Just Wanted to Say Hi to My Buddies in the AWRAC
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Good News from Iraq in the NYT?

LT Fishman delivers the SurgeWrap and while he leads with a great story, the soccer victory, I have to add in the piece in today's NY Times. It is written by two Brookings Institute scholars who just returned from Iraq. They have been critics of administration policies and strategy in Iraq and noted poor conditions on previous visits. Keep in mind that Brookings is a traditional liberal think tank when you read "A war we just might win"

The additional American military formations brought in as part of the surge, General Petraeus’s determination to hold areas until they are truly secure before redeploying units, and the increasing competence of the Iraqis has had another critical effect: no more whack-a-mole, with insurgents popping back up after the Americans leave.

In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

These groups have tried to impose Shariah law, brutalized average Iraqis to keep them in line, killed important local leaders and seized young women to marry off to their loyalists. The result has been that in the last six months Iraqis have begun to turn on the extremists and turn to the Americans for security and help. The most important and best-known example of this is in Anbar Province, which in less than six months has gone from the worst part of Iraq to the best (outside the Kurdish areas). Today the Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies. Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi; last week we strolled down its streets without body armor.

Now the victory of the Iraqi soccer team is a tasty dessert after that nice piece of red meat. It is hard for most Americans to understand just how important soccer is to almost every other country in the world. It is the simplest game and anywhere you go, regardless how poor they are, the kids will be kicking some kind of ball around. We always brought soccer balls with us on deployments; it is a tremendous way to make some friends quickly. For a country that hasn't had much to cheer about in a while beating the Saudis is a huge prize. It takes national pride to overcome sectarian differences and if it's soccer that bridges the gap, so be it.

Calls for Unity in Iraq After Soccer Win

Jul 30, 5:33 AM (ET) By STEVEN R. HURST  BAGHDAD (AP) - Hundreds of pages have been ripped from the calendar since Iraqis last showed the unity and happiness that flowed across the land on Sunday. And it would have been foolhardy to predict a soccer team - the determined Lions of the Two Rivers - would unleash a flood of joy held back for decades by the dam of Saddam Hussein's tyranny and four-plus years of war since America toppled him. But after the team's victory in the prestigious 2007 Asian Cup, the Iraqi people seemed far ahead of their leaders in letting sectarian bygones be bygones and allowing ethnic atrocities to fade. Despite a security crackdown, curfews banning vehicles, and decrees forbidding the penchant in this part of the world to grab an AK-47 and rip off celebratory rounds, people rejoiced in the streets - and gunfire roared.
It roared across Baghdad at the second-half goal against Saudi Arabia. It was deafening when the underdog Lions sealed the 1-0 victory in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Iraq team's win dripped with symbolism, not least in the makeup of its front-line strikers: one Kurd, one Shiite, one Sunni.

My bold to point out that reconciliation means exactly this.

State television said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was on the phone in seconds talking to the victors. The dour, hard-line Shiite leader announced only minutes into the game that each team member had been awarded $10,000. And the leader's office quickly cranked out a note of congratulations: "There is a big difference between The Lions of the Two Rivers who struggle to put a smile on the faces of their people and those who work in dark corners strewing death and sorrow in the paths of innocent people. We are proud of you. You deserve all our love and respect."
HYPERLINK "http://apnews.myway.com/image/20070729/IRAQ_ASIAN_CUP_CELEBRATION.sff_BAG110_20070729105309.html?date=20070730&docid=D8QMR1M80"  INCLUDEPICTURE "http://ak.imgfarm.com/images/ap/thumbnails/IRAQ_ASIAN_CUP_CELEBRATION.sff_BAG110_20070729105309.jpg" \* MERGEFORMATINET

(AP) Soccer fans watch the Iraqi national soccer team play against Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup Final,...
HYPERLINK "http://apnews.myway.com/image/20070729/IRAQ_ASIAN_CUP_CELEBRATION.sff_BAG110_20070729105309.html?date=20070730&docid=D8QMR1M80" Full Image

The U.S. military command issued a message shortly afterward. "Throughout this demanding competition, you represented Iraq with distinction and honor, inspiring all Iraqis by your unity, teamwork, dedication and athletic ability. We salute you and congratulate you on this tremendous achievement." In Shiite-dominated Basra, Iraq's second city in the deep south, some young men stripped to the waist to show chests painted with the colors of the Iraqi flag. Others painted their faces. North of the capital in Tikrit, just up the road from Saddam's hometown and Sunni power base, cars toured the city, horns honking, Iraqi flags poked out of the windows. In Sulaimaniyah, the Kurdish city in the north, Amir Mohammed, a Shiite Arab who had moved to the area from southern Iraq, walked through the streets arm-in-arm with his Kurdish friend Shaman Aziz. "The football team has shown that we are united from the south to the north," Aziz said. Happiness, too, in southeastern Baghdad's mainly Shiite Amin neighborhood:
Tariq Yassin, a 24-year-old Shiite in the district, declared himself a shy man who forgot himself and danced in the streets, marveling that "These athletes united us again."
But even amid the joy, tragedy struck and danger loomed. In just one Baghdad neighborhood, four people died of celebratory gunshot wounds. Scores were wounded nationwide, and reports of more continued seeping in. Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, an Iraqi military spokesman, told The Associated Press that Iraqi police narrowly averted a suicide car bombing in southwestern Baghdad. Dozens died last week when bombers hit crowds after the team's quarterfinal and semifinal wins. With parliamentarians at sectarian loggerheads, and political and religious-driven violence still raging, huge strides await politicians in matching the unity that sprang from Iraqis on Sunday. Rich and poor, Shiites and Sunnis and Kurds, they swarmed out of Baghdad's swank villas and adobe hovels unified by a sports team - if only briefly.
Hurst is AP Iraq bureau chief and has reported from Baghdad since 2003.
2) Iraqi tribes reach Security Accord
HYPERLINK "http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20070723/FOREIGN/107230051/1003" http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20070723/FOREIGN/107230051/1003 July 23, 2007 By David Enders - TAJI, Iraq — U.S. forces have brokered an agreement between Sunni and Shi'ite tribal leaders to join forces against al Qaeda and other extremists, extending a policy that has transformed the security situation in western Anbar province to this area north of the capital. The extremists struck back yesterday with a suicide car bomb aimed at one of the Sunni tribes involved in the deal, killing three militiamen and wounding 14. Members of the First Calvary Division based at nearby Camp Taji helped broker the deal on Saturday with the tribal leaders, who agreed to use members of more than 25 local tribes to protect the area around Taji from both Sunni and Shi'ite extremists. Yesterday's suicide attack took place at a checkpoint that was set up under the security plan and run by members of the al-Zobaie tribal militia, nicknamed "Freedom Fighters" by the U.S. troops. The Americans say they were attacked daily in the area 12 miles north of Baghdad before Saturday's deal. "We want to protect innocent civilians from killing and kidnapping," said Nadeem al-Tamimi, a Shi'ite tribal leader. "We have been working against al Qaeda for two years and paying for it from our own pocket. But we're not just against al Qaeda. We're against all murderers and thieves." Shortly after that meeting, Mr. al-Tamimi received a call saying one of his relatives had been assassinated in what was described as a "warning" from the Mahdi Army, a Shi'ite militia nominally loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Mahdi Army fought U.S. troops openly in 2004 when Sheik al-Sadr openly opposed participation in the U.S.-backed Iraqi government. But the militia splintered as sectarian violence increased, and Sheik al-Sadr allowed his followers to participate in the government as an opposition party. Despite yesterday's attack, U.S. troops believe they are making headway. Immediately after Saturday's agreement, soldiers from the Seventh Regiment of the First Cavalry Division calmly walked through Jurf al-Mila and nearby Falahat, both Sunni areas, to demonstrate the change since the tribal leaders first approached them. Men from the village, most of the them carrying weapons, greeted the soldiers warmly, shaking hands and kissing cheeks in traditional Iraqi fashion. Mr. al-Tamimi was to make formal the arrangement today at a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and two other Shi'ite politicians, including Bahaa al-Araji, a member of Sheik al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc. U.S. Capt. Martin Wohlgemuth, who presided over Saturday's meeting, said that step would allow members of the tribes to be officially hired and trained in the Iraqi police and military. The proposed deal is the latest in a series of agreements that have brought the U.S. and Iraqi government into collaboration with various tribes and guerrilla groups that had in many cases been part of the insurgency. Similar agreements in Anbar province have been credited with putting al Qaeda and its foreign extremists on the defensive while bringing relative peace to some of Iraq's most violent areas. The Taji agreement, however, is the first involving both Sunni and Shi'ite sheiks, and the U.S. military hopes it will help temper the increasing influence of the Mahdi Army in and around Baghdad. "A month ago, every single one of these people was shooting at us," said Sgt. Richard Fisk as he walked through Falahat pointing out places where his troops had been hit by roadside bombs. Capt. Wohlgemuth said the tribal leaders approached the United States for support after a number of raids and detentions, coupled with increasingly brutal treatment of the local population by the group calling itself al Qaeda in Iraq. The captain said that in some cases he has helped members of the new militia to get relatives released from U.S. and Iraqi custody, provided they were not linked to al Qaeda. The militiamen indicated a fear of the Mahdi Army as well as of the Sunni insurgents and said they worried that Shi'ite families driven out of the area in the last two years might return to take revenge. "They are both dangerous," said one militiaman as he stood in front of a kabob stand in Falahat with a Kalashnikov around his neck while U.S. troops sat nearby. Capt. Wohlgemuth arrived at the scene of yesterday's bombing minutes after the explosion. There, he met with Hassan Naji al-Zobaie, the sheik in charge of the militiamen in Jurf al-Mila. "For four years, different initiatives have fizzled. We can't let this one fail," he said of Saturday's agreement. Despite the initial success of such security arrangements, many Iraqis worry that the formation and arming of new militias will ultimately widen a civil war that has already killed thousands. After yesterday's car bombing, tensions between the Sunni militiamen and mostly Shi'ite Iraqi troops — who had failed to stop the car at a nearby checkpoint — nearly erupted into shooting. "It is like raising a crocodile," said Saad Yousef al-Muttalibi, a member of Mr. al-Maliki's Cabinet who is in charge of negotiating reconciliation agreements. "It is fine when it is a baby, but when it is big, you can't keep it in the house."
15) Progress report from Ramadi: Colonel John Charlton  HYPERLINK "http://www.badgersforward.com" www.badgersforward.com Security here in Ramadi continues to improve as the Iraqi police and army forces work daily to keep the population safe. When we arrived in February, we were averaging 30 – 35 attacks per day in our area of responsibility. Now our average is one attack per day or less. We had an entire week with no attacks in our area and have a total of over 65 days with no attacks. I attribute this success to our close relationship with the Iraqi security forces and the support those forces receive from the civilian population. The Iraqi police and army forces have uncovered hundreds of munitions caches and get intelligence tips from the local population every day.
Our biggest challenge with the Iraqi police is getting them fully equipped, paid, and consolidated in police stations. The support system that begins with the MOI [Ministry of the Interior], and extends through the provincial police chief, is still a work in progress. As a result, the Iraqi police still rely heavily on coalition logistics and support. We expect the equipment issue to improve soon, and we are working hard to get their logistics and command and control systems in place. One thing that is not lacking is the courage and the dedication of the Iraqi police in al Anbar. For them, this fight is personal. They know that al Qaeda is targeting them, their families and their tribes. Some of our most recent successes have been in the areas of reconstruction and governance. The city government didn’t exist before April of this year, but has grown steadily over the past few months, and is now providing essential services to the population. In areas that were battlefields only a few months ago, city electrical employees are now repairing transformers and power lines. Sanitation workers are fixing sewer leaks caused by hundreds of buried IED’s [improvised explosive devices]. The Iraqis now have repaired the electrical grid in about 80 percent of the city and about 50 percent of the rubble has been removed. We expect to have all rubble removed in the next 90 – 120 days, which will allow for many parts of the city to start rebuilding. We now have our Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team (EPRT) and they are working hard to help build the municipal government in Ramadi. The EPRT is composed of personnel from the U.S. State Department, USAID, and other experts in various areas of government. We have partnered the EPRT with officials from the municipal government in much the same way that we partner Soldiers and Marines with Iraqi police. The EPRT works every day with the city government helping them with budgeting, planning, and delivering services to the public. The EPRT is a critical capability that we never had before, and I’m confident that it is going to make a big difference in building stability here in Ramadi. We have been working closely with the chief judge of the province to rebuild the judicial system in Ramadi and throughout al Anbar province. Four months ago, there were no attorneys, judges, or investigators because of the threat from al Qaeda. Now that we have greatly increased security, these legal professionals are coming forward, and we are helping them reestablish the rule of law. Investigative judges are reviewing case files for prisoners in Iraqi jails. They have released many of these prisoners because of lack of evidence, but have also prepared over 100 files for prosecution. We established a detectives course in our police training center to help the Iraqi police do better investigations and evidence collection. We expect to have criminal courts beginning here in Ramadi in August—pretty good progress considering there was no rule of law here four months ago. We are also making good progress on economic development by focusing on low-level economic stimulation. Once we had completed our large-scale offensive operations in February and March, we realized we needed to provide a massive and quick economic stimulus in order to stabilize the communities within the city. Because of the fighting in the city, the economy was in ruins, and it was clear that it would take some time to get businesses back in operation. We started day labor programs throughout the city to help clear trash and rubble, as well as provide an economic shot-in-the-arm to these devastated communities. These day-labor programs were all planned and executed by company commanders, and their effect was dramatic. We have funneled over $5 million in aid to these programs and have employed over 15,000 Iraqis. All this happened in about three months. This decentralized economic development program only used about 10 percent of my reconstruction funds, but has accounted for over 70 percent of new employment in Ramadi. These programs have cleaned neighborhoods, uncovered caches of munitions, and have restored hope and pride to the citizens of Ramadi.We have joined efforts with organizations like the Iraqi/American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) to help revitalize small business in Ramadi. Company commanders went through every neighborhood and conducted assessments on all small businesses so we could help jump-start the small business grant program. We collected over 500 assessments, which helped the IACC begin its grant operations. This is the same technique we use with all non-military organizations—we use our presence in the city and access to the population to facilitate their operations. Revitalizing small businesses in Ramadi will lead to more stable communities, which helps us maintain overall security in the area.We have a great relationship with another non-governmental organization called International Relief and Development (IRD). IRD focuses on programs for community stabilization just like we do, and it provides help in ways the military can’t. For example, IRD helped us fund a city-wide soccer league, providing equipment and uniforms to hundreds of young Iraqis. The organization has also helped us form women’s outreach groups that focus on adult literacy, health, and education issues. Forming relationships with NGOs like IRD is essential in a counterinsurgency campaign, and complements our efforts to improve security. I’ve mentioned several times our focus on stabilizing communities, and I believe this is a fundamental aspect of a successful counterinsurgency campaign. Counterinsurgencies are fought neighborhood by neighborhood with the focus on protecting the population and improving conditions in the community. After clearing an area of terrorists (we do this by conducting large-scale offensive operations), our focus shifts to establishing a permanent security presence with coalition forces and ISF. That is the purpose of the Joint Security Station (JSS). The JSS helps secure and stabilize a community by proving an overt security presence, which establishes a perception of security in the minds of the population. Once they feel safe, they begin to provide intelligence to the police, and security improves steadily. This also helps insulate the community from terrorist attempts to move back into the neighborhood. We then shift our focus on non-lethal efforts to stabilize the community. This is done through day-labor programs, small business development, engagement with local sheikhs and Imams and information operations focused on the community. Despite all the progress we have made with the Iraqis here in Ramadi, the area remains very dangerous. We recently received intelligence reports that terrorists were attempting to stage attacks from an area south of the city. We increased our offensive operations in that area and made contact with a large group of al Qaeda terrorists that were attempting to infiltrate into Ramadi. There were about 50 well-equipped and well-trained terrorists who were moving toward the city in two large trucks. They all had new equipment, weapons, and explosive belts. Their targets were the tribal leaders in Ramadi (we know this from propaganda videos taken off the terrorists). We attacked these terrorists using ground forces and attack helicopters, resulting in 40 enemy killed and three captured. If this force had made it into the city, it would have been a tremendous victory for al Qaeda. We successfully defeated their attack, but we know they will try again in the future. We continue to receive truck bomb attacks, but have been successful in keeping them out of the city and other populated areas. Al Qaeda has not given up on their desire to retake Ramadi and al Anbar, so we can’t let up in our efforts to stop them. The good news is that the people of al Anbar and Ramadi are united in their stand against al Qaeda.
Rock of the Marne! Colonel John W. Charlton

3) Al-Qaeda faces rebellion from the ranks  HYPERLINK "http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article2121006.ece" http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article2121006.ece Sickened by the group’s barbarity, Iraqi insurgents are giving information to coalition forces

London Times Deborah Haynes in Doura July 23, 2007 Fed up with being part of a group that cuts off a person’s face with piano wire to teach others a lesson, dozens of low-level members of al-Qaeda in Iraq are daring to become informants for the US military in a hostile Baghdad neighbourhood. The ground-breaking move in Doura is part of a wider trend that has started in other al-Qaeda hotspots across the country and in which Sunni insurgent groups and tribal sheikhs have stood together with the coalition against the extremist movement. “They are turning. We are talking to people who we believe have worked for al-Qaeda in Iraq and want to reconcile and have peace,” said Colonel Ricky Gibbs, commander of the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, which oversees the area. The sewage-filled streets of Doura, a Sunni Arab enclave in south Baghdad, provide an ugly setting for what US commanders say is al-Qaeda’s last stronghold in the city. The secretive group, however, appears to be losing its grip as a “surge” of US troops in the neighbourhood – part of the latest effort by President Bush to end the chaos in Iraq – has resulted in scores of fighters being killed, captured or forced to flee.  “Al-Qaeda’s days are numbered and right now he is scrambling,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Michael, who commands a battalion of 700 troops in Doura. A key factor is that local people and members of al-Qaeda itself have become sickened by the violence and are starting to rebel, Lieutenant-Colonel Michael said. “The people have got to deny them sanctuary and that is exactly what is happening.” Al-Qaeda informants comprise largely members of the Doura network who found themselves either working with the group after the US-led invasion in March 2003, or signed up to earn extra cash because there were no other jobs going. Disgusted at the attacks and intimidation techniques used on friends, neighbours and even relatives, they are now increasingly looking for a way out, US officers say. “It is only after al-Qaeda has become truly barbaric and done things like, to teach lessons to people, cut their face off with piano wire in front of their family and then murdered everybody except one child who told the tale afterwards . . . that people realise how much of a mess they are in,” Lieutenant James Danly, 31, who works on military intelligence in Doura, said. It is impossible to corroborate the claims, but he said that scores of junior al-Qaeda in Iraq members there had become informants since May, including one low-level cell leader who gave vital information after his arrest. “He gave us dates, places and names and who did what,” Lieutenant Danly said. When asked why he was being so forthcoming, the man said: “Because I am sick of it and I hate them, and I am done.” Working with insurgents – even those who claim to have switched sides – is a leap of faith for both sides. Every informant who visits Forward Operating Base Falcon, a vast military camp on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, is blindfolded when brought in and out to avoid gleaning any information about his surroundings. The risk sometimes pays off. A recent tip-off led to the fatal shooting of Abu Kaldoun, one of three senior al-Qaeda leaders in Doura, during a US raid last week. “He was turned in by one of his own,” Colonel Michael said. Progress with making contacts and gathering actionable information is slow because al-Qaeda has persuasive methods of keeping people quiet. This month it beheaded two men in the street and pinned a note on to their corpses giving warning that anyone who cooperated with US troops would meet the same fate. The increased presence of US forces in Doura, however, is encouraging insiders to overcome their fear and divulge what they know. Convoys of US soldiers are working the rubble-strewn streets day and night, knocking on doors, speaking to locals and following up leads on possible insurgent hideouts. “People in al-Qaeda come to us and give us information,” said Lieutenant Scott Flanigan, as he drove past a line of fruit and vegetable stalls near a shabby shopping street in Doura, where people were buying bread and other groceries. The informants were not seeking an amnesty for crimes that they had committed. “They just do not want to be killed,” Lieutenant Flanigan said. Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – who was killed in a US raid last year – established the Iraqi al-Qaeda network in 2004, but opinions differ on its compilation, size and capabilities. Some military experts believe that the group is a cell-based network of chapters who are loosely linked to an overall leader by go-between operatives. Others, however, describe al-Qaeda in Iraq as a sort of franchise, with separate cells around the country that use the brand – made infamous by Osama bin Laden – and cultural ideology but do not work closely with each other or for one overriding leader. Despite the uncertainties one thing seems guaranteed. A hardcore of people calling themselves al-Qaeda in Iraq remains devoted to the extremist cause and is determined to fight on whatever the cost.

4) Iraq Report: Tribes in Khalis Pledge to Fight al Qaeda The U.S. military and the Iraqi government continue to court the tribes in the provinces surrounding Baghdad. One day after the tribes in the city of Taji in Salahadin province pledged to fight al Qaeda in Iraq and the Mahdi Army, a tribal meeting was held in the city of Khalis in Diyala province. Seventy-five tribal leaders gathered and  HYPERLINK "http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13010&Itemid=128target=_blank" vowed to fight al Qaeda in Iraq, its Islamic State front, and other insurgent groups. “Here, right now, I am denouncing the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Qaeda,” said one sheik in attendance. As the tribes turn on al Qaeda and its Islamic State of Iraq, the targeted raids against al Qaeda in Iraq's network of facilitators, bomb makes and leadership cells continue. Today's raids by Coalition forces resulted in the  HYPERLINK "http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13007&Itemid=21target=_blank" capture of 20 al Qaeda operatives. A series of raids near Taji in Salahadin province resulted in 16 al Qaeda captured, including "a foreign terrorist suspected of involvement in the May 2007 Samarra suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack," while another four operatives were captured near Balad. On July 23, Iraqi security forces struck an al Qaeda training facility and safe house at an old Iraqi military base near Karma in eastern Anbar province. The raid resulted in  HYPERLINK "http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13013&Itemid=128target=_blank" the death of an al Qaeda in Iraq cell leader and the capture of seven insurgents. Karma is one of the few remaining safe havens for al Qaeda in Anbar province. Two more raids in the north in Niwena province resulted in the capture of six al Qaeda operatives on July 21 and 22. The July 21 operation in the village of Bazran in Mosul resulted in  HYPERLINK "http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12998&Itemid=21target=_blank" the capture of five suspected terrorists. The July 22 operation resulted in the  HYPERLINK "http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12999&Itemid=21target=_blank" capture of an IED and kidnapping financier. In both cases, the Iraqi Army worked with U.S. Special Forces. On July 18, U.S. Special Forces worked with elements of the newly formed 11th Iraqi Army Division and  HYPERLINK "http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12995&Itemid=21target=_blank" captured two members of al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq. The two insurgents are believed to have been behind a July 18 roadside bombing that killed U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter in eastern Baghdad. Elsewhere in Baghdad, U.S. troops  HYPERLINK "http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13011&Itemid=128target=_blank" killed three insurgents while they were emplacing a roadside bomb in the Rashid district on July 21. U.S. troops are currently in the process of clearing operations in the Rashid district. Also, U.S. forces  HYPERLINK "http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13009&Itemid=128target=_blank" captured seven insurgents during a raid in the eastern neighborhood of Zafaraniya. North of Baghdad in the city of Husseiniyah, which straddles the highway between the capital and Baqubah, U.S. forces have  HYPERLINK "http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070723/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq;_ylt=Aihfel6ezyG0nLV5AYkZUwzMWM0Ftarget=_blank" cordoned the city, as the Mahdi Army has dug in to fight. While news accounts claim tensions rose after an airstrike over the weekend, Multinational Forces Iraq said the confrontation began on June 13, when al Qaeda attacked the Golden Mosque in Samarra and destroyed the minarets. The Mahdi Army then assembled earthen barriers to prevent Coalition forces from operating in the city. "The dirt mounds block access by [Coalition Forces] into Husseiniyah and interrupt continued assistance of policing, governance and essential services,"  HYPERLINK "http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13012&Itemid=128target=_blank" according to the press release. As the Baghdad Security Plan and Operation Phantom Thunder have progressed, the vast majority of mass-casualty suicide attacks have occurred in the provinces. Most of the bombings in Baghdad over the past month have resulted in casualties in the single digits. Part of the goal of the Baghdad Security Plan is to reduce the major attacks in the capital, and the plan has succeeded in this respect thus far.
5) Iraqis take lead in island clearing operation  HYPERLINK "http://www.mnfiraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12977&Itemid=128" http://www.mnfiraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12977&Itemid=128   No. 20070723-04 July 23, 2007 Multi-National Division – Baghdad PAO FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq — Iraqi Soldiers and police officers took the lead in a search and clearance mission July 17 on Fish Island in the Karadah section of eastern Baghdad.  In Operation Ameliyet, Soldiers the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, along with Iraqi Police, scoured the river banks in a cordon-and-search mission to locate weapons caches. No weapons were found, but Soldiers and police officers learned there had been holes dug where weapons may have been stored previously. While the mission yielded no weapons, it had its benefits, according to Capt. David K. Smith, commander of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment. The 2-17th regularly works with the 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Division.  “Operation Ameliyet was an excellent exercise in coordination with our Iraqi partners,” Smith said. “The plan successfully combined Coalition Forces, Iraqi Army Forces, Iraqi Police and a special police boat unit in a large-scale clearance operation.” All the moving parts came together, according to Capt. Christopher Halstead, a liaison officer to the Iraqi Army for the 2-17th.  “The successes of this operation were not only in the efforts and execution of multiple Iraqi Security Forces and U.S. elements, but also in that they planned, coordinated and completed a task made even more complex by its requisite synchronization as well,” he said.
6) Truck Bomb destroyed during Marne Avalanche   HYPERLINK "http://www.mnfiraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12980&Itemid=128" http://www.mnfiraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12980&Itemid=128   July 23, 2007 Multi-National Division – Center PAO Truck Bomb destroyed during Marne Avalanche KALSU, Iraq – A precision air strike destroyed a tanker truck loaded with explosives during Operation Marne Avalanche northeast of Haswah July 20. An F-16 fighter jet flying in support of the operation dropped two 500-pound bombs on the truck and destroyed it. Marne Avalanche is designed to root out Sunni and Shia extremists operating from safe havens in the Euphrates River Valley. In four days, Operation Marne Avalanche has resulted in four insurgents killed, 37 captured, including five high value targets and several destroyed caches and vehicles used by the insurgents.
HYPERLINK "http://www.nypost.com/seven/07262007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/winning_in_iraq_opedcolumnists_ralph_peters.htm" http://www.nypost.com/seven/07262007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/winning_in_iraq_opedcolumnists_ralph_peters.htm New York Post By RALPH PETERS July 26, 2007 -- TO a military professional, the tactical progress made in Iraq over the last few months is impressive. To a member of Congress, it's an annoyance.  The herd animals on Capitol Hill - from both parties - just can't wait to go over the cliff on Iraq. And even when the media mention one or two of the successes achieved by our troops, the reports are grudging. Yet what's happening on the ground, right now, in Baghdad and in Iraq's most-troubled provinces, contributes directly to your security. In the words of a senior officer known for his careful assessments, al Qaeda's terrorists in Iraq are "on their back foot and we're trying to knock them to their knees."  Do our politicians really want to help al Qaeda regain its balance? Gen. David Petraeus and his deputies sharply prioritized the threats we face in Iraq: Al Qaeda is No. 1, and Iran's Shia proxies are No. 2. Our troops hunt them relentlessly. And we don't face our enemies alone: Iraq's security forces have begun to pick up their share of the fight.  A trusted source in Baghdad confirmed several key developments that have gone largely unreported. Here's what's been happening while "journalists" focused on John Edwards' haircuts:
* Al Qaeda lost the support of Iraq's Sunni Arabs. The fanatics over-reached: They murdered popular sheiks, kidnapped tribal women for forced marriages, tried to outlaw any form of joy and (perhaps most fatally, given Iraqi habits) banned smoking. In response, the Arab version of the Marlboro Man rose up and started cutting terrorist throats. * Since the tribes who once were fighting against us turned on al Qaeda, our troops not only captured the senior Iraqi in the organization - which made brief headlines - but also killed the three al Turki brothers, major-league pinch-hitters al Qaeda sent into Iraq to save the game. Oh, and it emerged that the Iraqi "head" of the terrorists was just a front - in the words of one Army officer, Omar al Baghdadi was "a Wizard of Oz-like creation designed to give an impression that al Qaeda has Iraqis in its senior ranks."
* Al Qaeda has been pushed right across Anbar, from the once Wild West to the province's eastern fringes. The terrorists are still dug in elsewhere, from the Diyala River Valley to a few Baghdad neighborhoods - but, to quote that senior officer again, "our forces have been taking out their leaders faster than they can find qualified replacements."
Even the Democrats yearning to become president admit, when pressed, that al Qaeda's a threat to America. So why didn't even one of them praise the success of our troops during their last debate? But let's be fair: Congressional Republicans, terrified of losing their power and glory and precious perks, haven't rushed to applaud our progress, either. They'll give up Iraq, as long as they don't have to give up earmarks.
* It isn't only al Qaeda taking serious hits. After briefly showing the flag, Muqtada al-Sadr fled back to Iran again, trailed by his senior deputies. Mookie's No. 2 even moved his family to Iran. Why? Though he's been weak in the past, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is now green-lighting Iraqi operations against the Jaish al Mahdi, the Mookster's "Mahdi Army." With its descent into criminality and terror, the Mahdi Army, too, has been losing support among Iraqis - in this case, among Shias. And Iraq's security forces increasingly carry the fight to the militia:
* The Iraqi Police Tactical Support Unit in Nasiriyah came under attack by Mahdi Army elements accustomed to intimidating their enemies. Supported by a brave (and tiny) U.S. advisory team, the police commandos fought them off. Instead of a walkover, the militia thugs hit a wall - and got hammered by airstrikes, for good measure. Then the Iraqi police counter-attacked. The Mahdi Army force begged for negotiations.
* In Mosul, Iraqi army and police units stuck to their guns through a series of tough combat engagements, with the result that massive arms caches were seized from the terrorists and insurgents. In Kirkuk, Iraqi police reacted promptly to last week's gruesome car-bombing - in time to stop two other car bombs from reaching their intended targets. * In Baghdad, the surge isn't only about American successes - Iraqi security and intelligence forces conducted a series of hard-hitting operations against both al Qaeda and Iran-backed Special Group terrorists.
What were you, the American people, told about all this? Well, The New Republic published a pack of out-of-the-ballpark lies concocted by a scammer claiming to be a grunt in Baghdad. Our soldiers, he wrote, spent their time playing games with babies' skulls, running over dogs for fun and mocking disfigured women in their mess hall. Anyone who knows our troops or has visited Iraq could instantly spot the absurdities in this smear and the soldiers in the unit denied that any of it happened - but The New Republic (which refuses to produce its source) isn't exactly staffed by military veterans. The editors wanted to believe evil about our men and women in uniform, and ended up doing evil to our troops. (Those editors ought to be sentenced to spend August in Baghdad with the infantrymen they defamed, cleaning out military port-a-johns in the 130-degree heat.) Is success suddenly guaranteed in Iraq? Of course not. The situation's still a bloody mess. But it's also more encouraging than it's been since the summer of 2003, when the downward slide began. Gen. Dave Petraeus and his subordinate commanders are by far the best team we've ever had in place in that wretched country. They're doing damned near everything right - with austere resources, despite the surge. And they're being abandoned by your elected leaders. Maybe the next presidential primary debate should be held in Baghdad.
8) Coalition Forces kill 9 terrorists, detain 8 and destroy weapons caches
HYPERLINK "http://www.mnf-iraq.com703.343.8790" http://www.mnf-iraq.com703.343.8790 July 23, 2007 Release A070723c BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition Forces killed nine terrorists, detained eight suspected terrorists and uncovered weapons caches during an operation near Muqdadiyah July 20-21.As Coalition Forces arrived in the area, they received small arms fire from near the Tigris River.  The ground forces, acting in self-defense, called in close air support to engage the armed terrorists attacking Coalition Forces.  One terrorist was killed in the air strike.Hours later, four armed terrorists engaged Coalition Forces with small arms fire.  Coalition Forces, responding in self-defense against the hostile force, returned fire, killing one terrorist and wounding two suspected terrorists.  Enemy forces in the area continued to periodically engage Coalition Forces with small arms fire from nearby palm groves.  Coalition Forces, taking fire from the armed terrorists, called in another air strike, killing one armed terrorist and wounding two more suspected terrorists.  Terrorists continued to engage the ground forces and Coalition Forces returned fire in self-defense, killing five more terrorists and wounding one suspected terrorist.  Coalition Forces medics treated the wounded on scene throughout the morning and transported them to a military medical facility for further treatment.While on patrol, Coalition Forces discovered a group of terrorists emplacing an improvised explosive device.  To disrupt the threat of the terrorists’ explosive weapon, ground forces engaged the group and killed one terrorist.
Throughout the operation, terrorists periodically attacked Coalition Forces using small arms and indirect fire.  One mortar attack injured seven Iraqi civilians.  Coalition Forces medics treated the injured civilians on scene and one was transported to a military medical facility for further treatment. The ground forces discovered a terrorist safe house hiding a weapons cache.  The safe house contained rifles, ammunition, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and rounds, mortars, military-style assault vests, fuses and camouflage uniforms.  An explosives team destroyed the cache on site. Eight suspected terrorists were detained during the operation.  One detainee led the ground forces to a cache of RPGs, a sniper rifle, ammunition, mortars and improvised explosive devices ready for use against Iraqi and Coalition Forces.  A search of another detainee’s home uncovered two homemade hand grenades, ammunition, a homemade rocket launcher, IED crush wire, intelligence paperwork about the area and al-Qaeda in Iraq media propaganda. “We’re targeting al-Qaeda members and leaders no matter where they hide,” said Maj. Marc Young, an MNF-I spokesperson.  “These terrorists operate with a system of values totally inconsistent with those of the Iraqi people.”

9) Iraq explodes in celebration of its soccer team http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/20070721/wl_mcclatchy/20070721bcusiraqsoccer_attn_national_foreign_editors_ytop_1&printer=1;_ylt=AoYmOOSFpWVQ.as2IylnVbJBXYh4
By Hannah Allam, McClatchy Newspapers BAGHDAD, Iraq — Police danced at checkpoints and gunmen fired their weapons in celebration Saturday as thousands of jubilant Iraqis poured into the streets of Baghdad after their national soccer team's 2-0 victory over Vietnam in a quarterfinal match of the Asia Cup in Bangkok, Thailand .The impromptu citywide parade lifted the capital's wartime gloom and let Iraqis forget momentarily the daily frustrations of their lives.Families spent precious gasoline cruising up and down the main street in the central neighborhood of Karada. Taxi drivers honked their horns and blasted patriotic music. Children, typically shut indoors for their protection, whooped and jumped in the middle of intersections. Iraqi women trilled from balconies, while throngs of ecstatic young men peeled off their shirts and waved them in the air."All this is not only for the game - it's for the wounds of Iraq ," said Sahar Abd Ali , a beaming, 40-year-old mother who strolled among the celebrants. "God willing, this shows that even those deep wounds can be healed."The festivities were unusual partly because of what was missing. No gunmen stopped passersby from filming the scene with their cell phones; in fact, many revelers slowed down to make sure they were photographed. Showing none of the usual everyday fear of revealing personal details, Iraqis gave their full names and lengthy interviews to a reporter. Iraqi television was still providing live coverage hours later.And, perhaps most tellingly, the marchers in Karada didn't fall back on oft-repeated sectarian slogans or brandish photos of Iraq's powerful clerics. The only posters in sight showed the soccer team, especially the star forwards: No. 10, Younes Mahmoud , a Sunni Arab who scored both goals in the game, and No. 11, Hawar Mullah Mohamed, a Kurd."By this game, we are united! By this game, we are defiant!" chanted one group of youths wrapped in Iraqi flags."How about a little something for Iraq's good fortune?" one beggar asked with a wide, toothless grin. Few spectators missed the irony of Iraq defeating Vietnam , a nation with its own experience with a bloody, ill-fated U.S. war. One Iraqi sports commentator dubbed the match "the wounded vs. the healed."Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki praised "the brave lions of Mesopotamia" and the embattled Iraqi parliament blessed the players in a session before the game.The U.S. military also rooted for the home team in Wednesday's semi-finals in Kuala Lumpur . "Good luck against the winner of the second-round quarterfinals team, neighboring Iran or the Republic of Korea!" a U.S. statement said.Sporadic bursts of celebratory gunfire sounded even before the game had ended, and erupted into a full-scale symphony once the clock had run out. The rat-a-tat-tat of machine guns was drowned out by the thundering booms of larger weapons. Iraqi authorities said at least two people were killed and 50 injured by stray bullets.At one traffic circle, Iraqi police abandoned their checkpoint and were busy lighting fireworks. At another, Iraqi soldiers in spiffy uniforms danced in a circle, pumping their AK-47s in the air."This is the happiness of a whole people," said Abdel Basit Majeed , 41, who watched the game from his sporting-goods shop in Karada. "They are forgetting what happened to them yesterday, what happened last year, what happened before. They needed this joy. This is proof that the Iraqi people are bigger than their tragedies."

10) The Surge Succeeds  HYPERLINK "http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/07/the_surge_succeeds.html" http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/07/the_surge_succeeds.html By  HYPERLINK "http://www.americanthinker.com/jr_dunn/" J.R. Dunn July 24, 2007 American Thinker Magazine It's now quite clear how the results of the surge will be dealt with by domestic opponents of the Iraq war. They're going to be ignored.They're being ignored now. Virtually no media source or Democratic politician (and not a few Republicans, led by Richard "I can always backtrack" Lugar) is willing to admit that the situation on the ground has changed dramatically over the past three months. Coalition efforts have undergone a remarkable reversal of fortune, a near-textbook example as to how an effective strategy can overcome what appear to be overwhelming drawbacks.Anbar is close to being secured, thanks to the long-ridiculed strategy of recruiting local sheiks. A capsule history of war coverage could be put together from stories on this topic alone - beginning with sneers, moving on to "evidence" that it would never work, to the puzzled pieces of the past few months admitting that something was happening, and finally the recent stories expressing concern that the central government might be "offended" by the attention being paid former Sunni rebels. (Try to find another story in the legacy media worrying about the feelings of the Iraqi government.) What you will not find is any mention of the easily-grasped fact that Anbar acts as a blueprint for the rest of the country. If the process works there, it will work elsewhere. If it works in other areas, that means the destruction of the Jihadis in detail. Nor is that all. Diyala province, promoted in media as the "new Al-Queda stronghold" appears to have become a death-trap. The Jihadis can neither defend it nor abandon it. The Coalition understood that Diyala was where the Jihadis would flee when the heat came down in Baghdad, and they were ready for them. A major element of surge strategy - and one reason why the extra infantry brigades were needed - is to pressure Jihadis constantly in all their sanctuaries, allowing them no time to rest or regroup. A blizzard of operations is occurring throughout central Iraq under the overall code-name  HYPERLINK "http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2007/07/iraq_report_phantom_thunder_up.asp" Phantom Thunder, the largest operation since the original invasion. It is open-ended, and will continue as long as necessary. Current ancillary operations include Arrowhead Ripper, which is securing the city of Baqubah in Diyala province. Operation Alljah is methodically clearing out every last neighborhood in Fallujah. In Babil province, southeast of Baghdad, operations Marne Torch and Commando Eagle are underway. (As this was being written, yet another spinoff operation,  HYPERLINK "http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2007/07/another_major_offensive_agains.html%20" Marne Avalanche, began in Northern Babil.) The Coalition has left the treadmill in which one step of progress seemed to unavoidably lead to two steps back. It requires some time to discover the proper strategy in any war. A cursory glance at 1943 would have given the impression of disaster. Kasserine, in which the German Wehrmacht nearly split Allied forces in Tunisia and sent American GIs running. Tarawa, where over 1,600 U.S. Marines died on a sunny afternoon thanks to U.S. Navy overconfidence. Salerno, where the Allied landing force was very nearly pushed back into the sea. But all these incidents, as bitter as they may have been, were necessary to develop the proper techniques that led to the triumphs of 1944 and 1945.Someday, 2006 may be seen as Iraq's 1943. It appears that Gen. David Petreaus has discovered the correct strategy for Iraq: engaging the Jihadis all over the map as close to simultaneously as possible. Keeping them on the run constantly, giving them no place to stand, rest or refit. Increasing operational tempo to an extent that they cannot match ("Getting inside their decision cycle", as the 4th generation warfare school would call it), leaving them harried, uncertain, and apt to make mistakes. The surge is more of a refinement than a novelty. Earlier Coalition efforts were not in error as much as they were incomplete. American troops would clean out an area, turn it over to an Iraqi unit, and depart. The Jihadis would then push out the unseasoned Iraqis and return to business. This occurred in Fallujah, Tall Afar, and endless times in Ramadi. Now U.S. troops are remaining on site, which reassures the locals and encourages cooperation. The Jihadis broke (and more than likely never knew) the cardinal rule of insurgency warfare, that of being a good guest. As Mao put it, "The revolutionary must be as a fish among the water of the peasantry." The Jihadis have been lampreys to the Iraqi people. Proselytizing, forcing adaptation of their reactionary creed, engaging in torture, kidnapping, and looting. Arabic culture is one in which open dealings, personal loyalty, and honor are at a premium. Violate any of them, and there is no way back. The Jihadis violated them all. The towns and cities of Iraq are no longer sanctuaries. The results have begun to come in. On July 4,  HYPERLINK "http://voanews.com/english/2007‑07‑18‑voa16.cfm" Khaled al-Mashhadani, the most senior Iraqi in Al-Queda, was captured in Mosul. On July 14, HYPERLINK "http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2007‑07‑17‑us‑strike_N.htm"  Abu Jurah, a senior Al-Queda leader in the area south of Baghdad, was killed in a coordinated strike by artillery, helicopters, and fighter-bombers. These blows to the leadership are the direct outgrowth of Jihadi brutality and the new confidence among the Iraqis in what they have begun to call the "al-Ameriki tribe". We will see more of this in the weeks ahead. The Jihadis have come up with no effective counterstrategy, and the old methods have begun to lose mana. The last massive truck-bomb attack occurred not in Baghdad, but in a small Diyala village that defied Al-Queda. An insurgency in the position of using its major weapons to punish noncombatants is not in a winning situation.
11) Football does what the Iraqi government has found impossible  HYPERLINK "http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=1151752007" http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=1151752007 KIM GAMEL IN BAGHDAD ONE Sunni man drove 30 minutes through the dangerous streets of Baghdad to watch the football game with his Shiite friends whom he had not seen in months. A 40-year-old Shiite could not contain his tears when he joined three Sunni friends, who used to play in a local football team with him, in a coffee shop to watch Iraq take on Vietnam in the Asian Cup quarter-finals this weekend. Iraq's team is made up of Shias, Sunnis and Kurds - and coached by a Brazilian, Jorvan Vieira. And together they delivered. Iraq won 2-0 in Bangkok, thanks to two goals from captain Younis Mahmoud, to advance to the semi-finals for the first time since 1976, where they will face South Korea, causing hundreds of people from across the sectarian divide to overcome fears of violence and take to the streets in a spontaneous celebration. Men of all ages waved Iraqi flags and danced a jig in the streets, while others jumped on top of cars and rode around, horns honking. Typically for Iraq, it could not pass without some harm - five people, including two children, were killed and 25 wounded in celebratory gunfire, according to health officials in Baghdad. Iraqis said the jubilation over the victory - albeit brief - showed they can come together despite the past years of spiralling violence between Sunnis and Shiites that has made Baghdad a maze of concrete barriers and largely confined people to their own neighbourhoods. Many expressed regret that Iraqi political factions could not emulate the football team, as the Shiite-dominated government's failure to bring minority Sunnis into the mainstream has been blamed for fuelling the insurgency and retaliatory violence. "None of our politicians could bring us under this flag like our national football team did," said Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Hassan. "I wish that politicians could take a lesson from our team, which is made up of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds who worked together regardless of their backgrounds and won." Mr Abdul-Hassan, a 40-year-old Shiite education ministry worker who lives in the northern Baghdad district of Kazimiyah, joined three Sunni friends watching the game in a coffee shop. He said it was the first time he had seen his former football team-mates in two years because they had fled the predominantly Shiite area due to the sectarian tensions. "Ahmed, Naji and Abdul-Karim were there with us," the father of three said, giving only the first names of his friends. "We kissed and hugged each other and recalled our days when we were part of the local team in Kazimiyah and how we were playing in an organised fashion regardless of our religious and ethnic affiliations." Sami Talib, a 54-year-old retired teacher who is a Shiite living in western Baghdad, agreed. "The Iraqi football team made us happy despite all of our deep sorrow," he said. "The win unified Iraqis and uncovered their real core... I hope our politicians do the same and put aside their political disputes to win also and achieve the security and stability in our beloved country." Salim Alwan, a 30-year-old Sunni, drove about half an hour to the predominantly Shiite Zafaraniyah area to watch the game with Shiite friends whom he had not seen for six months, having spoken with them only on the phone because of the sectarian violence. On Saturday, Mr Alwan said, the talk was only about football. "We decided not to talk about politics, and how politicians are driving this country to a civil war, in order not to disturb our mood and we only talked about our national team," he said. "I spent the night there and then came back today after they accompanied me with their car for my safety." Marwan Ahmed, a 23-year-old Sunni tailor in Basra, called Saturday "the most beautiful day in Iraq over the past four years". He said people from a variety of religious backgrounds gathered in a casino to watch the game and the revelry went well past midnight, which he pointed out "was very rare in Basra". "All the people at the casino congratulated each other - even those who didn't know each other. I felt like this team helped clean our hearts from hatred as all were thinking only of Iraq and nothing else."• BEING a national team player in Iraq has never been easy. Under Saddam Hussein the team was run by his psychopathic eldest son Uday Hussein. As head of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, Uday oversaw the torture of Iraqi athletes who he regarded as having not performed well enough. According to widespread reports, torturers beat and caned the soles of the football players' feet. Uday reportedly kept scorecards with instructions on how many times each player should be beaten after failing to meet his standards. One defector reported that jailed football players were forced to kick a concrete ball after they did not reach the 1994 World Cup finals. Uday was killed by US forces in July 2003. "In the past, the Iraqi players used to play because they were afraid of Uday, the son of Saddam, but now they play out of pride, they play for their country," Haiydar Adnan, 29, a Shiite, said in Baghdad this weekend. Iraq's Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira readily acknowledges that coaching Iraq is the most difficult job of his lengthy career, with his players spread throughout the Gulf and the Middle East - exiles from the conflict searing through their homeland. Television footage of celebrating Iraqis has been lapped up by the Iraq squad in Bangkok, and even Vieira has been caught up in the emotion, getting reports from his wife in Morocco about how the Iraqi expatriates celebrated there.

12) Growth of Neighborhood Watch brings peace in Anbar
HYPERLINK "http://acutepolitics.blogspot.com/" http://acutepolitics.blogspot.com/ July 26, 2007 “I have written previously about some of the major distinctions in the structure of the HYPERLINK "http://acutepolitics.blogspot.com/2007/07/isf-primer.html"  Iraqi Security Forces. Over the course of the last year, I have had the opportunity many times to see various Iraqi units in action. The Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police have greatly increased in number- there were few of either evident in Ramadi last October, and they are everywhere now. I like to see IAs and IPs; I like to see that Iraqis fighting for their own country. However, the guys I really like to see are the PSF and Neighborhood Watch fighters. I have witnessed the appearance of local fighters in an area several times- an advent that is normally followed quickly by relative peace. The first area in which I saw local fighters appear was along the Euphrates river near Falluja. The newly-formed Neighborhood Watch was controlled by the sheik I mentioned in " HYPERLINK "http://acutepolitics.blogspot.com/2007/07/isf-primer.html" ISF Primer"- the one that was wounded fighting American troops in the 2004 battle for Falluja. It is mainly because of him that so many units began calling the neighborhood watch the "Good Bad Guys". There are many Iraqis like this sheik and his men, former insurgents who have grown to see Americans as allies and al-Qaeda and foreign fighters as the real threat to their future. The region controlled by the sheik is marked by fighters manning checkpoints- originally hasty affairs built from rusted engine parts and cinder brick, and upgraded to sand-filled plastic Jersey barriers as the local forces transitioned to PSF. Children make their way to school Now, the sheik commands a company of PSF fighters, as well as unincorporated Neighborhood Watch along his eastern border. He receives funds fom the Iraqi government to provide a stipend for his men and to help pay for equipment. As far as I am aware, there has been only one attack in his territory since the local citizens stood up- a double IED strike one night that was followed by the PSF going house to house looking for the bomber. The problems and friction that many feared have not developed, even during the transition from the Marine unit that initially held the area to their successors. The second time I saw a local militia form, it happened almost overnight. The region was an agricultural area northeast of Ramadi- it was a bad area, one that we frequently patrolled and often found IEDs in. Blast holes lined the roads, and at some places nearly blocked the narrow, elevated lanes. Two companies of Marines had spent months trying to gain control of the area- mainly on foot, because the roads were continually seeded with IEDs. One day, the ever-elusive enemy launched mortars at us while we paused at a Combat Outpost. None of the rounds hit our patrol or the COP- however, at least  HYPERLINK "http://acutepolitics.blogspot.com/2007/03/frago.html" one hit a school. We took four children and three adults to Camp Taqaddum, near Habbaniyah, for medical care. One more little girl died later at TQ, and more had been killed down in the village. In all, twelve children died.

The next time we patrolled the route, later that week, there were militia fighters standing alongside Marines all along the road. We never found another IED in the area. I recently spoke with a Chief Warrant Officer who had been serving at the COP during the transformation. He did not know it had been our platoon in the area that day, but he directly credited our aid and the PSYOPS followup as the events that sparked the transformation. The Marines had spent months laying the groundwork- interfacing with the villagers, offering aid, and sweeping for bad guys. The Iraqis weren't buying into it. In one day, that changed. I was told that the Army PSYOPS unit attached to the Marines put on "the show of a lifetime". They went out onto the roads proselytizing via loudspeaker: "The insurgents say they are here to help you, but they only kill your children. The Americans are the only ones you can trust to help." They opened the mike up to the villagers, and the response was overwhelming. People came from their houses to tell the insurgents "You killed my daughter. I will not sleep, I will not eat until I see you die!". Iraqis came up to tell about the strange men that had appeared, threatening to kill families if they were not provided with shelter. They led Marines to caches and IEDs. Perhaps most importantly, they began to work with the Marines to secure their villages. Now, the Marines are gone, save for a small contingent left on the main road to the south.

Standing up to the insurgents is not without risk. There have been several times that our patrol has passed dusty little cemeteries nestled among the trees, clustered with mourners burying fallen brothers. The non-uniformed forces in Iraq such as PSF or NW are in danger from multiple sides- from insurgents who wish to kill them, and from trigger-happy Americans who may shoot them thinking they are the enemy. Both have happened on occasion, but the tribesmen continue to serve. Insurgents still hold out in Zaidon , sandwiched between Falluja and the Euphrates. The bombs there have gotten bigger and more numerous, as well as appearing in previously calm areas and  HYPERLINK "http://acutepolitics.blogspot.com/2007/07/mission-pictures.html" including VBIEDs. Recently, a stretch of several bad days saw multiple trucks from each route clearance patrol in the area strike IEDs. There is a possible light in the tunnel, though- several new classes of PSF have just graduated, and some of those men are serving now in Zaidon. IED activity has already been markedly reduced. If the past is any indication, the Iraqi effort will spread wider and encompass the entire area, helping American troops to bring calm to one of the last major centers of violence in al-Anbar province.

13) Fighting to Win Hearts and Minds in Anbar
US Military Civil Affairs Units Help Turn the Tide in Troubled Sunni Province
By  HYPERLINK "http://www.iraqslogger.com/index.php/writer/56/Matt_Sanchez" \o "Find all posts by Matt Sanchez" MATT SANCHEZ 07/22/2007 09:36 AM ET  HYPERLINK "http://www.iraqslogger.com/index.php/post/3683/Fighting_to_Win_Hearts_and_Minds_in_Anbar" http://www.iraqslogger.com/index.php/post/3683/Fighting_to_Win_Hearts_and_Minds_in_Anbar Photo by Matt Sanchez Navy Corpsman HM2 Steven McCloskey lends a hand in the 115 degree heat. Fallujah - The official role of Civil Affair units is to "help military commanders by working with civil authorities and civilian populations in the commander's area of operations to lessen the impact of military operations on them during peace, contingency operations and declared war." That's a mouthful. It's great to have people in high places make bold decisions, but someone actually has to carry those decisions out. I'd call civil affairs the "boots on the ground" section in the diplomacy department. Their tasks can range from developing a police precinct, to making sure the sewers are running. The civil affairs unit engages the population, asks them what they need and, if it fits the general mission, work to get it. They're like armed social workers who ride in armored vehicles.Chief Warrant Officer Steven Townsley pitches a sack. The war in Iraq has made officers more hands on than ever.In a conflict that relies heavily on the native population, civil affairs units are in demand. Civil Affairs are a strange hybrid because they require a strong interaction with the general population. Most units consists of reservists, but with the demand so high, that is quickly changing. Many CAG units (for the Marines) or CAT units (for the Army) have fanned out across Iraq and Afghanistan. The task is enormous. CAG units work with the local population and support the pillars of their society: governance, security and education. There is also the added obstacle of helping to put "an Iraqi face" on what they do, a task that can be difficult for a country that does not have a "customer service" mentality. Chief Warrant officer Steve Townsley said, "We're working to get the trust of the local population, but we also want to put as much of an Iraqi face on this as possible." For Operation Alljah, local police officers, some of whom live in the neighborhoods we visited, handed out the huge sacks of foods and necessities to the local population. The "swarm" tactic of taking a neighborhood and locking it down, works best with the cooperation of those who actually live in the neighborhood. The 5/10 planned many projects, sewage plants, new schools, even reliable electricity, but everything from trash collection to running air-conditioners depended on one thing—security. Major Andrew Dietz of the 5th Battalion, 10th Marines. Originally an artillery Batallion dating back to the beginning of World War Two. Members of the 5th Battalion have been provisionally reassigned as Civil Affairs Group. No matter how much up-armor the sluggish hum-vees packed on, or how many rounds per minute the gunner could send down range, the best hope to putting an end to the violence in Anbar province was to prevent it from happening in the first place. "It is crucial to get out and actually meet the local population," said Major Andrew Dietz. But the major was referring to a population that has known nothing but uncertainty over the past two years. Their neighborhoods are pocked with holes made by both Marines and insurgents. There was a time, when one could not tell friend from foe, when these neighborhoods were the site of a battleground. "A defection is much better than a capture," said Captain Hart, an infantry officer from the 3 rd Battalion, 6 th Marines. "I'd rather have them come over to our side, even if they were fighting us two or three weeks ago." The focus on mission accomplishment is precisely the type of improvisation that has made the Marines malleable in all climes but consistent at the core.Iraqi Army, apparently intimidated by the Marine attack on the food sacks.With an eye toward the open windows and roof tops, I was able to speak to some of those who have lived in Fallujah, those who may have fought or fled. I learned most just wanted to get on with their day to day lives. The month before, a massive bomb killed mourners at a funeral." If the enemy had any support from the locals, it dissipated with that blast. They were fed up, but they were scared. Like any neighborhood that feels it's streets are dangerous, the home becomes a sanctuary, and all Iraqi homes have a wall and gate for both privacy and protection. The CAG unit may mean well, but would Fallujans be interested?"We're here to show that we have a presence and can protect them," added the CWO Townsley. A Chief Warrant Officer is a rare-breed that is somewhere between an officer and an enlisted man. An enlisted Marine can apply for the Warrant Officer program after having served at least eight years. CWO's are meant to bridge the gap between both sides of the military, officer and enlisted, but they are more than that. With fifteen years in the Corps, men like Townsley perform duties that require extensive knowledge, training and technical specialty. A chief warrant officer receives his commission and takes his oath the same way a commissioned officer does, but like so many other mustangs, the CWO has the added respect of having been an enlisted man, before moving on. That day, in Fallujah, we were moving on to handing out the food and meeting the neighbors. The CWO shook hands and seemed to know many of the people who opened their gates as the convoy came down their street. Iraqis are not shy about accepting hand outs, but after a few knocks on the gates, there seemed to be an opening of the neighbors themselves. Kids followed behind the humvees, and hoped some Marine would throw him a soccer ball.A child handed Marine Corporal Kevin McDonald a glass of water, while other children asked me to take pictures of them. A Marine out of Camp Pendleton, Corporal Rhubi, pointed out a building where he had fired and killed a man who intended to snipe another Marine. Rhubi, a second generation Marine, was a member of a recon unit, and had been loaned out to Fallujah in a kind of break from his regular activities. He was taking pictures for Combat Camera, and some of the Marines from the 2/6 were already calling him "recon", in what is one of the few distinctions among a group that prides itself on unity. Marine Force Recon are the special forces of the United States Marine Corps. Just like the Green Beret, or the Navy Seals, Marine Recon handle a variety of missions with the least resources. Recon Marines are taught to rely on themselves and work in small teams. From counter-insurgency to unconventional warfare, the Marine recon is a product of an enormous amount of training. Among the "Few and the Proud," the men of Marine Recon Force that I have met have been "the rare and the humble." Recon Operators are subtle but you'll know one when you see one. Slightly different body armor, with the subtle hint of better maintenance that is a tell-tale sign of the intense attention to detail that is a hallmark of the training. The operator has designs and markings that wouldn't be permitted to non-Recon Marines. It's against the rules to photograph members of the Special Forces (SF) and that includes recon Marines. Corporal Rhubi recounted his training and told me of the intense memorization exercises that could disqualify a recon recruit from service.That hot day, in the convoy handing out care packages to Fallujans, Corporal Rhubi remembered what the city had been like three years before, in 2004. "We would take enemy fire on all of these streets." You just couldn't walk out here like this. "Today, I'm taking pictures with these kids and handing out food. things have changed."

14) Bush links al Qaeda to Iraq militias
HYPERLINK "http://washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070725/NATION/107250073/1001" http://washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070725/NATION/107250073/1001 July 25, 2007  Washington Times By Joseph Curl - In his most direct effort to date to connect al Qaeda to the Iraq war, President Bush yesterday cited declassified intelligence to tie terrorists operating in Iraq with September 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, saying new evidence "clearly establishes this connection." Taking direct aim at Democrats who charge the president has exaggerated the al Qaeda presence in Iraq, Mr. Bush declared that the highest echelon of bin Laden's terrorist organization has masterminded the foreign insurgency in Iraq, dispatching terrorists to the country to fight U.S. forces there. "Al Qaeda in Iraq is a group founded by foreign terrorists, led largely by foreign terrorists, and loyal to a foreign terrorist leader — Osama bin Laden," the president said in a speech at an Air Force base in Charleston, S.C. "They know they're al Qaeda. The Iraqi people know they are al Qaeda. People across the Muslim world know they are al Qaeda. And there's a good reason they are called al Qaeda in Iraq. They are al Qaeda. In. Iraq," he said, making dramatic pauses for emphasis. Just a day after Democrats held a presidential debate in Charleston — and every candidate rejected the Bush administration's justification for remaining in Iraq — Mr. Bush laid out his case that the war is the central front in the global battle against Islamic extremism. "There's a debate in Washington about Iraq. ... Some say that Iraq is not part of the broader war on terror. They complain when I say that the al Qaeda terrorists we face in Iraq are part of the same enemy that attacked us on September 11, 2001. They claim that the organization called al Qaeda in Iraq is an Iraqi phenomenon, that it's independent of Osama bin Laden and that it's not interested in attacking America." The president said that view would "be news to Osama bin Laden." He's proclaimed that the 'third world war is raging in Iraq.' Osama bin Laden says, 'The war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever.' I say that there will be a big defeat in Iraq and it will be the defeat of al Qaeda," Mr. Bush said to applause. Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, delivered the Democratic response to the speech, saying Mr. Bush was ignoring U.S. intelligence reports to "spin a false rationale for the escalation of the war in Iraq." "The National Intelligence Estimate contradicted what the president said today and made it clear that al Qaeda is stronger because of our massive military presence in Iraq," Mr. Kerry said. "No surplus of presidential scare tactics changes the fact that Iraqis will only stand up if we give them deadlines and engage in diplomacy. The president continues to traffic in the politics of fear rather than give our troops a policy based on truth." The president has long fought with Democrats who claim he overstates the al Qaeda-Iraq connection. While the al Qaeda presence in Iraq was negligible at the time of September 11, foreign members of the terror group have since flooded into Iraq to fight U.S. forces. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday also rejected Mr. Bush's contention, and instead said that "despite what the president would like us to believe, it has been established that al Qaeda had no active cells in Iraq when we invaded, and we have long known that we were not attacked from Iraq on 9/11." Mr. Bush yesterday methodically laid out a case that al Qaeda has sought to establish Iraq as a safe haven from which to operate, and even declassified some U.S. intelligence to strike back at Democrats who say the Iraq war has nothing to do with al Qaeda. "If they can convince America we're not fighting bin Laden's al Qaeda there, they can paint the battle in Iraq as a distraction from the real war on terror. ... The problem they have is with the facts. We are fighting bin Laden's al Qaeda in Iraq; Iraq is central to the war on terror," he said. The president ticked off the facts: Al Qaeda in Iraq was founded by foreign terrorists linked to senior al Qaeda leadership. The founder of the Iraqi branch was Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist who had pledged his allegiance to bin Laden. The successor to Zarqawi, killed by U.S. forces in 2006, was Abu Ayyub Masri, who also has ties to al Qaeda's senior leadership. Before the September 11 attacks, the Egyptian terrorist trained in Afghanistan and taught classes indoctrinating others in al Qaeda's Islamist ideology. Other top foreign terrorists of al Qaeda have headed to Iraq, including a Syrian who is al Qaeda in Iraq's emir in Baghdad; a Saudi who is al Qaeda in Iraq's top spiritual and legal adviser; an Egyptian who fought in Afghanistan in the 1990s and has met with bin Laden; and a Tunisian who U.S. intelligence agencies think plays a key role in managing foreign fighters. While some of the al Qaeda in Iraq's rank-and-file fighters and some of its leadership are Iraqi, all are led by foreign terrorists loyal to bin Laden. "Some will tell you that al Qaeda in Iraq is not really al Qaeda — and not really a threat to America," Mr. Bush said. "Well, that's like watching a man walk into a bank with a mask and a gun, and saying he's probably just there to cash a check."