Monday, April 23, 2007

good news iraq weekly report

1) Sunni chiefs in Anbar join mainstream They say they'll form national party, help U.S. image in province Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times Friday, April 20, 2007 (04-20) 04:00 PDT Ramadi, Iraq -- Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq's beleaguered Anbar province said Thursday that they intend to form a national party to oppose such insurgent groups as al Qaeda in Iraq and to re-engage in Iraq's political process. The announcement came after 200 sheikhs said to represent 50 tribes met in Ramadi and agreed to form a provincial sheikhs' council and hold the first convention in May of their new party, called Iraq Awakening. Sheikhs from three other provinces will attend, organizers said. The driving force in the new party, Sheikh Abdul-Sattar abu Risha, said the tribal leaders would be pushing a slate of candidates in Anbar provincial elections later this year, as well in the next round of national parliamentary balloting scheduled for 2009. One purpose of the party, he said, is to promote a better image of U.S.-led forces to the Iraqis in the province. He said tribes also will participate in a U.S.-backed effort to re-establish a court system in Ramadi. U.S. military leaders said they were cheered by the announcement, because cooperation from sheikhs in Anbar province in recent months has contributed to a rise in Iraqi police and army recruitment and a sharp reduction in insurgent attacks on U.S. soldiers and their Iraqi allies. After remaining neutral or in favor of the insurgency that followed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, many Anbar sheikhs eventually grew disenchanted due to the brutality of the foreign-led militants. Sattar said he began organizing sheikhs in September, after his father and three brothers were slain by insurgents. "The terrorists destroyed the network of people and how they communicate, and the new sheikhs' council is here to bring it back and fight the insurgents until they are out of the country," Sattar said. Improved security in Anbar, for which the U.S. military gives strong credit to the evolving views of the region's sheikhs, has been one of the more compelling examples of success in Iraq in recent months as security in Baghdad deteriorated. The sheikhs, who have long served as cultural leaders in Anbar province, felt marginalized by the political system imposed after the 2003 invasion. Some U.S. occupation officials viewed the sheikhs and their hold over extended families as undemocratic. Anbar Gov. Maamoun Sami Rashid al-Alwani said Thursday that the sheikhs marginalized themselves by refusing to participate in Iraq's 2005 elections and, in some cases, supporting the insurgents. But some sheikhs in Ramadi and other parts of Anbar province have established closer links with U.S. armed forces since last year, when they began speaking out against the insurgency and al Qaeda in Iraq. With their encouragement, local tribes have contributed thousands of recruits to Iraq's armed forces in recent months, enabling U.S.-led forces to hold and pacify parts of the restive province. 2) Iraqi insurgents now fighting each other By TODD PITMAN Associated Press Writer April 21 MUQDADIYAH, Iraq — At least two major insurgent groups are battling al-Qaida in provinces outside Baghdad, American military commanders said Friday, an indication of a deepening rift between Sunni guerrilla groups in Iraq. U.S. officers say a growing number of Sunni tribes are turning against al-Qaida, repelled by the terror group's sheer brutality and austere religious extremism. The tribes are competing with al-Qaida for influence and control over diminishing territory in the face of U.S. assaults, the officers say. The influx of Sunni fighters to areas outside the capital in advance of the security crackdown in Baghdad may have further unsettled the region. "This is a big turning point," U.S. Maj. David Baker said Friday in the Diyala provincial capital of Baqouba. "If they are fighting against each other, it's better than them fighting against us." Even Sunnis who want to cooperate with the Shiite-led government are becoming more emboldened to speak out against al-Qaida. In Anbar province, more than 200 Sunni sheiks have decided to form a political party to oppose the terror group, participants said Friday. The clashes have erupted over the last two to three months, pitting al-Qaida in Iraq against the nationalist 1920 Revolution Brigades in Diyala and Salahuddin provinces north of Baghdad as well as Anbar to the west, U.S. officers said. In Diyala, another hard-line militant Sunni group, the Ansar al-Sunna Army, is also fighting al-Qaida, they said. "It's happening daily," Lt. Col. Keith Gogas said Thursday in an interview at an Army base in Muqdadiyah, 60 miles northeast of Baghdad. "Our read on it is that that the more moderate, if you will, Sunni insurgents, are finding that their goals and al-Qaida's goals are at odds." American commanders cite al-Qaida's severe brand of Islam, which is so extreme that in Baqouba, al-Qaida has warned street vendors not to place tomatoes beside cucumbers because the vegetables are different genders, Col. David Sutherland said. Such radicalism has fueled sectarian violence in Iraq and redrawn the demographics of many mixed Sunni-Shiite towns in Diyala, where tens of thousands of Shiites have been forced to flee large population centers. Previously 55 percent Sunni, 45 percent Shiite, Baqouba — where rival insurgents also have clashed — is today 80 percent Sunni and 20 percent Shiite, Sutherland said. The rift among insurgents has also been sparked by reports that some militants have been negotiating with the government and U.S. officials, who are trying to draw Sunni groups away from al-Qaida. Iraqi police and security forces — not Americans — have been negotiating with 1920 Revolution Brigades fighters, who have said "they want some help against al-Qaida," Baker said. "That's a plus for this place, and we're going to try to exploit that," he said. "We're not making allies with anybody ... but we are monitoring what's going on." American officers say the clashes have weakened the insurgency. In the last month in Diyala, 1920 Revolution Brigades fighters eased up attacks on Americans, largely turning their guns on al-Qaida, Baker said. On Tuesday, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who heads al-Qaida's umbrella group Islamic State in Iraq, urged militants in an audiotape to stop spilling each other's blood and unite against American forces and the government. He told rival groups he wanted to end their disagreements and vowed to punish any of his fighters who kill other militants. Then, in a Web video aired Thursday, the Islamic State in Iraq named a 10-member shadow government "Cabinet" in an apparent bid to present the coalition as an alternative to the U.S.-backed, Shiite-led administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In a recent interview on Al-Jazeera TV, Ibrahim al-Shimmari, a spokesman for a rival group, Islamic Army in Iraq, said he did not recognize al-Qaida's claim to constitute a state. He said there could be no state "under crusader occupation" and vowed resistance against both American forces and Iran, which has close ties to the Shiite majority in Iraq. The Islamic Army accuses al-Qaida of killing 30 of its members. Al-Shimmari also accuses al-Qaida of assassinating the leader of the 1920s Revolution Brigades, Harith Dhaher al-Dhari, who died March 27 when gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades on his car outside Baghdad. The Islamic State in Iraq groups eight Sunni insurgent factions, including al-Qaida. Key Sunni insurgent groups are not part of the coalition, including the Islamic Army of Iraq, the Ansar al-Sunna Army and the 1920 Revolution Brigades. Al-Qaida is believed to be mostly made up of non-Iraqi Arab Islamic extremists, and is thought to have formed the umbrella group to build support among the homegrown Iraqi insurgents, who include Islamists and former members of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led regime and military. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, who commands coalition troops north of the capital, said insurgents in Diyala were mostly Iraqis and "very few foreigners" were among them. He said most al-Qaida members in the province were Iraqis. The U.S. officers were unable to say how extensive the clashes have been or how many fighters were killed. Rival insurgent groups have clashed in the southern portions of Salahuddin province and Diyala, where U.S. forces are stepping up operations against insurgents who've gone there in recent months to flee the security crackdown in Baghdad, according to Mixon. Gogas said he first began getting intelligence reports of insurgent infighting in the deserts and farmlands around Muqdadiyah two to three months ago. "We get reports all the time there was a big firefight in this town," said Gogas, adding that the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Ansar al-Sunna Army were fighting al-Qaida separately in villages around Muqdadiyah. In Anbar province, tradition epicenter of the Sunni insurgency, military officials have reported similar clashes. There, as in parts of Diyala, sheiks and tribal leaders have begun turning against Sunni extremists. Last fall, they formed a group called the Anbar Salvation Council, which has grown in recent months and helped reduce violence tremendously in cities like Ramadi, Anbar's capital. In Ramadi on Thursday, more than 200 Sunni sheiks agreed to form a party called Iraq Awakening, said Sheik Jubeir Rashid, a participant at the meeting and an aide to the leader of the Anbar Salvation Council. The group would be a national party, with a platform of opposition to al-Qaida and cooperation with the government, organizers said. "As tribe after tribe begins to reject al-Qaida, we are witnessing an escalation in violence by AQI (al-Qaida in Iraq) against the tribes," said Maj. Jeff Pool, military spokesman for Anbar. "East of Fallujah in the Zaidon and Zoba'a districts ... 1920 Revolution Brigades are fighting large-scale battles with AQI across their tribal areas." Speaking in Baqouba, Mixon said that "less and less of the population, by way of the tribes, is willing to be dominated by these groups because if they are, then the tribe loses its influence in the area." And, "because of pressure we have put on them in certain areas, they have begun vying for control of space and the population," he said. Gogas said some people are tired of fighting."I think what's changed is, time has gone by and it has not gotten better for the normal folks in Iraq," he said. "They have seen what al-Qaida is all about and what al-Qaida brings and they don't like it because they don't see their future getting better." 3) In a Major Step, Saudi Arabia Agrees to Write Off 80 Percent of Iraqi Debt By Steven Mufson and Robin Wright Washington Post Staff Writers Wednesday, April 18, 2007; A18 Saudi Arabia has agreed to forgive 80 percent of the more than $15 billion that Iraq owes the kingdom, Iraqi and Saudi officials said yesterday, a major step given Saudi reluctance to provide financial assistance to the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.But Iraqi Finance Minister Bayan Jabr said in an interview that Russia was holding out on debt forgiveness until talks begin on concessions that Russian oil and gas companies had under Saddam Hussein. Russian Embassy officials in Washington declined to comment late yesterday.The Bush administration has been working for months to persuade other governments to follow the U.S. lead and write off all of their shares of Iraq's debts, which Jabr said total $140 billion. Most of those loans date to Iraq's war with Iran from 1980 to 1988, when the United States, Saudi Arabia and other governments saw Iraq as a buffer against Iran.Iraq also owes $199 billion in compensation for the Persian Gulf War that followed Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, analysts said.The Bush administration wants to make debt restructuring for Iraq a centerpiece of an "international compact" at a meeting of Iraq's neighbors and international aid organizations to be held May 3 and 4 in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, diplomatic sources said. So far 52 countries, including the Paris Club of creditor nations, have canceled between 80 percent and 100 percent of Iraq's debts, Jabr said.Russian President Vladimir Putin in December 2003 announced that he would cancel 65 percent of Iraq's debt, and Jabr said that five months ago Russia said it would cancel 80 percent. But Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaidaie, said Russian officials had recently backtracked from that pledge."They said that discussions would be based on economic relations," the ambassador said. "Those are code words for whether we let them continue with their oil contracts."Jabr, who was in Washington for World Bank meetings, said he met with Saudi officials here and pressed them to write off 100 percent of the debt owed by Iraq. But he was unable to secure that pledge.A senior Saudi official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the kingdom, which is predominantly Sunni, would forgive 80 percent, in line with Paris Club creditors.Iraq and Saudi Arabia can't agree on how much money Iraq owes the kingdom. During the early 1980s, Saudi Arabia sold $7 billion worth of oil on Iraq's behalf and lent Baghdad an additional $9 billion.Jabr said Saudi officials told him that unpaid interest brought that amount up to $39 billion; Jabr said the original agreements said no interest would be owed. The Saudi official estimated the debt at $15 billion to $18 billion. Saudi Arabia has also failed to deliver on a long-standing pledge to provide $1 billion in new aid, Jabr said. Within the past two months, Iran has promised $1 billion and Japan has pledged $3.5 billion in loans on generous terms: 0.4 percent interest over 40 years.Jabr said China agreed to cancel $4 billion in debt and Egypt to cancel $250 million. Talks continue over nearly $10 billion owed in total to Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.Back debts have long been a sensitive topic for Iraq. After a U.N.-brokered cease-fire ended the war with Iran, Iraq was unable to win debt relief from key allies, including Sunni countries in the Gulf and Russia, its primary weapons supplier. That heightened economic tensions that contributed to Iraq's decision to invade oil-rich Kuwait in 1990."Iraq had borrowed heavily to fight Iran and caused damage in Kuwait, so it went through tens of billions in reserves and came out of both more than broke," said Frederick Barton of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. During the dozen years of U.N. sanctions, Iraq's unpaid interest piled up too, he said.Later, in the run-up to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Russia's reluctance to back key U.N. resolutions stemmed in part from concern that a new government in Baghdad would not pay Moscow back.Today, Iraq could never fulfill its financial obligations. They total about $380 billion, Barton said, including unpaid contracts and Gulf War compensation, 40 percent of which is owed to Kuwait.Former secretary of state James A. Baker III won agreement in late 2004 from European countries to cancel 80 percent of Iraqi debt. Previously, the most the Paris Club had ever sliced off a developing country's debt was the 66 percent reduction it adopted for the former Yugoslavia after the ouster of President Slobodan Milosevic.But the Arab governments, particularly Saudi Arabia, have proved harder to win over. "It's tough to get back on your feet when you're paying off from your recovering economy," Barton said. 4) Iraqi oil wealth 'going untapped' Story from BBC Thursday, 19 April 2007, Iraq's oil reserves are significantly untapped and daily production could be doubled within five years, a report has concluded. Iraq is sitting on potential reserves of 100 billion barrels, nearly twice as much as currently estimated, according to a study by energy analysts IHS. If these reserves were exploited, it said, Iraq could overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer. But a major improvement in security and investment was needed, it added. 'Golden opportunity' The IHS survey, which examined Iraq's oil reserves both before and after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, is the most comprehensive conducted since the 2003 invasion. It found that Iraq had known reserves of 116 billion barrels and could be sitting on a further 100 billion barrels. Iraq's reserves are clearly phenomenal Ron Mobed, IHS Current output of two million barrels a day is lower than in early 2003, when three million barrels were being pumped, and almost half that being produced in 1979. However, it said Iraq had the capacity to increase production to four million barrels by 2012 and to further increase that to six million within time. "Iraq's reserves are clearly phenomenal," said Ron Mobed, president and chief operating officer of IHS, adding that they represented a "gold star opportunity". But he stressed that the security situation needed to improve dramatically if the foreign investment needed to improve the country's infrastructure was to materialise. "Obviously the security situation is very bad. But once the infrastructure is in place, the oil will come out of the ground quite cheaply." The report found that Iraq's two main oilfields, at Kirkuk in the north of the country and Rumaila in the south, were operating below capacity. This was partly due to damage caused by the war and previous sanction regimes although Mr Mobed said this was not "irreparable". Earlier this year, the Iraqi government agreed a draft law for how its oil wealth would be shared among different ethnic groups, seen as crucial to encouraging new investment. The proposed law is due to be considered by the Iraqi parliament shortly, although the Kurdish region rejects some of the proposals. 5) Pentagon: Iraq violence diminishing WASHINGTON April 20 (UPI) -- Despite Wednesday's spectacular attacks in Baghdad, U.S. military officials say Baghdad and the rest of Iraq are getting better rather than worse. They base their assessment on the last six weeks compared to the previous six weeks, before U.S. and Iraqis forces began the Baghdad security plan. According to Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero, the deputy director of operations on the Joint Staff, sectarian murders have dropped. Civilian casualties and the number of attacks on civilians are down by approximately 50 percent in Baghdad. Across Iraq, civilian casualties are down by 24 percent with attacks against civilians dropping by about 17 percent countrywide. Only in north-central Iraq -- the area stretching from Mosul to northern Baghdad, including Baquba -- has there been an increase in casualties, he said. "We are not seeing an expansion of violence to other areas outside Baghdad," Barbero said. But those gains are undermined by two spectacular attacks, the suicide bomber who detonated his explosives last week inside the Green Zone convention center where Iraq's parliament meets, and the coordinated car bomb attacks Wednesday that killed more than 100 and wounded over 137 Iraqi civilians, most of them shopping at an outdoor market. The attacks are being attributed to al-Qaida in Iraq, a Sunni insurgent group Barbero said is trying to incite more sectarian killings. Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said the attacks were a blow to morale. 6) Marines in Anbar Express Optimism to Gates By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq, April 19, 2007 – Marine leaders here told Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that they are “cautiously optimistic” about the situation in Anbar province during a briefing today. Gates called the situation in the once very violent province, “a good news story,” during a news conference afterward. “(Anbar) is a place where the Iraqis have decided to take control of their future and the sheiks have played a key role in making good things happen out here,” Gates said, “along with the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army with our help.” While Gates was attending meetings and briefings, Brig. Gen. Mark Gurganus, ground combat element commander for Multinational Force West, spoke with press traveling with Gates. Gurganus said conditions in Anbar have turned for the better. He said violence is down, tribal leaders and sheikhs of the province are signing on with the government, and the Iraqis are taking on the security mission in the province. He also said construction projects are moving ahead, and that bodes well for the long-term security of the province. Provincial and local governments are embracing rule of law initiatives. Two years ago, the only policeman in the province was the police chief of Fallujah. “Today, we’ve got about 11,500 police on the rolls right now and about another 2,000 that will become what we would consider county sheriffs back in the United States,” he said. The province has two Iraqi Army divisions that are gaining strength and are recruiting from the local Sunni population. Gurganus said the last three basic combat training classes have been full of local recruits. There has been a lot of progress on the governance side, he said. The governor and provincial council chair recently walked through the streets of Ramadi, a feat unthinkable seven months ago. Last year at this time, there were 84 attacks in Ramadi per week. Now the number is around six. Last year, there were four forward operating bases in Ramadi. There are now 32 Joint Security Stations manned by coalition and Iraqi security forces. There are nine police stations with 29 substations in the city. “The police presence in Ramadi is the biggest thing that turned the city around,” said Maj. Jeff Pool, public affairs officer for 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force here. For the past four years, coalition forces have worked to pacify the province. All that effort is starting to pay off now, Gurganus said. The sheikhs of the province are fully behind the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq, he said. The terrorist group frankly scared the sheikhs with their violent tactics against fellow Muslims. With the sheikhs concurrence, recruiting for police and the Army boomed. Gurganus said key leaders in the Iraqi army and police are stepping forward and doing better in developing the soldiers and police on the beat. Some spots in the province are rougher than others, he said. Things are far better in Ramadi and Hit than they were a year ago. Both cities have police and Army presence. The area around Haditha and Haqlaniyah still causes problems, but the recent surge of coalition troops has allowed more troops to be deployed to hold the area, and the Haditha Triangle is starting to come around. In Al Qaim – a city on the Syrian border – the picture is very bright, Gurganus said. “We’re looking forward to the opening of the port of entry with Syria in late July or early August,” he said. More can be done, he said. About half the promised plus-up of coalition troops have arrived, the general said. The additional troops allowed the coalition to place forces in every major population center in Anbar. The province is almost the size of Utah – 84,000 square miles. “Even with additional troops you can’t be in every place, all the time,” he said. More than 90 percent of the people of the province live within five miles of the banks of the Euphrates River. Insurgents can be contained. “As long as they stay out of the population centers they are not able to carry out their murder and intimidation campaign,” Gurganus said. “As long as they don’t have a firm hold on the population centers, then they don’t have much of an insurgency.” Operations in Baghdad are causing some “squirting” of insurgents out of the city, he said. “We’re positioned pretty well to handle the squirters coming out of Baghdad and we’re also positioned to stop further insurgents from going in to the city,” he said. “We deal with them here so they don’t have to deal with them in Baghdad.” Drawing down forces in the province now would have an adverse impact on the gains made. While the situation here is much better than in the past, Gurganus said he is still cautious. “I don’t want to jump up on the bandwagon and say everything is done and we’re just waiting around now,” he said. “There are still problems that we need to confront. We’re doing some awful good things with the troops we have here now.” During his visit to Fallujah, Gates today met with a number of U.S. military leaders, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Adm. William Fallon, commander of U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander Multinational Force Iraq, and Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander Multinational Corps Iraq. 7) Iraqi Soldiers Get Ready to Lead Combat Patrols CAMP TAJI, Iraq, April 20, 2007 - The general in charge of leading the Iraqi efforts in Operation Fardh Al-Qanoon, also known as the Baghdad security plan, paid a visit here April 17 to meet with troops from the newly established 3rd Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized). 8) Baghdad Primary School to Hold 900 Students BAGHDAD, April 20, 2007 Youngsters in north Baghdad will soon be able to attend school right in their own community. Local Iraqi leaders identified the need for a school and the U.S. military unit there funded it. Construction on the 1,250-square-meter two-story facility was started last year and should be completed mid-May. Currently, it’s 95 percent finished.Andy May, project engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Central District, has been overseeing a variety of essential service projects in Baghdad Province over the past four years. “We’re making a difference in people’s lives. You can see it in the pride the Iraqi workers have continued to display throughout the construction of that facility." Andy May, project engineer “I’ve been involved with many things, but the school is right at the top of the list,” said May. “We’re making a difference in people’s lives. You can see it in the pride the Iraqi workers have continued to display throughout the construction of that facility. It’s their children, nephews and nieces, and other kids residing in that neighborhood who will be going to school there.“They know how important that structure is and what it will mean to their community for decades to come,” he said. “For many families the nearest school was simply too far for their children to go. Now, a whole new chapter of opportunities is opening for them.”Lt. j.g. Robert McCharen, who is the Army Corps of Engineers officer in charge of the area, says the 23-classroom facility will be capable of handling up to 900 students, both boys and girls, ages 6 through 12. It also contains a 90-square-meter four-room guardhouse. 9) Soldiers in Baqouba Keep Pressure on Al-Qaida in Iraq Story by Sgt. Antonieta Rico Posted on 04.20.2007 at 01:30PM BAQOUBA, Iraq — Soldiers with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment continued their systematic attack on terrorist forces in Baqouba with another clearing operation in the city, April 10. In this latest effort, Soldiers of 5-20 Inf. Regt., 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash., spent three days clearing the neighborhood of Buhriz, described by Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Bruce Antonia as “al-Qaida’s battleground.” When the Stryker battalion first arrived in Baqouba in March, it encountered resistance from the neighborhood’s insurgents in the form of roadside bombs, rocket propelled grenade fire and small arms fire. During the mission, Soldiers operating alongside Iraqi security forces conducted house-to-house searches for terrorists and weapon caches. They learned from residents that many terrorists had fled Buhriz in the face of the advancing battalion. “We’ve pushed al-Qaida out of here,” said Sgt. Matthew Benzshawel, with 2nd Platoon, Company A. “We are a pretty lethal force. When (insurgents) see a battalion worth of Strykers coming, (they) usually move out.” Nonetheless, the battalion reported that coalition forces detained about a dozen suspected insurgents, including one man described by the unit as a “high-level” terrorist.The battalion also reported that it found and destroyed more than 20 small weapon caches, which included a Dishka machine gun, grenades, mortar rounds, rocket propelled grenade rounds, sniper rifles, AK-47’s and ammunition. Soldiers from the battalion say they have managed to make the area safer for the local people with their continuous efforts against al-Qaida in Iraq. “We’ve denied them the terrain,” said 1st Lt. James Dobis, 2nd Platoon leader, Company A. “They have not been fighting with anybody, they have not attacked us … they have not attacked any civilians.”The assault into Buhriz served as a catalyst to secure a foothold in the area. Iraqi security forces, along with Soldiers from Troop B, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, which is attached to 5-20 Inf. Regt., plan to maintain a permanent presence within the neighborhood by collocating troops at an Iraqi police station in Buhriz and continuing to patrol the area. Battalion leaders plan to continue their assault on al-Qaida in and around Baqouba. “We have taken their battleground,” said Antonia, after the operation. “We are going to keep the pressure on the enemy. That is the only way to push them out.” 10) Spreading the wings of democracy Iraqi Family Village holds open forum at first town hall meeting April 22, 2007 by Spc. Abel Trevino 28th Public Affairs Detachment The Iraqi Family Village city council held an open forum for citizens to discuss important issues at its first town hall meeting April 14. Attendees at the meeting brought up problems they have been having with electricity, sewage, employment, medical care and security. “Some of the issues that came up, we’re not able to solve right off the bat,” said Capt. Joe Anthony Vargas, company commander, Task Force Vigilant, 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. “We have to resolve them through the different (governmental) ministries.” The town hall meeting was held and managed by elected citizens of the village who make up the city council, with American Soldiers playing a minor part in maintaining security for the event and answering questions the council was unable to. One of the issues that was a concern to both villagers and Coalition Forces is a hole in a wall that bypasses Iraqi Army – enforced security checkpoints. The townsfolk wanted the convenience of it, but also the security offered by the checkpoints without the hassle of going through the checkpoints, Vargas said. “Iraqi Army soldiers are providing security at the gates and as long as there is another way to get in, security at the gates is useless,” Vargas said. After his speech, the villagers voted to close the hole in the wall. Vargas also explained how the contracting system works and what he could and could not promise the villagers in terms of reasonable expectations of assistance. “We can only offer so many jobs every time we sign a contract,” he told them. “It is impossible to employ the entire village in one contract. I apologize if you are not hearing what you want to hear.” Reassurance from the soldiers was not why the Iraqis attended the meeting. “Probably the biggest thing to come out of the meeting, for the people and the council, is the understanding of what Capt. Joe Vargas, commander, Task Force Vigilant, 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, addresses villagers from Iraqi Family Village during their first town hall meeting regarding security and employment issues. 11) New vehicles protect Marines in 300 attacks By Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY In more than 300 attacks since last year, no Marines have died while riding in new fortified armored vehicles the Pentagon hopes to rush to Iraq in greater numbers this year, a top Marine commander in Anbar province said. Brig. Gen. John Allen, deputy commander of coalition forces in Anbar province, said the Marines have tracked attacks on the vehicles since January 2006. The vehicles' raised, V-shaped hulls deflect the force of blasts from homemade bombs buried in roadways. There's been an average of less than one injured Marine per attack on the vehicles, Allen said. There have been 1,100 attacks on coalition vehicles during the period in Anbar province, the heart of the Sunni Muslim insurgency. Attacks on other vehicles caused more than two casualties per attack, including deaths, Allen said. The Marines provided statistics for injuries involving the new vehicles, but they did not release the number of deaths involving Humvees. The Marines do not release causes of death because they do not want to give the enemy combat intelligence. Pentagon casualty records show that of the 60 combat deaths this month in Iraq, 35 troops have been killed by homemade bombs, which the Pentagon calls improvised explosive devices (IEDs). None was a Marine. At least 16 of the dead were riding in Humvees, according to records and published reports. IEDs are responsible for 70% of U.S. casualties in Iraq, Pentagon records show. The Marines operate about 100 of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and want an additional 3,000 MRAPs in Anbar province. Marine Corps Commandant James Conway told the Joint Chiefs of Staff last month that he wants to require every Marine traveling outside bases to ride in the MRAPs. "It's a great vehicle in term of protecting troops," Allen said.Congress wants more money to buy the vehicles this year. The Senate version of the emergency Pentagon spending bill being debated by Congress would include $4 billion to buy the vehicles. The vehicles "can and will save lives," says Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who pushed an amendment for an additional $1.5 billion for the vehicles through the Senate last month. The new vehicles "are a dramatic improvement in the odds of survival" for U.S. troops, he said. The Pentagon needs more than $8 billion this year and next to pay for about 7,700 vehicles. In January, it issued contracts with nine companies to develop and build the vehicles.The vehicles' safety is enhanced, Allen said, by raising their hulls a few feet off the ground where the force of a buried bomb is concentrated. Humvees, by contrast, have a lower center of gravity and are thinly protected on the bottom.The Army, which has most of the 145,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, will have about 1,800 of the vehicles in Iraq by December. It has other armored vehicles, such as tanks, and intends to continue to operate armored Humvees because they are more mobile than MRAPs. 12) Forget 2007: for Iraqi Assyrians this is 6757;_ylt=Ak7rMzuSkpDJpap1PEN2qo_2_sEF by Abdulhamid Zebari Descendants of Iraq's ancient Assyrians are enjoying 12 days of parties and parades to celebrate their New Year, a pagan rite that glorifies resurrection and life and dates back millennia. Forget 2007 -- this is 6757 for Assyrian Christians whose ancestors carved the cradle of civilisation, ruling the magnificent Assyrian and Babylonian empires before scattering into an ever-dwindling minority across the Middle East.Flocking to the relative haven of Iraqi Kurdistan rather than the ancient capitals of Nineveh and Babylon, which are awash with violence in modern-day Iraq, Assyrians began the most important event in their calendar on April 1.Wearing colourful traditional dress, men, women and children parade through the streets and dance, hailing the arrival of spring, budding trees and blossoming flowers in early seasonal warmth before the punishing heat of summer."We will celebrate for 12 days as we did in Babylon and Ashur," said Nissan Beghazi, chairman of the Assyrian Cultural Centre in the city of Dohuk, which is this year a focal point of celebrations for the first time.Officially banned by successive regimes in Baghdad, including under the late Saddam Hussein, Assyrian Christians in northern Iraq have openly celebrated their new year in autonomous Kurdistan since the 1991 Gulf War. "Celebrations are being held in Dohuk with people coming from Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk. For security reasons it was difficult to do that on the Nineveh plain," said Akad Murad, spokesman for the Assyrian Democratic Movement.The festivities began on April 1 with a parade outside the Virgin Mary Church in Dohuk -- a far cry from the private and secretive manner in which Assyrians say greetings were exchanged under Saddam.Holding flags and colourful feather plumes, men in black hats thronged the streets with women kitted out in traditional beaded headdress and flowered dresses, as onlookers and their children looked on. The traditional line-up also includes parties and gathering to listen to poets who recite the story of creation.Another custom still practised in Chaldean-Assyrian villages is planting wheat or barley seeds in vases some weeks before April, putting them on the window sill, and watching seedlings grow as a symbol of new life. 14) New Generation IED Jammer Arrives April 18, 2007: The United States has developed a new generation jammer for roadside bombs. In the next year, 10,000 CREW (counter radio-controlled IED electronic warfare) jammers will be delivered to the troops. EDO Communications, the manufacturer, has been providing such equipment since 2003. EDO first developed the Warlock electronic jammer, to prevent the enemy from setting off IEDs. Warlock is currently the most common jammer in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Warlock has gone through many revisions, to add more frequencies and better software. Rolling along in a convoy, with one or more jammers broadcasting, the troops have an electronic "bubble" that made them safe from an IED they had not spotted. It's not uncommon for vehicles to have had an IED go off behind them, the result of the IED detonation crew continuing to send the signal, believing that there might be something wrong with their equipment. In those cases, the patrol often turns around and goes looking for the enemy team.In addition to jammers like CREW and Warlock, several of the U.S. Air Force and Navy electronic warfare aircraft are able to perform the same functions, but over a wider area. This was often used when American troops were in action against the enemy, shutting down IED detonation over the entire combat area, as U.S. troops moved around seeking out and fighting the enemy. One problem with the jamming was that it killed cell phone operation, as well as use of many other remote electronic devices Iraqi civilians in the area might be trying to use. The Iraqis complain to each other, but asking the U.S. troops to shut it off would be futile, so they don't. The CREW jammer has lots of new features, most of which are secret. Terrorist groups have tried to find ways around the jammer, but have been unsuccessful. Most roadside bombs are now set off via a wire connection between the detonator and a nearby guy pressing a button. This has caused more terrorist casualties, and generally made it more difficult for the bombers. The big improvement in CREW is that it is easier to add new frequencies, and the jammer interferes less with other military communications and sensors. 15) Diwaniyah “returning to normal, step by step” DIWANIYAH — The provincial governor of Qadasiyah Province, Iraqi and Coalition commanders and government representatives met with the media to discuss the progress of Operation Black Eagle at Camp Echo April 13. “There is no fighting going on in the city at this time. The city is returning to normal, step by step,” governor Hazma said. “The local government and Iraqi Army along with Coalition Forces have been able to begin providing aid, food rations, fuel and other services to those who are in need,” he added. “Health, water, sewage and other departments are working and providing services. “It isn’t to the point we want, but it is a good start and it is getting better all the time,” the governor said. “Every school and government facility will be open Monday.” Hazma praised the Diwaniyah populace for supporting the operation and said security in and around the city has improved as a result. “The only way our city will get better is through a joint effort with our friends in the Iraqi Army and Coalition,” said Hamza. Efforts are on-going to improve the security situation in Diwaniyah, according to the commanding general of the 8th Iraqi Army Division, Maj. Gen. Oothman Faroud. “Yesterday we toured the city for about four hours,” he said. “We decided to establish two additional check points in key neighborhoods to ensure security for those areas. “We talked to a lot of people and all of them assured us of their support and thanked us for our help,” the general continued. “We have also reestablished the flow of food and other humanitarian aid in to the city.” The 8th Iraqi Army Division commander also discussed the reasons why the Coalition force is still supporting his division in Operation Black Eagle. “We still depend on the Coalition to provide technical support and expertise to help us find and remove [improvised explosive devices],” he told the assembled media members. “They have removed dozens since Black Eagle began. We also depend on their helicopters to give us air support, at times.” Coalition support to Operation Black Eagle was headed up by the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, commanded by Col. Michael Garrett. Garrett praised the partnership created during the operation and the success of the mission. “We have arrested many of the men responsible for attacks against Diwaniyah and Camp Echo thanks to the help of the citizens of Diwaniyah,” Garrett said. “If Maj. Gen. Oothman ever needs me, I will be here for him. If the people of Diwaniyah ever need me, I will be here for them and I will be here fast.” Iraqi Police officers are also taking part in the security operation. Brig. Gen. Sadiq Jafar Ali, the provincial police chief, discussed his plan to improve the quality of the Iraqi Police in the province. “We are preparing to hire an additional 3,000 policemen,” he said. “We are receiving new equipment all the time and thanks to the Coalition we are receiving excellent training.” Sadiq said as he looks to the future he is optimistic. “All of these things will help the Provincial Iraqi Control process along,” he said. 16) Iraq to take control of fourth province By Agence France-Presse AFP April 19 Iraqi security forces are set to take control from foreign troops of a fourth province in the violence-plagued country this month, Iraqi and British officials said on Thursday."The timetable for our armed forces to receive national responsibility is accelerating. And this month, multi-national forces will transfer security responsibility to the authorities in Maysan," a statement from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office said."The prime minister hereby authorises the governor of Maysan to receive security responsibility from the multinational forces in another achievement for the people of the province."British Lieutenant Colonel Kavin Stratford-Wright confirmed that troops were working towards transferring Iraqi control in the southern province of Maysan, which shares a border with Iran, in April."That transfer to provincial Iraqi control is projected to be this month. At that point, the responsibility is theirs and we'd only intervene in a security situation at their request," he told AFP from the southern city of Basra where British troops are based."This is a positive thing. We're pleased the Iraqi prime minister has made this decision. It's an indication of further progress in the south," he said.Maysan province will be the fourth out of Iraq's 18 provinces handed over to Iraqi security control and the third transferred by British-led troops since July.In August, British troops had handed over security in Amara, the capital of Maysan, but retained other regions of the province.Stratford-Wright said multinational troops would continue to be in Maysan and would also retain forces on the border after the transfer.Prime Minister Tony Blair told parliament in February that the number of British troops would likely drop to 5,000 by the end of the year, compared to about 7,200 deployed in the country today. 19) Iraqi tankers take on first mission Monday, 16 April 2007 CAMP TAJI — Iraqi Army tankers took the lead on their first real mission by conducting a mounted patrol in their T-55 tanks on a major highway near Kem, Iraq Thursday. IA Soldiers from the1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized) went on a joint mission with U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment and searched for insurgents who would endanger the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians.Leading up to the patrol, the Iraqi Army tankers received training for more than three months from Soldiers of the Company C “Cobras” from 2-8 Cavalry.The training included maintenance on T-55 tanks; instruction on how to drive the tanks, gunnery on all the various tank weapons systems, and other instructions concerning combat operations.“They’ve really come a long way,” said Capt. Nels Hanson, commander ofCobra Company. “We’re hoping to empower them more and more each day and this week we’ll continue taking them on more patrols. We’ll do this for several days as we want them to gain confidence as they continue becoming more competent at doing this.”Hanson said he sees this first patrol as a small step toward opening doors of self-reliance for the Iraqi Army as they continue to take over responsibility for their area of operations. “Eventually, they will be able to fully take over in their areas of responsibility and it’s a good opportunity to get more IA troops into the fight and less U.S. Soldiers into the fight,” Hanson said. Hanson said one of the keys to success were Iraqi platoon leaders who assisted his Soldiers with training the Iraqi tankers.“Many of them had served in the Army under the previous regime,” saidHanson. “We explained to them how we wanted to see the training conducted and they did an excellent job in executing the training and being involved in the day-to-day activities.” Although, the day’s mission found no insurgent activity, it was a great example of the progress the IA tankers have made and the future that is to come.“We’re very proud of them, they’re very motivated and we were happy to see them out there,” said Capt. Wes Durham, who works with the military transition team for 2-8 Cavalry. “The next step will be integrating them into more complex missions.”“It feels good to share in this milestone,” said Spc. Jason Aschenbrenner, a humvee gunner and infantryman with Cobra Company. “The Iraqi troops just keep getting better at their jobs and they show that they really do care about the security of their people.” In other developments throughout Iraq: Coalition forces detained 17 suspected terrorists including a reported al-Qaeda in Iraq military emir during operations early Saturday morning. Coalition forces captured 14 suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists during operations early Friday morning. 20) Iraqi Army Grows in Strength, Size, To Apply Security Plan By RIAD KAHWAJI, ISLAMABAD The new security plan for Baghdad is succeeding and will be expanded to other cities when the Iraqi Army gets more troops and gear, according to the land forces’ chief of Iraq’s Armed Forces. “The Baghdad security operation is very successful, and the situation in the capital is much better than before, although it is not yet complete,” Lt. Gen. Ali Ghaidan said at the Land Forces Symposium held April 9-10 at the National Defense University here. Representatives from 21 countries attended the conference. Ghaidan spoke during a week in which a truck bomb destroyed one of Baghdad’s seven major bridges, and a suicide bomber killed at least eight people in the Iraqi parliament’s cafeteria inside the fortified Green Zone.But there are signs of hope as well, according to a U.S. official who told reporters that civilian deaths had declined 26 percent from February to March.Code-named Fard Al-Kanoon, which is Arabic for “law enforcement,” the effort began in early February with the announcement that an additional five U.S. brigades — 21,500 troops — would be deployed to Iraq by June.Coalition forces now in Baghdad include three U.S. brigades, nearly the size of one division; three Iraqi Army divisions; and three police divisions, Ghaidan said. The Iraqi and Multinational Forces are operating under one joint command, with smaller joint commands overseeing security inside Baghdad districts, he said. “Permanent installations of joint Iraqi-U.S. security stations have been set up in the cleared area to enforce security there and prevent the return of gunmen,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Fox, communications division chief for the Multinational Force Iraq. While sectarian killings and bombings have decreased in the capital, attacks by insurgents and terrorists have increased elsewhere. Next: Diyala, Anbar The first city outside Baghdad to have the same kind of security plan will be Diyala, a mixed Sunni-Shiite city that has seen a steady increase in violence by people who fled Baghdad because of the new security plan. “We want to clear Diyala and then move to the cities of the Anbar province” in western Iraq, said Ghaidan. “We will have enough troops to do the job in the coming months.” Local tribes in Anbar — ones who “have grown sick and tired of the abuses and killings of the Islamic militants,” he said — have already begun to mount campaigns to drive out al-Qaida terrorists. Ghaidan said the Iraqi military is providing intelligence and other support to the tribes. “We have formed joint commands with the tribal leaders for intelligence sharing and backing, but we will not supply them with arms to avoid the creation of armed militias that might turn against the authorities after al-Qaida’s threat is eliminated,” Ghaidan said. “Tribal leaders are now pointing us towards al-Qaida hideouts.”At least one analyst applauded the idea. “If the tribes receive enough backing from the Iraqi military forces, they would succeed in defeating al-Qaida in Anbar,” said Jaafar Al-Taie, a Baghdad-based geopolitical analyst. Efforts are under way to rebuild the Iraqi Army, with more arms and equipment to be delivered in the next few months, Fox and Ghaidan said.“We have now eight divisions that are at a second-level state of readiness, meaning that they have full manpower, light weapons and some logistical capabilities, but lack heavy weapons and support units, like artillery,” the Iraqi general said. Two more divisions should become operational in June, and their M60 main battle tanks, M113 armored personnel carriers and other mostly U.S.- and Western-built heavy weapons will arrive in the second half of the year.“The objective is to have 10 divisions — six infantry, three mechanized and one armored — fully ready and equipped,” Ghaidan said. “The armament process has been slow, but it seems to be picking up at the moment and we hope it is complete soon.”One U.S. Army official said medium and heavy weapons, which are needed only to repel foreign threats, were given a lower procurement priority than internal-security gear. “Once security in Iraq is established, then we can move to completing the armament of the Iraqi Army,” the official said. Ghaidan said an Iraqi military committee is in charge of procurement; the U.S. military is just providing advice. • 21) Report: Iraqi militants hunting al-Qaida Published: April 16, 2007 at 6:42 AM BAGHDAD, April 16, 2007 (UPI) -- Armed militants in Iraq have sought the Baghdad government's permission to hunt down members of al-Qaida, the country's official newspaper reported. "Negotiations have taken place between the government and armed groups as part of the reconciliation process. Positive outcome is near," the al-Sabah newspaper reported Monday. At least three groups were reportedly in negotiations with the government and Iraqi military, a correspondent for Kuwait's KUNA news agency reported. The report said they included Islamic Army in Iraq, the 1920s Revolution Brigades, al-Fatah Brigades and the al-Rashedeen Army. Earlier, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani said five other armed groups had expressed willingness to lay down arms and get involved in the political process, the report said. 22) Caches of nitric acid seized in Baghdad By Sharon Behn THE WASHINGTON TIMES Published April 16, 2007 BAGHDAD - U.S. troops said yesterday that they had found two large caches of nitric acid a highly corrosive substance with chemical weapons potential in abandoned houses used by Sunni insurgents in western Baghdad. Other chemically laced bombs used in terrorist attacks recently have been spiked with chlorine. Acting on a tip from neighbors, members of the Stryker Brigade's Alpha Company found 31 barrels of nitric acid Saturday in the walled-off front yard of a house that had been raided less than two weeks earlier. Members of the same company were clearing another abandoned house a few hundred yards away when they found an additional two 5-gallon containers of nitric acid. They also discovered four 50-pound bags of an unknown powder, artillery casings filled with the powder, several buckets for mixing, zinc oxide and benzene. Nitric acid "is one of the chemicals used to make homemade explosives," said Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Wallace, battalion medic for the 2nd battalion, 3rd infantry regiment of the 3-2 Stryker Brigade. "It's an acid and causes chemical burns to the skin and burns the lungs and esophagus if it is inhaled," Sgt. Wallace told The Washington Times. Capt. Jon Fursman of the Stryker Alpha Company said that eight men had been arrested at the first house and that neighbors had alerted U.S. forces to the chemicals."All were clearly labeled in English, with standard hazmat labels," said Capt. Fursman. The finds came amid unremitting terrorist attacks to defeat a two-month-old U.S. effort to pacify Baghdad with thousands of additional U.S. troops. 23) Iraqi Police continue to improve safety in Baghdad neighborhood 17 April 2007 24) Friends, Enemies and Spoilers months in, the consequences of the surge. by Frederick W. Kagan 04/30/2007, Volume 012, The new effort to establish security in Iraq has begun. At this early stage, the most important positive development is a rise in hostility to al Qaeda in the Sunni community. Al Qaeda has responded with its own "surge" in spectacular attacks, which so far has not revived support for the terrorists or reignited sectarian violence. The Coalition has also made unexpectedly rapid progress in reducing the power of Moktada al-Sadr, including killing or capturing more than 700 members of his Mahdi Army. At the same time, the rhetoric of the Iraqi government has changed dramatically, and there are early indications of an increased willingness to attempt reconciliation among Iraq's Arabs. Meanwhile, some challenges are intensifying. Diyala province in particular poses serious problems that do not admit of easy or rapid solutions. On balance, there is reason for wary optimism. President Bush announced the new strategy on January 10, and shortly thereafter named General David Petraeus overall commander of Coalition military forces in Iraq. His mission: establishing security for the Iraqi people and only secondarily transitioning to full Iraqi control and responsibility. In January, five new Army brigade combat teams started reaching Iraq at the rate of one a month. An additional division headquarters to assist with command and control and an additional combat aviation brigade are also headed to Iraq, along with logistics, military police, and other enablers. No timeline for the increased American presence has been announced, although public comments suggest it will last at least through the fall and probably into early 2008. Activation warnings to National Guard brigades and the extension of the tours of Army brigades already in Iraq from 12 to 15 months, issued in April, would make such an extension possible. The new strategy resulted from a combination of Iraqi proposals and discussions within the Bush administration and among American commanders. The collaborative nature of the plan led to the creation of dual chains of command: American forces report to Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I), and from him to Petraeus. Iraqi forces, both army and police, report through their own commanders to one of two division commanders (one on either side of the Tigris River, which divides Baghdad). Those commanders report to Lieutenant General Abboud Gambar, commander of Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (Enforcing the Law), the Iraqi name for what we call the Baghdad Security Plan. Gambar reports to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. This bifurcation of command poses significant challenges of coordination, but Generals Petraeus, Odierno, and Gambar have developed tactics that mitigate them. The new plan pushes most U.S. forces out into the population. Americans and Iraqis are establishing Joint Security Stations and Joint Combat Outposts throughout Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers eat, sleep, and plan together in these outposts and then conduct mounted and dismounted patrols continually, day and night, throughout their assigned neighborhoods. In Joint Security Stations I visited in the Hurriya neighborhood, in the Shiite Khadimiya district, American and Iraqi soldiers sleep in nearly adjoining rooms with unlocked and unguarded doors between them. They receive and evaluate tips and intelligence together, plan and conduct operations together, and evaluate their results jointly. Wherever they go, they hand out cards with the telephone numbers and email addresses of local "tip lines" that people can call when they see danger in the neighborhood. Tips have gone up dramatically over the past two months, from both Sunnis and Shiites, asking for help and warning of IEDs and other attacks being prepared against American and Iraqi forces. People have also called the tip lines to say thanks when a dangerous individual was removed from the streets. Most of the military operations of recent months have been laying the groundwork for clear-and-hold operations that will be the centerpiece of the new plan. Coalition and Iraqi forces have targeted al Qaeda and other Sunni insurgent cells in Baghdad, in their bases around the capital, and in Anbar, Salahaddin, and Diyala provinces. They have established positions throughout Baghdad and swept a number of neighborhoods in a preliminary fashion. They have begun placing concrete barriers around problematic neighborhoods to restrict access and change traffic flow to support future operations. Targeted raids have removed a number of key leaders from the Shiite militias as well, reducing the effectiveness of Sadr's organization, which was already harmed by his hasty departure for Iran early this year. Over the past weeks as the enemy has responded, preparatory operations have shifted their focus. Generals Odierno and Petraeus sent reinforcements to the towns south of Baghdad to intensify efforts against al Qaeda bases there, and they sent more troops into Diyala province as the magnitude of the challenges there became clear. These adaptations are a normal part of military operations. They reflect a determination by the U.S. command not to allow the enemy to establish new safe havens when it has been driven out of old ones. Major clear-and-hold operations are scheduled to begin in late May or June, and will take weeks to complete, area by area. After that, it may be many more weeks before their success at establishing security can be judged. General Petraeus has said he will offer an evaluation of progress in the fall. Even that evaluation, however, can only be preliminary. Changes in popular attitudes, insurgent capabilities, and the capacities of the Iraqi government and its armed forces take months, not weeks, to develop and manifest themselves. Premature judgments influenced by a week's headlines, whether positive or negative, are unwise. Enemies and Spoilers The United States and the government of Iraq are at war with a cluster of enemies: Al Qaeda in Iraq, affiliated Islamist groups, and determined Sunni insurgents who wish to overthrow the elected government. In addition, they face a number of "spoilers" who have played an extremely negative role so far and could derail progress if not properly managed: Shiite militias, criminal gangs, Iranian agents, and negative political forces within the Iraqi government. The distinction between enemies and spoilers is important. Enemies must be defeated; in the case of al Qaeda and other Islamists, that almost invariably means capturing or killing them. Spoilers must be managed. It is neither possible nor desirable to kill or capture all the members of the Mahdi Army or the Badr Corps. Dealing with those groups requires a combination of force and politics. Bad leaders and the facilitators of atrocities must be eliminated, but reducing popular support for these groups' extremism, coopting moderates within their ranks, and drawing some of their fighters off into more regular employment are political tasks. American and Iraqi leaders have been using both force and politics to manage these challenges. Enemies and spoilers have responded to the Baghdad Security Plan in different ways. Al Qaeda and the other Islamist groups have increased their large-scale attacks, not only in Baghdad but also in Tal Afar, Mosul, Anbar, and Diyala. These groups rely on suicide bombings to attract international media attention and to create an exaggerated narrative of continuous violence throughout the country. They also hope to reignite the sectarian violence that raged through much of 2006. In this hope they have so far been disappointed. Within days of the bombing of the al-Askariya Mosque in February 2006, 33 mosques were attacked in retaliation, hundreds of civilians were murdered, and Baghdad suffered seven vehicle bombings; within a week, there were more than 21 peaceful protests of over 1,000 people each across the country. Reprisals for the recent spate of spectacular attacks have been much more modest. Sectarian killings began to drop dramatically in January, and remain well below their December levels (although they are now somewhat higher than at the start of the current operations). The continuing terror campaign in Iraq is both tragic and worrisome, but it has not yet restarted the widespread sectarian conflict that was raging as recently as the end of last year.

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