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Turning of the Tide in Iraq?

[COMMENT: There is something about freedom which cuts through the bondages of even the worst tyrants.  There is a common sense in most people which impels them to live above their religion or philosophy. 

But Bush & Co. are badly mistaken in trying to establish a "liberal democracy".  What we need to do is learn how to talk about a Biblical democratic republic under God.  We cannot do it even here in America, how could we do it with the Muslims???  But the day is coming.... when we will know how to talk about the only kind of freedom which is real and can be sustained.   E. Fox]
 

Sarah Baxter Washington, Marie Colvin and Samir al Bassam, Baghdad

KARADEH used to be an affluent shopping area of Baghdad. It boomed for a while after the American invasion as goods flooded into Iraq after years of sanctions. But as sectarian violence intensified, the store fronts became shuttered and shell-pocked.

In a vote of confidence in the surge by US troops, the shops were reopening last week. Hareth Salah, a 24-year-old student, said he had stopped attending courses at his technical college when the surge began last month.

“One of my friends was killed by the terrorists,” he said, “but now there are a lot more Iraqi army checkpoints and I’m feeling more secure. I feel better; I can go out and do my shopping. More people have opened their stores and the markets are open longer.”

As the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war approaches on Tuesday, progress remains uncertain but trends are hopeful.

“This is a bit of a rollercoaster ride,” said General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq. “You’re trying to do what is necessary to keep the rollercoaster generally going up, despite the ups and downs and the bumps.”

Murderous sectarian checkpoints have melted away as the Iraqi security forces and American troops extend their grip on the capital. Abu Mohammed, a 34-year-old taxi driver, who lives in the largely Shi’ite Sha’ab district in northern Baghdad, said: “Sometimes I would stop and wait for an hour or two rather than take a chance on passing a fake checkpoint with a customer.

“We were so scared; anybody could be followed and assassinated.”

Figures released last week by Brigadier Qassim al-Moussawi, an Iraqi military spokesman, showed civilian deaths down from 1,440 in the four weeks before the surge began on February 14 to 265 in the four weeks that followed, although there may have been some undercounting. According to the American military, assassination attempts were down by 50%.

The number of US deaths was also down, from 87 to 66, although the concentration of troops in Baghdad led to an increase of 12% in fatalities in the capital.

Frederick Kagan, a military historian and leading advocate of the surge, said: “It is very early days but I’m very encouraged by what is happening. America only has two brigades out of five there and we haven’t even started our major operations yet. I had not expected this little resistance.”

Residents of the Iraqi capital are holding their breath. For each hopeful piece of news there seems to be a car bombing or attempted assassination - such as one on the Shi’ite mayor of Sadr City last week - that threatens their security.

“At least I don’t see bodies thrown here and there on the road, as in the days before the security plan,” said Ramya Ahmed, 35, a Shi’ite living in Adamiya, a largely Sunni neighbourhood.

A demonstration on Friday by militants loyal to the Mahdi army of the Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr shouting “No, no to America” has raised fears of a new outbreak of hostilities with the cleric’s blackshirts.

Vali Nasr, an American expert, said Sadr was still growing in authority. “It is very clear the Mahdi army made a strategic decision not to engage the Americans in Baghdad,” he said, “but it has not been defeated. It is a tactical withdrawal.”

Roughly 700 members of Sadr’s militia have been arrested and others have fled to Iran. “Only the smaller people are left, so everyone is feeling more safe,” said one relieved resident.

American forces have moved with relative ease to install joint security stations with the Iraqis in Sadr City’s teeming slums. The number of these “mini forts” in Baghdad is due to reach 30 in the coming weeks. Some families displaced by ethnic cleansing have returned to check on their homes, although few have felt confident enough to stay.

Car bombings in Baghdad rose to an “all-time high” of 44 last month, according to a Pentagon spokesman, but troops are now fanning out to the suburbs and to outlying towns such as Baqouba in an effort to uncover bomb-making factories.

The Americans’ Stryker Brigade combat team was redeployed last week to the area, where there has been a sharp rise in attacks amid signs that Sunni insurgents are regrouping.

An extra combat brigade and more than 2,200 military police are being dispatched to Iraq, which by the end of May or early June will bring the number of additional US troops involved in the surge to 30,000. But James Carafano, a defence expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, cautioned that an increase in violence was likely during the spring and summer.

“The first thing you would expect the bad guys to do is to go to ground, map things out, do some reconnaissance and figure out how to screw things up,” he said. “You have to get through to next winter before you can say the surge has worked.”

Suicide gas attack

Three suicide bombers using lorries loaded with chlorine gas killed eight people and caused 350, including six American soldiers, to fall ill in Fallujah and Ramadi this weekend.

The attacks prompted warnings that the insurgents are turning to new weapons to spread panic. Symptoms ranged from minor skin and lung irritations to vomiting.

Insurgents have detonated three other lorries carrying chlorine since January. Major-General William Caldwell, the American army’s spokesman, called it “a crude attempt to raise the terror level”.

Chlorine gas was deployed as a weapon in the first world war but its use has particular resonance in Iraq. Saddam Hussein turned chemical weapons on Kurdish areas in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.

 

 

Iraq the Model website

Saturday, March 17, 2007

One thing al-Qaeda excels at; making new enemies.

With this series of dirty chemical bombings a war between al-Qaeda and the tribes in Anbar is no longer a possibility. It just became a fact.

I've read at least two very optimistic reports from al-Almada in the last week about purported victories of the tribes and police over al-Qaeda in Ramadi and Fallujah. I was reluctant to trust the accuracy of the reports which sited unnamed sources but now seeing the reaction of al-Qaeda suggests that the action of the tribes was so painful that al-Qaeda retaliated in the way we see today.

Al-Qaeda's terrorists-whom AP insists on calling insurgents-expended three suicide bombers and precious resources against their supposedly sympathetic civilian Sunni hosts instead of American and Iraqi soldiers and Shia civilians; their usual enemies. If this indicates anything it indicates that al-Qaeda's is reprioritizing the targets on the hit list. The reason: al-Qaeda is sensing a serious threat in the change of attitude of the tribes toward them and perhaps the apparently successful meeting of the sheiks with Maliki and the agreements that were made then was the point at which open war had to be declared.

The tribes in Anbar are stubborn and they have many ruthless warriors. That's a proven fact and it looks like Al-Qaeda had just made their gravest mistake—their once best friends are just about to become their worst enemy.

Posted by Omar @ 21:17

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Is Iran’s honeymoon in Iraq over?

Iran’s “project” in Iraq has recently been facing one setback after another. There are an increasing number of signs that the “project’s” prospects for success, for realizing Iran’s ambitions in Iraq, do no point upward anymore. It simply isn’t having much success lately in undermining Iraq’s emerging democracy through politics and force.

In the past Iran has employed several tracks to interfere directly and indirectly in Iraq. The mullahs celebrated several achievements in the project. They rejoiced when pro-Iran powers took over a big part of the Iraqi government.
In this they saw the real chance of a satellite Islamic state in Iraq offering them a strategic extension into the western front. It seemed as if the project of exporting the Islamic revolution designed by ayatollah Khomeini was reaping fruit after decades of planning. The dramatic fall of Arab nationalism in Iraq and the potential transformation of Iraq into a Shia theocratic ally would mean the fall of the last geographic wall between Iran and the allies in Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territory. It would make the dream of Tehran’s dominance in the region a reality.

To achieve this dream Iran was compelled to force the coalition out of Iraq. This was attempted through constant calls for withdrawing coalition troops from Iraq by extremists in the parliament, and through the occasional use of armed forces. All maneuvers designed to push America to despair by creating the dilemma of ‘why help those who shoot at our soldiers and treat us as occupying enemies?’

While Iran couldn’t secure a majority support in Iraq’s political arena, it definitely secured enough clout to impede the secular democratic project. This costly -in lives and treasure - policy could, in the minds of the mullahs, force America to forsake her goals in Iraq.
That, at least, was the plan. But a number of interesting developments in Iraq in the last few weeks may mark the beginning of failure for Iran’s plan. The developments listed here were collected from both large and small stories in local Iraq newspapers. Perhaps none of them are significant alone, but putting the pieces together allows one to sense that a sea change is underway in this country and the tide is moving against Iran.

At last Friday’s ceremony in a major Shia mosque by a senior Shia cleric — in Najaf no less — Tehran’s interference in Iraq was roundly criticized, calling it an interference that “is not in Iraq’s interest.”
Another story notes the withdrawal of the Fadheela Party from the Shia bloc (the UIA). The Fadheela leaders said the reason for breaking away from the UIA was because the UIA didn’t act as a patriotic movement. This step stands as a challenge by the Arabic hierarchy of Yaqoubi (the Ayatollah behind Fadheela) to the Iranian-born Sistani and his hierarchy, combined with a call for nonsectarian political process.

There’s also the month-old and continuing Baghdad security operation, and the apparent determination of PM Maliki to confront and disarm all outlaws — especially those with connections with neighboring countries. In addition, the flight of Sadr and many others from Iraq has also dealt a blow to Iran’s influence in Iraq.

I’m almost certain Maliki’s statement during the conference last Saturday caused disappointment in Tehran. For the first time the head of state didn’t use double standards in addressing Iraq’s neighbors. Iran was addressed in the same tone that Suuni neighbors were addressed. This by the very Shia premier Iran was hoping to make its puppet.

Not only the Shia front recorded setbacks. The Kurds of Iraq are distancing themselves from Iran and flirting with their Saudi opponents. The visit Masoud Barzani (the president of Kurdistan in Iraq) made to the Saudi capital has more or less marked a significant change in Iran’s relationships with Iraq’s Kurds. Especially at a time when the IRGC is threatening to chase down Kurdish rebels on Iraqi soil in Kurdistan. It is highly probable that the visit was to remind Iran that Kurds are at the same time Sunni.

All in all, things are not going the way Khamenie or Nejad were dreaming of just a few months ago. Overall the course of events recently in Iraq indicates the beginning of a severe fall for Iran’s stocks in Iraq.
Of course we shouldn’t expect Iran to just sit back and not respond. I think an escalation in attacks by militias loyal to Iran will take place soon, especially outside Baghdad.

Posted by Mohammed @ 01:43

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Action follows calm...

The front in Baghdad has been remarkably quiet in the last 48 hours, until about an hour ago when we started to hear many explosions in the distance.

From the increased activity of jetfighters and the way the explosions sound it looks like a wave of aerial bombing is underway somewhere on the peripheries of the city…not sure yet what's going on but we'll provide an update if we find more info.

Update:

It's pretty much quiet now but a freind calling from Palestine Street, just west of Sadr city, says the explosions were very loud in that part of the city...I guess only the morning will reveal what happned tonight.

Posted by Omar @ 22:20

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