sure Iraqis in the next room did not tell anyone what she had done, for fear she would be killed.Ali Muthar, a former officer in Saddam Hussein's army, expressed relief that the U.S. soldiers were forcing out the gunmen who had terrorized the neighborhood. But he appeared taken aback at the idea that Iraqi forces eventually would replace the American troops. Muthar said Shiite Muslim militiamen had filled the ranks of the police and army in Diyala, as they have in Baghdad, and used the forces as cover to kill Sunnis. The widespread fear of Shiite militiamen appears to have been exploited by Al Qaeda as it dug into the neighborhoods."Without Al Qaeda, the militias might overrun us," Muthar said.Muthar's son joined the police force and was killed in a drive-by shooting last year, a death the family blames on the young man's fellow officers. Muthar carries his son's police identification card and pulled it out sadly when questioned by U.S. soldiers.The U.S. military has been encouraging more local recruitment into the security forces. Qusai, who is from Khatoon, said almost half of his men are from Diyala; the rest came from Baghdad and the overwhelmingly Shiite south. The U.S. military is also allowing armed residents, some of whom probably fought against the Americans a few months ago, to patrol their neighborhoods in parts of east Baqubah. The move is part of a countrywide push to work with local leaders, including tribal sheiks, clerics and some insurgent groups that have turned against Al Qaeda after the successes in Al Anbar.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, has criticized the strategy, saying the Americans are in effect backing militias.

4) High-level senior al-Qaeda leader killed during Coalition operations  HYPERLINK "http://www.mnf-iraq.com703.343.8790" http://www.mnf-iraq.com703.343.8790 June 27, 2007 Release A070627a BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition forces positively identified two terrorists killed in an operation June 23 south of Hawija. Mehmet Yilmaz, also known as Khalid al-Turki, was a known terrorist and senior leader in al-Qaeda who operated a cell that facilitated the movement of foreign fighters into Iraq for al-Qaeda operations. Yilmaz was positively identified through photo comparison and a forged Iraqi personal identification card was also found on him. Yilmaz was an al-Qaeda leader who led a group of Turks to Afghanistan in 2001 to fight against Coalition Forces.  Intelligence reports indicate he was wounded in the fighting there and went to Pakistan for treatment, where he was captured by the government in 2004 and deported to Turkey.  He was released in late 2005 and returned to al-Qaeda operations in 2006, moving his operations to Iraq.  Turkish authorities are also investigating several terrorist operations that may have involved Yilmaz.
Yilmaz was killed when Coalition Forces targeted him during an operation south of Hawija.  As Coalition Forces approached the targeted building, four men got into a vehicle and drove away from the area.  Coalition Forces followed the men, one of whom was believed to be Yilmaz.  When the vehicle stopped, the men got out of the vehicle with weapons in hand.  Coalition Forces, responding appropriately to the hostile threat, engaged the armed men, killing them.  Inside the vehicle, Coalition Forces found rocket-propelled grenades.  They safely destroyed the vehicle and weapons on site. Also killed in the operation was Mehmet Resit Isik, also known as Khalil al-Turki, a close associate of Yilmaz who was assessed to be a courier for the same al-Qaeda cell and a close associate of Yilmaz and senior leaders within al-Qaeda. “These are two very dangerous, very significant international terrorists that are no longer part of the al-Qaeda network,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, MNF-I spokesperson.  “We will continue to relentlessly pursue the terrorist leaders who plan to deny the Iraqi people a future of their choice.”

5) 14 Terrorists killed in “work accident” Tikrit, 28 June 2007 (Voices of Iraq)  HYPERLINK "" Fourteen gunmen were killed while booby-trapping a truck in al-Shurqat district, north of Tikrit, a police source said on Wednesday. “Fourteen armed men were killed on Tuesday night when their truck bomb went off in al-Henka town in central al-Shurqat district,” the source told the independent news agency voice of Iraq (VOI). “Police patrols rushed to the scene and found local residents collecting the gunmen’s bodies which were torn apart due to the explosion,” he added. Tikrit is the capital of Salah ad-Din province and is located 140 km northwest of Baghdad.

Erbil, 25 June (AKI) - A Kurdish delegation, leading figures in the Iraqi government and the US and British ambassadors have reached an accord in Baghdad on the transfer of the Peshmerga militia forces to a command of regional guards" Jabbar al-Yawar, a command spokesman for commando said on Monday. The deal lays out "the setting up of contacts between these forces and those of the Iraqi army, the effective number of Peshmerga militiamen and the budget designated by central government to the force." The accord signed by the president of the autonomous region of Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, will be officially inked on a separate occasion by prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. In a press conference late on Sunday, Yawar added that "the training of these new guards will be carried out by the multinational forces along the same lines as the training they give to the Iraqi armed forces. He pointed out that "these new forces will not depend on the Iraqi security forces but will have a specific role in the protection of Kurdistan and their commander will be the regional president." The announcement of this fusion closes a long chapter of conflict between the Kurdish regional authorities and the central government regarding the budget of the Peshmerga forces. The Peshmerga, which allied itself with the US-led coalition in the 2003 war, serves as the main security force for the Kurdistan regional government. Kurdish sources also say that the "regional administration has reached a definite accord with the Iraqi government on the oil and gas bill," stressing that "the draft law is ready to be discussed in the Baghdad parliament."  According to the sources, this rapid development depends on the "pressure applied by the Americans and Britains," who in recent days have been pushing for the law to be presented to parliament before the summer recess.
7) New Monitoring Networks Control Electricity in
Iraq June 27, 2007 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers By Mohammed Aliwi
Gulf Region South District AN NASSIRIYAH, Iraq — In an ongoing effort to improve electricity supply in Iraq, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has established new Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) networks to monitor and control electrical transmission and generation systems throughout the
country. The main function of SCADA is to serve and check power loads for each province through a digital connection and control loads easily by connecting them to the central power distribution points, according to electricity sector project manager Lewis Tyler, USACE Gulf Region South district.
“Turnover packages are being prepared for transition to the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity (MoE),” he said. “The MoE will be able to continue with this project at their convenience.” Turnover packages include
spare parts, drawings, and test equipment. An Iraqi engineer stated that the term SCADA usually refers to a central system that monitors and controls a complete site or a system spread out over a distance of
kilometers or miles. The bulk of the site control is actually performed automatically by a remote terminal unit or by a programmable logic controller. Tyler explained that the purpose of this project is to provide a national power line carrier upgrade and renovation, and to build new northern, central and southern
regional control centers. The project also adds remote telemetry units, equipment cabling in substations, power plants, and provides a microwave upgrade and renovation. “SCADA system includes input/output
signal hardware, controllers, networks, communication, and software,” he said. Iraqi Engineers installing high voltage line insulators at Al Hartha substation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built new substations where most of the new monitoring networks are installed to control power
supply. (USACE photo) Engineers in Iraq, visit  HYPERLINK "" Electrical engineers fasten a control panel at one of the monitoring networks in an effort of enhancing electrical
production south of Iraq. (USACE photo)

8) 3 terrorists killed, 26 suspects detained in Coalition raids MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ BAGHDAD, Iraq  HYPERLINK "http://www.mnf-iraq.com703.343.8790" http://www.mnf-iraq.com703.343.8790 June 29, 2007Release A070629a BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition Forces killed three terrorists and detained 26 suspected terrorists during operations Friday targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders and bombing networks. East of Fallujah, Coalition Forces continued operations to disrupt the al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leader network during a raid on several buildings east of Fallujah.  As they approached the target, the ground forces saw a man holding a grenade.  In response to the hostile threat, Coalition Forces took appropriate self-defense measures and engaged the armed man, killing him.   As the ground forces moved to the next building, they encountered a man wearing a suicide vest.  Coalition Forces responded appropriately to the hostile threat and engaged the man in self-defense, killing him.  Another man associated with the terrorist in the suicide vest ran outside into a patch of reeds.  After the man repeatedly ignored a translator’s instructions to come out, ground forces took appropriate self-defense measures and engaged the man, killing him. The ground forces detained 16 suspected terrorists on the scene for their alleged ties to a top-level al-Qaeda in Iraq leader who operates in the area. Also in Anbar province, Coalition Forces raided two buildings northeast of Karmah where they suspected terrorists were staying.  The ground forces captured four individuals at the scene, including one man who allegedly has ties to a senior al-Qaeda leader who was killed during a May 1 Coalition operation. Just south of Baghdad, Coalition Forces raided a building in search of a suspected gatekeeper for a leader in the Baghdad vehicle-borne improvised explosive device network.  During a search of the building, the ground forces detained two suspected terrorists and moved to a second building where they found and captured the suspected gatekeeper. Coalition Forces captured a close associate of the suspected military commander for al-Qaeda forces in the Tarmiyah area during a raid west of the town. In Mosul, Coalition Forces detained two suspected terrorists while targeting the alleged al-Qaeda emir in Kirkuk, responsible for issuing fatwas. “We’re continuing to target the top of the terrorist network, as well as the operatives who carry out their murderous actions,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, MNF-I spokesperson.
9) Marine 3/1 making serious headway in Op CHINA SHOP
June 25, 2007 By Sgt. Andy Hurt, 13th MEU  HYPERLINK "" COMBAT OUTPOST GOLDEN, Al Anbar Province (June 25, 2007) -- Marines from Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, are making serious headway conducting counter-insurgency operations in support of Operation CHINA SHOP. Beginning June 24 elements from the battalion, including Light Armored Reconnaissance platoon and Weapons Company, began a large-scale sweep throughout Iraq’s Al Anbar Province intending to disrupt insurgent networks. The first day of the operation turned up two large vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (car bombs) under construction in a factory, along with a handful of explosive devices already placed on roadways within the area of operations. Continuing the sweep this morning, the BLT discovered three large weapons caches. The first cache reportedly contained more than 121 IEDs, more than half of which were already armed. The devices included “speed bump” IEDs, often placed or buried in roads. A shallow grave was also reported in the vicinity of the cache, although battalion staff members are not certain if any human remains were found. The second find was the largest of the three. A house search uncovered a room containing a high-explosive stack nearly three feet high draped in a United Nations flag. Battalion personnel estimate the material could have been used to construct more than 80 large IEDs. An F-18 Hornet dropped a GBU-12 (500 pound) bomb on the house, uncovering more materials which are currently being handled by Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians from Combat Logistics Battalion 13.

The third cache was discovered in a house pointed out by interpreters because a bus, reported stolen, was parked outside. In the house, Marines discovered various small arms munitions, a rocket-propelled grenade, 10 pressure plate IEDs and other bomb making material.Lieutenant Col. Phillip W. Chandler, battalion commander, described the day’s finds as “exceptional.” “We came here to take the accelerants away from the enemy, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said, “Each one of those devices was meant to kill a Marine or a Soldier.” Operation CHINA SHOP is part of ongoing operations in the Al Anbar Province designed to sever insurgent supply routes and safe houses. Battalion Landing Team 3/1, the ground combat element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, will continue operations as long as necessary to accommodate future Coalition Force capabilities in the Province. “It was a big day,” said Chandler, “and I’m extremely proud of the boys out there.”
10) Al-Qaeda 'execution den' uncovered in Iraq
Article from: Agence France-Presse From correspondents in Baghdad
June 25, 2007 04:13pm US and Iraqi forces fighting their way through the restive Iraqi town of Baquba have discovered what appears to be an al-Qaeda-run "execution house". US and Iraqi forces "discovered the execution house using information from local citizens, who said it had been used by al-Qaeda,'' a statement by the US Military said. "Soldiers searching the house found five bodies buried in the yard behind the building and bloody clothes in several rooms inside it.''  A nearby house "had been converted into an illegal prison with several numbered rooms and bars covering the building's windows. Several blindfolds were found inside,'' the statement added. The announcement comes on the sixth day of a major air and ground assault on the city of Baquba northeast of Baghdad, which US commanders say has long been a stronghold for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The operation has seen US and Iraqi forces making their way through a dense urban labyrinth of booby traps and buried bombs, with entire houses rigged with explosives by insurgents who melted away at the beginning of the assault. US and Iraqi forces have defused 52 roadside bombs and destroyed 17 "booby-trapped structures'', the statement said. "The fact that we continue to find these booby-trapped houses filled with explosives and torture chambers only reaffirms that al-Qaeda has no regard for the safety and welfare of the people of Baquba,'' Colonel Gary Patton said.  Since the operation, dubbed Arrowhead Ripper began last week, US and Iraqi forces have killed at least 58 suspected al-Qaeda militants, detained another 60, the US military said. But on Friday the number two US commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, admitted that as with past assaults most of the senior al-Qaeda leadership fled the city ahead of the invasion.

11) By LAUREN FRAYER Associated Press Writer
BAQOUBA, Iraq Jun 23, 2007 (AP)
Two months ago, a dozen Sunni insurgents haggard, hungry and in handcuffs stepped tentatively into a U.S.-Iraqi combat outpost near Baqouba and asked to speak to the commander: "We're out of ammunition, but we want to help you fight al-Qaida."
Now hundreds of fighters from the 1920s Revolution Brigades, an erstwhile Sunni insurgent group, work as scouts and gather intelligence for the 10,000-strong American force in the fifth day of its mission to remove al-Qaida gunmen and bomb makers from the Diyala provincial capital. Little so well illustrates the Middle Eastern dictum: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." And as it struggles in the raging heat and violence of central Iraq, the U.S. military appears to have bought into the tactic in its struggle to pull what victory it can from the increasingly troubled American mission in Iraq, under congressional pressure for a troop pullout and a presidential election campaign already in the minds of voters. Each U.S. Army company in Baqouba, an hour's drive northeast of Baghdad, has a scout from the Brigades, others have become a ragtag intelligence network and still others fight, said Capt. Ricardo Ortega, a 34-year-old Puerto Rico native of the 2nd Infantry Division.
The Army has given some of the one-time insurgents special clothing football-style jerseys with numbers on the chest to mark them as American allies. U.S. commanders say help from the Brigades operatives was key to planning and executing the Baqouba operation, one of a quartet of U.S. offensives against al-Qaida on the flanks of the Iraqi capital.
The informants have given the American troops exact coordinates of suspected al-Qaida safe houses, with details down to the color of the gate out front, said Lt. Col. Avanulas Smiley, 40, commander of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment and a Tacoma, Wash., native.
Most of the Brigades members, whom U.S. officials call "concerned local nationals," hail from eastern Baqouba, while the bulk of the fighting has so far raged in western Baqouba. But with contacts among fellow Sunni fighters on the city's west side, they have fed American soldiers critical information about al-Qaida positions. The American decision to bring insurgents into the mission has angered Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who told visiting Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week that the tactic getting too cozy with former enemies would backfire. But U.S. officials defend the strategy, first tested in Iraq's once-volatile western Anbar province, where U.S. officials tout success in turning Sunni tribal leaders against al-Qaida. "We've given them a little ammo, some flares, but mostly humanitarian aid. We're not arming these guys, we're just changing the direction they're pointing their guns in," said Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the U.S. ground forces commander, who made a one-day visit to the Baqouba battlefield this week. U.S. commanders turned down the Brigades members' request for ammunition when they straggled into the U.S. post in Buhriz two months back. American intelligence spent weeks vetting the volunteers before they started lining them up for the operation that opened in the early hours Tuesday, said Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Huggins, a 41-year-old Honolulu native of the 2nd Infantry.
Despite intelligence checks, there is concern that some of the Brigades men, or people close to them, tipped al-Qaida to the coming offense. Odierno said 80 percent of al-Qaida leaders managed to flee the city before American soldiers stormed into Baqouba before sunrise Tuesday. The troops found roads with buried bombs and booby-trapped houses across the city. The men who first contacted American forces in April had been picked up by Iraqi police after a bloody gunfight in nearby Buhriz, and taken to a joint U.S.-Iraqi outpost, where they asked to speak with U.S. military officials. Al-Maliki complained that the U.S. was turning them and other Sunni insurgent groups into nothing but better trained and armed Sunni militias that will torment the Shiite population and turn their guns on Iraqi troops and police once U.S. forces leave the district. The group says it abhors the killing of Iraqi security forces, and a commander, speaking on condition of anonymity out of security concerns, said his group turned against al-Qaida over just that issue. "We do not kill police or army members, or call for their killing," he said. "Al-Qaida threatened us for taking this stance. ... They began to kidnap and kill our fighters, so ... we began to fight back." That leaves open whether the men will revert to form their history of killing American soldiers. The commander would not address this. The commander said his group had turned down a previous request from U.S. officials to join the fight against al-Qaida. "But after recent killings among our Iraqi people in the province, we decided to fight alongside Iraqi and American troops," he said. Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim al-Rubaie, an Iraqi army commander who works at a U.S.-Iraqi operations center for Diyala province, said his troops are comfortable working with the 1920s scouts. And he suggested that help from the Sunni insurgent group could lend legitimacy to the Shiite-dominated Iraqi security forces in the area. Baqouba's civilian population is majority Sunni."I've found them very beneficial they've helped us in Buhriz and Tahrir (neighborhoods of Baqouba)," said al-Rubaie, a Sunni. "They're fighting on the side of the Iraqi army with enthusiasm, and without requesting a lot of money or weapons."To U.S. officials here in Baqouba, the Brigades members offer a window into Sunni divisions where American forces can apply pressure."They're grassroots, organized even like neighborhood firemen and they've decided they want a safe environment," said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, deputy operations commander for the Army's 25th Infantry Division. "Will we leverage that? Darn right we will. And is it a potential risk? Sure it is but it's one we're willing to take."
11) U.S. troops target bomb networks By KIM GAMEL ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER Last updated June 26, 2007 3:39 a.m. PT SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
JISR DIYALA, Iraq -- Newly arrived U.S. troops southeast of Baghdad are destroying boats on the Tigris River and targeting networks believed to be bringing powerful roadside bombs from Iran as the military cracks down on extremists from all directions, military officials said. But a top U.S. commander warned on Monday that three or four times more Iraqi security forces are needed to sustain the progress in clearing the area and stanching the flow of arms and makeshift bombs into the capital. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, whose command covers the southern rim of Baghdad and mostly Shiite areas to the south, said the reinforcements who arrived as part of a troop buildup have had success in rooting out militants from their sanctuaries and preventing them from fleeing the area in an operation called Marne Torch - one of a quartet of offensives in the capital and surrounding areas."All along the Tigris River valley, people knew this is where the Sunni extremists were storing munitions, training for operations, building IEDs to take them into Baghdad," he said, referring to improvised explosive devices, the term the military uses for roadside bombs."They just didn't have the reach to get down there. Now with the surge brigades they've got the reach. But the issue is we can't stay here forever and there's gotta be a persistent presence and that's gotta be Iraqi security forces. And that's always our biggest concern," he said while visiting troops from the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team at a U.S. patrol base on the southeastern edge of Baghdad.
The dusty base is nestled between high sand berms on what was the Tuwaitha nuclear complex, which was bombed during the U.S.-led invasion and subsequently looted, near the mainly Shiite village of Jasr Diyala, 12 miles southeast of Baghdad.Lynch said his units had been successful in preventing the militants from fleeing the area ahead of the offensive and overall detained 150 people, including at least 30 high-value targets - most from the rural Arab Jubour area just south of the capital."In the past they had exit routes so they saw the operation coming," he said. "What we did is establish blocking positions all around Arab Jubour so the enemy couldn't leave but they had to stay and fight and as a result to either die or be captured."Lynch's comments were the latest to signal a growing impatience among U.S. commanders with Iraqi security forces amid calls in the U.S. for the Bush administration to start bringing troops home. The Americans have expressed confidence in a new strategy aimed at flooding volatile areas with U.S. troops to quell the violence, but also concern that the progress could be reversed once U.S. troops leave.
Underscoring the dangers, Lynch said two helicopters adjacent to his came under "significant small-arms" fire while flying low over the desert landscape to the patrol base, causing no injuries but leaving one aircraft severely damaged. The brigade commander, Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., said 21 boats had been destroyed on the river and in the reeds on the banks since the operation began in force on June 15, most with secondary blasts indicating many were filled with explosive material.He also said the military had gained intelligence from a local sheik about networks bringing armor-penetrating explosively formed projectiles, known as EFPs, on a major road that travels from the border with Iran through Shiite areas to Baghdad. The U.S. has accused Iran of supplying mainly Shiite militias with EFPs, but Tehran has denied the allegations.Lynch said the area had two battalions from the 8th Iraqi army division but added "there needs to be three or four times more Iraqi security forces than are currently present to provide for sustained security. That's the critical piece in all of this."Lynch said the Iraqi soldiers with whom he had worked were professional, although many still lacked training and equipment more than four years after the war started in March 2003. He said the main problem was with Iraqi police, a predominantly Shiite force that has been accused of being infiltrated by militias."In my battlespace my concern is police, local police. Either they're nonexistent or the ones that are there tend to be corrupt," he said."Then there are large portions of the battlespace where there are no Iraqi security forces at all. And the Iraqi security forces have to be grown to a level where they can occupy these places. This is an enemy sanctuary because nobody's been out there. There are no Iraqi security forces so the enemy fills the void."He said the extra U.S. troops had provided the numbers to curb the militant activity, which included storing munitions, training and building roadside bombs."But if someone doesn't secure that presence, I mean have sustained security then it's not going to work. that's the concern," he said.
12) US: Biased Shiites have been moved from Iraq force
By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press WriterMon Jun 25, 7:31 PM ET;_ylt=Ahjea8dGe4Lc3UNuYyq7tuCWwvIE
More than a third of Iraq's national police battalion commanders are now Sunni after a purge of Shiites who had a sectarian bias, a U.S. general said Monday.Despite improvements, he predicted it will still be years before Iraqi forces are capable of securing the country by themselves. Speaking to Pentagon reporters from Iraq, Army Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard said he had been saddened to see the destruction in one province where the number of U.S. forces had been reduced too soon."We cannot be in a hurry to withdraw our coalition forces," he said, using Diyala province north of Baghdad as an example.Pittard this week ends his tour as day-to-day head of the effort to train Iraqi army soldiers, police, national police, border guards and other security workers."The growth of the Iraqi security forces over the past couple of years has really been quite dramatic in many ways," he said by video conference. Among improvements: Iraqi officials have recruited Sunnis to the national police command, a group that a year ago was almost entirely Shia. The national police have been known for their ties to Shiite militia.Pittard said that since October, officials had removed seven of nine brigade commanders — five because of sectarian bias. One of two division commanders is now Sunni, as are four of nine brigade commanders and 9 or 10 of the 27 battalion commanders, he said.But he warned against being "in a hurry" to hand over responsibility for Iraq security to local soldiers and police — a handover U.S. officials have said is key to bringing American forces home.
In a previous assignment, Pittard commanded a brigade combat team in Diyala province for a year. "It was just a few years ago ... where, believe it or not, many people were saying Diyala province was going to be one of the first ... to go to provincial Iraqi control," he said of the thinking in late 2005.American forces were drawn down, and after the surge in killing that followed the February 2006 bombing at the Samarra mosque there weren't enough people left there "to be able to keep a lid on that violence," he said.Diyala was a hotbed of the Sunni insurgency before President Bush in January ordered a buildup of forces to calm Baghdad. The province got worse after militants fled there to avoid the increased U.S.-led operations in the capital.Diyala is a target of a new operation started some 10 days ago to clear out insurgents in and around the Baghdad area."I nearly shed a tear when I saw Baqouba today," Pittard said of the capital city in Diyala province. "The markets aren't up, the projects that we had spent so much time on, together with the Iraqi government, are now, in many places, in shambles."Asked if Iraqis will be able to move fairly soon to take control of areas now being cleared out, Pittard said, "We've really got to be careful.""A lesson learned is ... do not draw down too quickly when we think there's a glimmer of success," he said. "It will take time, it will take time for the Iraqi security forces to be able to take over from our forces."
The No. 2 commander in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, said last week that the current operation should last through the summer and he won't be able to determine until then how much of the follow-on work U.S. forces will have to do themselves.Pittard noted that Iraqi security forces are taking the lead in some places, such as in Maysan in the south, the province of Muthanna, and in Irbil in the north. "I think it'll take a couple of years before the Iraqi security forces are going to be able to fully take
13) General Mattis: 'We are winning'
The increasing Sunni tribal cooperation with U.S. troops in Iraq's Anbar province has al-Qaida-linked insurgents on the run, Mattis said."I caution people that this is not irreversible," he said. "But at the same time, we are winning and the enemy is losing."Mattis' comments were echoed by Marine Brig. Gen. John Allen, deputy commander of U.S. forces in Anbar, who said Wednesday that insurgents have been pushed out of highly populated areas.During a December interview with the newspaper, the blunt-talking Mattis predicted such a shift as the Sunnis who dominate the region west of Baghdad became increasingly disenchanted with civilian killings. About 8,000 Camp Pendleton Marines are now in Iraq, including members of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which just arrived. The local Marines are the latest unit to join the troop buildup ordered by President Bush earlier this year, a decision made despite waning congressional and popular support for the war.Regarded by some as one of the most astute and aggressive generals in the Marine Corps, Mattis stressed that the U.S. is not directly arming any Sunni groups, as published reports have indicated.The Sunni groups have their own weapons, and rather than arming them, U.S. forces are helping train them as part of the security and police forces. Sunnis comprise a minority of Iraq's population and have been part of the insurgency since it first emerged in the summer of 2003. Iraqis who had been sympathetic to the insurgency became disenchanted as al-Qaida forces carried out murders of young boys and a local sheik who didn't respond to their overtures, Mattis said. "These were mistakes," he said of those killings and how the incidents created an opportunity for the U.S. to make new alliances. "And war, at times, is decided by whoever makes the fewest mistakes."

Marines in the vast Anbar region, where more of their forces have been killed and injured than any other in Iraq, now routinely get tips to the location of roadside bombs.As a result, a majority of the deadly devices are now being discovered before they are detonated, resulting in sharp reductions in troop deaths. Anbar residents also routinely report where the insurgents can be found, calling in the information to telephone tip lines that the military has established, Mattis said."There are still going to be good days and bad days out there," he said. "We cannot get complacent, but at the same time, our progress is undeniable." If the violence continues to subside, Mattis said, Sunni forces can be redirected into job training programs. Disbanding those forces, as the U.S. leadership did with the Iraqi army shortly after troops reached Baghdad, would, in his view, be a mistake, the general said."As I recall, that didn't work out to well the first time," he said, referring to suddenly jobless soldiers taking up arms against coalition forces.

Media portrayal- Sitting on one of two high-backed chairs that face a sofa inside his office, Mattis expressed repeated frustration over media portrayals of the war. Insurgent attacks are reported as "a car bomb went off in Baghdad today," he said. The general said the reports all too often do not actively pin the deadliness of the bombs on enemy forces. But when civilians are mistakenly killed by U.S. forces, the media portrays such incidents as examples of severe ethical failings, he said, citing recent examples of inadvertent civilian deaths from U.S. bombs and small-arms attacks."A (insurgent) bombing is reported like it was an act of God," said Mattis, whose job includes being the authority over two ongoing prosecutions of Camp Pendleton Marines accused of murder in the deaths of Iraqi civilians. "You can see the moral bye ---- the passive voice given to the enemy's intentional murder." The insurgency counts on negative portrayals of U.S. forces in Iraq and in the U.S., he said, adding that he believes the battle for hearts and minds is being played out in news reports."This enemy has decided that the war, the real war for them, will be fought in the narrative in the media." "Don't patronize this enemy," he also said that day. "They mean business. They mean every word they say."

14) U.S. to reward Iraqi tribes
By Jim Michaels, USA TODAY BAGHDAD — The U.S. military is exploring creative ways to offer financial aid and other support to tribes that have turned against al-Qaeda or want to protect their neighborhoods.The U.S. military's ultimate goal is to encourage the tribes, many of which are composed of former Sunni insurgents, to join Iraq's army and police forces. Tribes throughout Iraq have shown an increasing willingness in recent months to stand up to insurgents but may be looking for assistance in return for broader cooperation. BAGHDAD ALLIES:  HYPERLINK "" \t "_blank" Tribesmen agree to oppose al-Qaeda"We can't miss this opportunity," said Brig. Gen. John Campbell, deputy commander of the U.S. division in Baghdad. But, he said, "you're not going to see a company commander just pull a wad of money out of his pocket." The effort comes amid complaints by the Bush administration that Iraq's Shiite-led government has been slow to reach out to Sunni groups on its own. Lt. Col. Rick Welch, a division staff officer who works with tribes, said the military is establishing regulations that would allow commanders to dispense aid more quickly. Welch cited several options under consideration:
•Security contracts. The U.S military has tentatively decided it can hire a security company composed of tribesmen or other groups to protect a building or other site, as long as the group is licensed by Iraq's Interior Ministry.
•Medical assistance. When some Sunnis in the Amariyah section of Baghdad recently clashed with al-Qaeda militants, the U.S. military provided medical help to wounded fighters, Welch said.
•Cash payments. Rewards already have been offered for intelligence tips. Condolence payments could be made to the families of tribesmen who were killed while fighting
American officers have encouraged Iraq's government to expedite the process of bringing tribes into Iraq's security forces by waiving some usual requirements.In the Abu Ghraib area of western Baghdad, 900 members of two tribes, including a Shiite group, are set to receive accelerated entry into the Iraqi police force and will provide security in their own neighborhoods. The recruits will receive a shortened training course and must agree to attend the full police academy later."The (Iraqi) government approved this," Welch said.The U.S. military has worked to soothe Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's concerns that tribes are creating militias outside the realm of government."We're not arming anybody," Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the No. 2 ranking U.S. officer in Iraq, said in a recent interview. "They're already armed." Al-Maliki issued a statement Friday saying he did not oppose the U.S. strategy as long as it was done within a government framework.The trend began in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of the capital where dozens of tribes have turned on al-Qaeda, and has recently spread to Baghdad and the surrounding area.
15) ISF and CF deliver food and water to people in Baqouba No. 20070624-01 June 25, 2007 Multi-National Division – North PAO

BAQOUBA, Iraq – Operation Arrowhead Ripper entered its fifth day Saturday, with Iraqi Security Forces and Task Force Lightning continuing to conduct combined operations in and around Baqouba, Iraq, to rid the city of al-Qaida. In addition to combat operations, Iraqi Security Forces and the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, delivered three truckloads of rice, flour and school supplies to Baqouba residents Saturday.Iraqi soldiers distributed 20,000 pounds of rice and flour, along with 300 cases of water, to an estimated 1,500 Baqouba residents. The provisions were dropped off within 96 hours of beginning combat operations.“The mission was a success largely due to the compassion of the Iraqi soldiers who led the mission,” said Lt. Col. Fred Johnson, deputy commanding officer of 3-2 SBCT. “3-2 SBCT Soldiers provided outer security, but the Iraqi Army and police did the heavy lifting passing out the food and water and also provided local security. I think it’s important to note that it was the Iraqi soldiers who first identified the need to provide food to the locals after talking to the citizens about their situation. Many of the locals were especially appreciative because food had been scarce when al-Qaida controlled the neighborhoods.”The 5th Iraqi Army, in cooperation with the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, conducted the humanitarian relief effort inside a cordon formed around western Baqouba.In the Khatoon neighborhood, Soldiers from 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division discovered a safe house identified by locals in the area as an illegal courthouse used by al-Qaida. An investigation of the property revealed documentation confirming al-Qaida use of the home to prosecute innocent Iraqis. The building was located near a suspected torture house, which had been destroyed the day before after it was found to contain saws, drills, explosives and blood stains in several rooms.Also in Baqouba, ground forces discovered and destroyed a weapons cache near two improvised explosive device sites containing pipe bombs and hand grenades.Since the beginning of Operation Arrowhead Ripper, at least 58 al-Qaida operatives have been killed, 40 have been detained, 16 weapons caches have been discovered, 28 improvised explosive devices have been destroyed and 12 booby-trapped structures have been destroyed.
16) Marines make presence known- win hearts and minds  HYPERLINK ""
June 25, 2007 BAGHDAD — U.S. Marines continued counterinsurgency operations in Haditha Sunday in an effort to win the hearts and minds of Iraqi citizens.    “Showing a presence in the area does a lot more than people would think,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Joseph A. Cervantes, squad leader, 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2. “We mainly do two types of patrols, one being security patrols, which are designed to have a deterrent effect on anything that happens in the area.” Marines assigned to 1st Sqd., 3rd Plt., conduct up to three patrols a day.  Patrols allow Marines to find the enemy and learn about the populace.“We also do ‘meet and greet’ patrols. We go out and meet the families, and we start a relationship with them,” said Cervantes. “We speak to them and get their feelings on current situations and take their suggestions on what could be done differently in the city.” The locals warmed up to the Marines, and now talk to them regularly.  U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Edward G. Martin, an automatic rifleman in the unit, said the people didn’t act this way upon their arrival late March 2007. “They seemed a little distant and cold at first,” said Martin. “They’ve always been friendly, but you can tell we’re now winning them over. They’re beginning to trust us and (they’re) glad we’re here.”Martin recalled a recent 16-hour operation when the Marines were welcomed with open arms by the locals.“The people were running out and giving us cold water and allowing us to come into their houses and rest,” he added. “This is what lets me know they’re thankful.”Due to the large amount of patrols, Marines who patrol the area have begun to recognize people in the area. “We went firm in a house one day and the locals working there recognized us because we stopped at their house earlier in the week,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nathan A. Fanning, an automatic rifleman in the unit. “He said he remembered us because of how respectful we were with him and his property.” The friendliness and openness are a growing trend in the region. Numerous battalions have deployed to the Haditha region and experienced daily fire fights, sniper attacks, improvised explosive device explosions, and other friction, said Martin. “I thought at first it was going to be non-stop fighting, but I’m glad it’s not. After being here, it’s a lot more fulfilling to be helping out in the way that we are,” he said.  Cervantes believed the area has completely turned around. “The locals used to be very standoff-ish, but now they’re a lot more vocal,” said Cervantes. “I think they’re starting to realize we sacrifice a lot to come out here and help them. They are grateful, but they would still like to see their own army move in. It would help with their national pride a lot to see the Iraqi Army out here.” While an Iraqi battalion is deployed in the region, they are not permanently positioned in the area. Cervantes expects it to keep getting better throughout the remainder of the deployment. “I hope things continue to go smoothly for the rest of the time we’re out here, but I’ll just take it patrol-by-patrol and day-by-day,” said Martin.

17) Taji's 'Neighborhood Watch' Turns Over Cache  HYPERLINK "" By Maj. Randall Baucom 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division CAMP TAJI, Iraq, June 27, 2007 — For a second time this week, Iraqi citizens here turned in a large cache consisting of improvised explosive device-making material and mortar rounds. The Taji neighborhood watch contacted Coalition Forces June 25, after the driver of a truck fled the scene when the volunteers stopped a suspicious vehicle moving through the rural village of Abd Allah al Jasim. The vehicle contained 24 mortar rounds, two rockets, spare machine gun barrels, small arms ammunition and other IED-making material. "This grassroots movement of reconciliation by the volunteers is taking off all around us. The tribes that had once actively or passively supported al-Qaeda in Iraq now want them out," said Lt. Col. Peter Andrysiak, the deputy commander of the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.The neighborhood watch is made up of a group of 500 volunteers, from a number of tribes in the area, who want reconciliation with the Coalition Forces and the Iraqi government. The volunteers are currently being vetted for possible future selection for training as Iraqi Police or some other organization within the Iraqi Security Forces.  Iraqi citizens stop suspicious vehicle, turn in weapons.

18) Our Enemy’s Attrition
Reasons to reexamine the Middle East’s negative prognosis.  HYPERLINK "" By Victor Davis Hanson
The majority opinion is that the occupation in Iraq has been so bungled that the blowback has ruined American efforts at promoting positive change throughout the Middle East.
Perhaps. But for all the justifiable criticism of the Iraqi reconstruction, two truths still remain — the United States is taking an enormous toll on jihadists, and despite the terrible cost in blood and treasure, has not given up on a constitutional government in Iraq. The Sunni front-line states, who subsidized jihadists and still enjoy our misery in Iraq , , but they are now terrified that these killers, in league with the Iranians, will turn on them. The net result is not just that some Sunnis are helping us in Iraq, but that they are being urged to for the first time by those in the Arab world, who would prefer to see the Iraqi government, rather than the terrorists, succeed. And if Iraq is still a terrible disappointment, Kurdistan is emerging as a success few envisioned, refuting some conventional wisdom about the incompatibility of capitalism and constitutional government with Middle Eastern Islam.Theocratic Iran is not exactly as “empowered” as is generally alleged, but in the greatest crisis of its miserable existence. As the mullahs up the ante in the region, they could very soon not only lose Iraq, but also their own dictatorship. Trying to oppose the West in Iraq, Lebanon, and the West Bank is taking an enormous financial toll, as is the general isolation from the world community.With oil prices at an all-time high, Iran can't provide gasoline for its own people, who resent the billions spent instead on Arab terrorists abroad. If oil were to dip from near $70 to $50-55 a barrel, the regime would face abject bankruptcy. For all the criticism of the U.S. position, from the left and right, we have now found the right blend of military determination not to let Teheran go nuclear, combined with economic and political efforts at containment. There is an array of future options — stronger embargoes, blockades, and military strikes on infrastructure — still on the table. The social unrest the mullahs desire in Iraq is starting to spill over the border into their own Iran, and its magnitude and final course are still unpredictable.Syria for all its terror still can't overthrow the government in Lebanon, but has managed the impossible: Not only does the Arab world seek to isolate it, but France and the United States are cooperating to thwart it in Lebanon. The last thing we want to do is to give its terror industry the legitimacy it craves by sending any more officials over to Damascus.Hamas is high on victory in Gaza for now, but all it has accomplished is to further concentrate its nexus of terror into one small miserable — and quite vulnerable — locale in the midst of Jordan, Israel, and Egypt, while sacrificing the Palestinians greatest advantage: deniability of culpability. It will be harder now for the tired good cop/bad cop excuses, “militant wing,” etc. and all the other justifications for terror that the Palestinians use. Since Hamas bragged that it had routed (it matters less whether true or false) the Palestinian Authority from Gaza, the next barrage of rocket attacks from there, rightly or wrongly, will liberate Israel in its response from the past worries of collateral damage. For all the talk of losing the Lebanon War, it is Iran and Syria, not Israel, that are stuck with billions in reconstruction costs for their battered Shiite pawns on the front lines.
After four years of war and acrimony, things are starting to reach a point of resolution. Both the resources of the United States and its enemies are becoming strained, but so far they are rioting in oil-exporting Iran over gasoline, not we in the U.S. Europe has gravitated more in the last four years to our views than we to theirs, especially in regard to the dangers of radical Islam. Israel lost some of its precious capital of deterrence in the last war, but ultimately the real loser was a bankrupt Iran who lost far more materially than did a far wealthier Israel. Iran unleashed terror in the region, but found its own terrorist credentials no exemption from what it wrought.Because violence per se is the only narrative from the Middle East, and often editorialized as deriving from U.S. blunders, we are in a state of constant depression. But things are not as bad as they seem, and could still turn out far better than anyone might imagine — if we give the gifted Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker the support and time they need to make the necessary military and diplomatic changes.

19) Light at the End of the Tunnel
Democracy in Iraq will win if it keeps not losing. By Mario Loyola If what goes up must come down, every surge must eventually recede. According to recent reports, the current one in Iraq may give way to large-scale withdrawals of U.S. forces as early as spring 2008. At that point, the war’s opponents will continue claiming defeat and supporters will begin to claim victory. And the fact is that in both cases, the claims will be faith-based, because we won’t know for many years whether we are leaving behind an Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, sustain itself, and be ally in the war on terror. In other words, we won't know for a long time whether we won.  The struggle against terrorism and insurgency will continue long after the U.S. presence is reduced to a token force, and that is the bad news. But Iraqis will be shouldering the burden of that struggle in their own country, and that is the good news. And the trends described in the most recent Pentagon quarterly report on stability and security in Iraq, which  HYPERLINK "" was released earlier this month, suggest that Iraqis are much closer to standing on their own than most people think.

The contrast with the reports of a year ago is striking. Back then, Iraqis were starting to do some important things on their own, but still relied on the U.S. — led Coalition for nearly everything. Now, the Iraqis are doing most things on their own, and rely on the Coalition only where particular gaps create limiting factors that only the Coalition can remediate. This can be seen in each of the areas covered by the report: politics, economics — and most important, security. Because the most essential condition of victory in Iraq is the survival of the central government, national reconciliation must win out over the centrifugal tensions threatening to tear Iraq apart. Luckily, the central government has a powerful ally in that fight. By overwhelming majorities, the Iraqi people continue to believe that Iraq should remain a unified state. Beyond that, the question is simply one of governance at the federal, regional, and local levels; and here, it’s been a story of slow progress — sometimes excruciatingly slow — but the important thing is that there has been progress across the board, with few signs of retreat or collapse. Challenges remain, but it is increasingly easy to isolate and target them. Sunnis continue to feel marginalized, and often have more reason to fear the Shiite-dominated police forces than to trust them. The Shiites are split, and there is an increasingly open (and often violent) conflict between the mainstream Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and the Mahdi Army led by the firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr, who recently returned from several months in Iran. Seven of the 18 benchmarks set forth in the recent supplemental funding legislation (which must show substantial achievement by September) have to do with legislative targets — laws governing energy resources, de-Baathification, implementation of constitutional rights, and provincial elections — none of which have been met thus far. But Iraqis have increasingly led the effort to overcome these challenges. After the recent destruction of two minarets at the main Shiite mosque in Sunni-dominated Samarra (the destruction of which in February 2006 triggered the slide towards civil war) Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki immediately traveled to the town to reassure the Sunnis of his government’s support and protection. Iraqi security forces were surged to protect Sunni mosques from reprisals, while security operations continued to target the Shiite death squads. Meanwhile, the government has made progress on all the benchmark legislative initiatives, and the parliament is expected to take up and finalize several of the most crucial ones before its current session ends at the end of July. U.S. efforts have focused on capacity-building. In the field, provincial reconstruction teams (a concept born in Afghanistan, and which came late to Iraq) are now embedded in every brigade headquarters, giving commanders in every sector of Iraq the flexibility to target assistance where it is most crucially needed. And advisers from all over the U.S. government are now embedded all over the Iraqi government, helping prepare for “transition” — a term that basically means “get ready, because soon you’re on your own.”

On the economic front, the news is equally mixed — good news and not-so good news, but not much really bad news. The economy grew by ten percent in the last year — seven percent in the non-oil sector. Electricity, the major focus of U.S. reconstruction spending, still trails demand by a wide margin, but remains higher than it was before the invasion (although Baghdad no longer receives preferential treatment, so its electricity consumption is actually lower than it was under Saddam). Most other indicators — from oil production to food distribution — are stable and pretty close to prewar levels, except when they are much improved.The strategy of tying debt forgiveness to Iraq’s success in maintaining sound fiscal, monetary, and financial policies, and implementing crucial liberalizing economic reforms, has delivered real results, and promises more. Just in the last year, for example, the Iraqi government eliminated a $2.6 billion program to import refined fuel products for distribution to the population at subsidized prices. Here, Iraq is in much better shape than Iran, which still spends a crippling amount of the state budget on imports of refined gasoline. As in the political realm, the effort here is to make ourselves obsolete. Of the final $10 billion in U.S. reconstruction aid, 90 percent has been committed and 80 percent has been disbursed. The reconstruction assistance phase of America’s effort in Iraq is coming to an end. But Iraqis are already making up the shortfall. The current Iraqi budget contains $10 billion earmarked to keep funding the projects for which the American taxpayer was previously footing the bill.

It is on the crucial security front that most of the recent good news may be found. The last of the five brigades of the “surge” arrived in Baghdad just days ago, and went straight into combat as Operation Phantom Thunder launched across the country, from Anbar to Baghdad to Baqubah, targeting chiefly al Qaeda in Iraq and affiliated terrorist cells. The ground for this highly intelligence-gathering-intensive effort has been laid by months of putting Iraqis in the lead in security operations throughout the country, which has helped tap into the wealth of intelligence that Iraqi citizens have been increasingly willing to provide. The most spectacular success has come in Anbar, where Sunni tribes formerly allied to the insurgents have been working alongside local security forces to destroy al Qaeda nests in the part of Iraq that not long ago was safest for them. Al Qaeda is taking a fearsome onslaught against its leadership and rank-and-file in Iraq. We know who they are; we’ve already captured 80 percent of their senior leaders in a matter of months; and hardly a day goes by without the announcement that another senior al Qaeda figure has been killed or captured. In Baghdad, “joint security stations,” composed of Iraqi police, Iraqi army, and Coalition soldiers, have been set up all over the city. The highly increased visibility of these local stations have increased confidence; tips from the local population have increased dramatically. Last week saw only 33 murders in Baghdad, which on a per capita basis is about the same as many of my favorite cities in the world, including San Juan, Puerto Rico. The security situation in particular is a fast-moving target. As one senior leader recently explained, we are now going from a surge in forces to a surge in operations. In other words, the “kinetic phase” of the surge has just begun. And while it’s too early to tell, it certainly seems that morale is high among the troops — both Coalition and Iraqi. In Iraq, bad news is about spectacular events, which are easy to report, while good news is about incremental progress, which is difficult to report. Naturally, the bad news gets reported a lot, while the good news hardly gets reported at all. The resulting distortion in news-reporting results in predictably distorted public perceptions about the course of the war, and has fueled a great deal of irrational pessimism.But look at the facts, and the direction in which they are moving. We are clobbering the enemy while at the same time making ourselves increasingly obsolete to the efforts of Iraq’s own government. The administration is shifting so as to accommodate Iraq as a long-term foreign policy issue to be managed, while attention focuses on more pressing crises. We removed Saddam, arrested or killed most of his murderous henchmen; we eliminated a terror sponsor and an apparent weapons-of-mass-destruction threat; our casualties are about what most of us expected; and Iraqis are now organized to fight terror. We’ve already accomplished much of what we went to do.
The possibility of defeat appears to be receding with the surge, and that means that when the surge itself recedes, we may well be staring victory in the face — even if we don’t know it.

Surging to Defeat
Senator Lugar ignores what’s happening in Iraq.

By J .D. Johannes  HYPERLINK ""

Is it possible to win a war on the ground, and lose it in Congress? Perhaps. In his Senate-floor speech Monday, Senator Richard Lugar announced, “In my judgment, our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond…The prospects that the current ‘surge’ strategy will succeed in the way originally envisioned by the president are very limited within the short period framed by our own domestic-policy debate.” The Indiana Republican endorses a downsizing and redeployment of the U.S. military mission in Iraq as an essential precondition to reasserting these vital national-security interests, which he defines thus:
1) To prevent any piece of Iraq from being a terrorist safe haven;

2) To prevent Iraqi sectarian violence from spilling over into any other parts of the region;

3) To prevent Iranian domination of the region; and

4) To prevent a loss of U.S. credibility in the region.

All four of these goals are being advanced, some of them dramatically, by the surge strategy of Gen. David Petraeus — the very strategy that Sen. Lugar would scrap in favor of “downsizing and redeployment.”The principal accomplishment of the surge to date is solidifying the “Anbar Awakening,” the significance of which has been under-reported by the media and ill-understood by the public. If any piece of territory in Iraq qualified as a “terrorist safe haven,” it was bloody Anbar. This province of little over 1 million people — 4.5 percent of Iraq’s population — has accounted for 34.6 percent of U.S. casualties. (Insurgent activity in Baghdad, with five times the population, has accounted for fewer troop deaths both as a percent (29.5 percent) and in absolute numbers (1,052).The virtual extinction of the insurgency in the province — a victory that I was privileged to witness first-hand — represented not some momentary quirk of tribal alliances, but a diligent application of the revised tactics that coalition forces have implemented under skilled, battle-proven officers and Gen. Petraeus. These tactics include meticulous census-taking of persons and vehicles; skilled, persistent diplomacy with tribal leaders; incorporation of local intelligence; constant foot patrols in the residential areas from platoon and squad sized outposts; and persistent perimeter control of areas cleared and held.

Even Lugar acknowledges the effectiveness of these tactics. He stated, “I do not doubt the assessments of military commanders that there has been some progress in security…We should attempt to preserve initiatives that have shown promise, such as engaging Sunni groups that are disaffected with the extreme tactics and agenda of al Qaeda in Iraq.” But it is hard to see how redeployment to Kuwait, or the Kurdish provinces, or hunkering down in large bases in the outlying desert will preserve this progress, let alone extend it.Lugar’s second and third national-security goals are inextricably interlinked. The fingerprints of Iran are everywhere evident in Iraq’s sectarian violence — and on both sides. Iranian munitions are wending their way to al Qaeda operatives, even as rogue Shiite militias receive training and arms from Iranian military intelligence. The explosion of sectarian violence in late 2005 was not an indigenous development. The principle instigators — al Qaeda, Iran, and to a lesser extent Syria — promoted it to prevent the establishment of a stable democratic regime in Iraq, and to drive us from the region. If they succeed in Iraq, they will export of these tactics to other parts of the Middle East. It is delusional to believe that a regional spillover of sectarian violence can be averted by allowing such violence to fester in Iraq. At the same time, sectarian violence is not an innate feature of Iraq: Iraqis of different sects and ethnicities lived peacefully together in Baghdad for centuries — often in the same neighborhoods, and in the same tribes. Even today, it is not rare to for a Sunni head of household, driven from his home by a threat of violence, to ask his Shi’ite neighbor to watch his family’s property for him until he can return. The force, and the tactics, that can accomplish the first three of Lugar’s policy goals is already deployed. The senator’s proposed drawdown would undermine those goals, and thus assure the loss of U.S. credibility in the region. As a replacement for the surge tactics that have crippled the insurgency in its most potent nest, Lugar offers a single paragraph to describe what redeployment should look like. “Numerous locations for temporary or permanent military bases have been suggested,” he told Congress, “including Kuwait or other nearby states, the Kurdish territories, or defensible locations in Iraq outside of urban areas.” There is little to criticize here — literally. The senator expended more words on the national-security significance of corn-fed ethanol, grown in the Midwest, than on the nature of the “Plan B” redeployment. This is the same man who solemnly warned us, “In 2003, we witnessed the costs that came with insufficient planning.”

Lugar bases his plea for downsizing and redeployment on three premises: the state of the Iraqi government, the stress of the war on our military, and the “constraints of our domestic political timetable.” The first two are canards. Dysfunction within the Iraqi government should take a back seat to the U.S. interest in stabilizing the regime. Yes, there are factions in the Iraqi parliament that want Iranian domination; yes, there are factions that will plunder the Iraqi treasury. But there are also factions that want stabilization and that look to us for protection and arbitration. We are ill-served when we let the former frame our public debate.Much was made in the American press, for instance, of the “anti-fence” law introduced by the Sadrists during the early phases of the surge. Lugar cites it. He is blissfully unaware that Baghdad residents build their own security walls in response to neighborhood violence. They do it because it works, rendering checkpoints effective in blocking terrorist infiltration. We do it too — only better. The Sadrists, whose militias would “cleanse” certain Baghdad neighborhoods of Sunnis, scored a major PR victory with American civil libertarians through a legislative act that most Baghdadis regarded as absurd. Lugar also advances a truism, that the engagement in Iraq stresses our military personnel. War opponents often raise this issue, so easily graphed in Power Point presentations. But I saw what no Power Point can demonstrate: The quality of combat power we bring to bear has improved from 2005 (my previous stint as an embed) to 2007. I was stunned by the number of infantrymen who are reenlisting, maintaining a core of corporate knowledge on how to fight this war. The young men coming into the infantry today know what they are getting into, and are eminently capable of meeting the challenge.This leaves Lugar’s third, and most potent objection to a continuation of the “surge”: “Some will argue,” he told the Senate, “that political timelines should always be subordinated to military necessity, but that is unrealistic in a democracy.”Lugar is saying, “Because we lack the will to win, let us make a decision not to win, and thus reassert our will.” This is particularly untimely now, when our military has accomplished one of the most stunning successes of this prolonged struggle. Alexander Hamilton’s analysis on much the same question, which preceded Lugar’s caveat by more than two centuries, is worth noting as well. Describing the subordinate role of Congress to the executive in foreign policy, Hamilton wrote in Federalist 75: “Accurate and comprehensive knowledge of foreign politics; a steady and systematic adherence to the same views; a nice and uniform sensibility to national character; decision, secrecy, and dispatch, are incompatible with the genius of a body so variable and so numerous.” The Petraeus surge, authorized by the executive branch, was not “improvised.” Its fundamental planning dates from early in Donald Rumsfeld’s stint as secretary of Defense, where it was developed as a contingency plan should a “light footprint” approach fail. It deserves its day in the sun. And its recent success should not be held against it.