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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Things You May Not Have Read In The NY Times

Idiom friend and adventure seeker, Mr. Democracy has been sending us some updates about his work/travels. Of particular interest is a round up of news about the War that provides some context. He has generously allowed us to excerpt this section so that we at The Idiom don;t have to get off our asses and think of another post. Happy reading!

I can’t report that much personally because I haven’t talked to any of my local staff in the last few days or any of my security providers. However I found this article from the AP (which was not picked up by the NYT) telling:

    BAGHDAD - Bomb deaths have gone down 30 percent in Baghdad since the U.S.-led security crackdown began a month ago. Execution-style slayings are down by nearly half.

    The once frequent sound of weapons has been reduced to episodic, and downtown shoppers have returned to outdoor markets _ favored targets of car bombers.

AP accepts possibility of good news in Baghdad? Truly a sign the Apocalypse is near.

Also, it takes a Kuwaiti news outlet to relay this information reported by the military:

    BAGHDAD, March 14 (KUNA) -- The rate of killings of US troops in Iraq has been on the decline, down by 60 percent, since the launch of the new security measures in Baghdad, according to statistics revealed by the Multi-National Force -Iraq Combined Press Information Centre.

Coverage from General Caldwell’s press conference yesterday:

    The US military in Iraq said on Wednesday that cleric Moqtada al-Sadr remained in Iranian exile, with US and Iraqi officials saying that killings have slumped significantly in Baghdad since the launch of a security plan last month.

    … Assessing the security operation at the end of the first month, Caldwell said: "There has been an over 50 percent reduction in murders and executions," since "Operation Fardh al-Qanoun" (Imposing Law) began.

    Caldwell however expressed concern about a spike last week in the number of what he called "high-profile" car bombings.

    "If the high-profile car bombs can be stopped or brought down to a much lower level, we'll just see an incredible difference in the city overall," he said.

    Brigadier General Qassem al-Moussawi, spokesman of the Baghdad security operation, said the number civilians killed had plunged to 265 since the start of the operation compared with 1,440 during the preceding month long period due to a sharp reduction in murders, kidnappings and bombings.

And coverage of General Petraeus’ interviews the other day:

    General David Petraeus, the new top US commander in Iraq, made these points in separate interviews Monday with ABC News and USA Today:
    -- The peaceful move of US forces into the Mahdi Army stronghold of Sadr City has been a "pleasant surprise."
    -- There are "encouraging indicators" in the Sunni Anbar province.
    -- There are worrying trends in the Diyala province that will force US forces to pay closer attention to that area.
    -- There is convincing evidence that Syria and Iran are helping anti-US forces in Iraq.
    -- There are reconcilable and irreconcilable political and militant forces in Iraq, and the Iraqi government must do all it can to bring reconcilable forces into the mainstream.
    -- He's mindful there's a "Baghdad clock" (the time required to get the job done there) and a "Washington clock" (forces pushing for a speedy US withdrawal), but he is focused on the fight in Iraq and will let the political leadership make the big decisions back in Washington.

Roggio continues his coverage of the good and bad in Iraq:

    Yet another 24 hours have past and there have been no reports of major mass casualty suicide or car bomb attacks in Baghdad or the provinces. The closest incident was a suicide attack which occurred in Tuz Khormato, a town about 130 miles north of Baghdad. Eight were killed and 25 wounded after a suicide attack in a crowded market. The last major attack occurred on Saturday. While the security operation is still in its infancy, and there is much work to be done, the short term signs are encouraging. One item to note: the four year anniversary of the U.S. invasion is coming up next week, and it may be possible al Qaeda in Iraq is conserving its forces for a show of force and the resulting media attention.

Note, that there have been some car bombs in Baghdad in the past 4 days but, thankfully, not *mass casualty* attacks.

Mahdi Army to Lay Down Their Arms?

Take with a large grain of salt. But Sadr is under a lot of pressure. See also
this on how many Mahdi army personnel have been neutralized.

    Coalition forces have detained about 700 members of the Mahdi Army, the largest Shiite militia in Baghdad, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said Monday.

Also it appears we are also putting Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki under a lot of pressure. Again a change from the past. And flies in the face of idiots like John Kerry stating we need to give public deadlines to “motivate the Iraqis.”

    “Al-Maliki is committed to meeting the deadline because he is convinced he would not survive in power without U.S. support,” one Maliki associate said.

It's good that he knows he needs us. That fact is also seeming to drive things like Maliki’s recent move to reshuffle his cabinet and marginalize the extremist elements (like Sadr’s people)

Also on a positive note; Maliki is looking towards reintegrating army officers from the Baathist era in a reconciliation move.

In other Iraqi political news, the small Fadilha party has announced that it is leaving the United Iraqi Alliance and throwing its lot in with Ilyad Allawi’s new National List. This is significant, and generally positive, because Fadilha is part of the UIA (the Shia coalition.) Though we tend to see the Shia as monolithic, they are a diverse group. So far, the Shia have managed to hang together in the Parliament. But the two main parties, SCIRI and Da’wa detest each other. As well you throw in smaller political groupings like the Sadr guys or Fadilha and you have a very diverse tapestry. Breaking up Shia unity in the Parliament offers more opportunities for bargaining and accommodation with the other groups.

Also in Iraqi politics: The Council of Ministers (the Government) has formulated and the Council of Representatives has taken up the much awaited oil law. Hitch gives an overview of why the oil law is important

    To illustrate my point by contrast: Can you easily imagine the Saudi government allocating oil revenues so as to give a fair share to the ground-down and despised Shiite workers who toil, for the most part, in the oil fields of the eastern region of the country?* Or picture the Shiite dictatorship in Iran giving a fair shake to the Arab-speaking area of Khuzestan, let alone to the 10 percent of Iranians who are both Sunni and Kurdish? To ask these questions is to answer them. Control over the production and distribution of oil is the decisive factor in defining who rules whom in the Middle East.

Also Hitch notes in passing something that I continually talk about. The Sunnis have plenty of access to oil, not just the Kurds and Shia. Including untapped reserves in Anbar and the already existing
Eastern Baghdad oil fields!

Did you hear in the NYT that the Georgians are adding 1,700 troops to the Coalition forces in Baghdad? Or just that the British are drawing down 1,600 in a largely pacified area? (Most of those troops are going to Afghanistan by the way. And look at this article by Max Boot on why the Brits simply cannot maintain the same force levels in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They simply don’t have the capacity. Which is frightening in that they are the BEST Europe has to offer.)

Are we getting help from the Saudis? Omar Al Baghdadi seems to think so. Indications of behind the scenes pressure? It's opaque.

    Saudi Arabia is involved in a conspiracy to undermine the project of the Islamic State of Iraq, the group's leader has announced in online remarks, according to a report in Arabic on al-Jazeera Net.

If anything it supports the theory that the popular base in
Anbar and Diyala is turning against AQ

And this article from the
NY Sun

    Six months ago, many of the strategists behind the Sunni insurgency, faced with a more effective counterinsurgency effort, began to wonder just how long they could keep their momentum given their diminishing resources and talent. These strategists realized that their "resistance" would just peter out over time, as classical insurgencies tend to do. Some argued that, given one last push, the Americans would be sufficiently distressed to grab at cease-fire negotiations that would end with a hasty American withdrawal, leaving the insurgents to work things out with a much-weakened Iraqi government on more favorable terms.


Apparently, another high level Iranian military figure has gone missing?

    Three weeks ago the Iranian armed forces command in Teheran lost contact with a senior officer who had been serving in Iraq with the al-Quds unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to a senior Iranian official cited in the Wednesday edition of the London-based Arabic daily al-Sharq al-Awsat

    The Iranian source said that it is still unclear why contact with the officer, Colonel Amir Muhammad Shirazi, was lost. "It is possible that the American forces in Iraq arrested him along with a group of 13 Iranian military and intelligence officials," he said, adding that this is just one of the scenarios being investigated by Tehran.

Victor Davis Hanson talks about fixing our mistakes in Iraq

In fact read the whole dialogue between him and Boot. It’s very enlightening.

And, if you watch one You Tube Video this year – watch this one. I saw this video a few days ago and have meant to comment on it. Hess talks about the moral duty we have to keep faith with those who have trusted us. She also mentions something that gets little play. In that a lot of the violence is criminality and not necessarily politically inspired. It all has political overtones, but a lot is just simple nihilistic crime.
To save you all from having to follow the link, here is Brian Lamb's interview with UPI reporter Pamela Hess on the situation in Iraq.


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