Sunday, June 22, 2008

Good News from Iraq (Roundup)

Some news and stories from Iraq you may not have picked up from your daily news ...

  • One hundred insurgents detained in Baghdad during past week, by Bill Murray. The Long War Journal:
    BAGHDAD, IRAQ: Iraqi and Coalition forces in and around Baghdad captured more than 100 insurgents and defused 147 improved explosive devices during the past week as part of continued security operations, according to Iraqi and Coalition spokesmen. One insurgent was killed, six kidnap victims liberated and about 700 kilograms of TNT discovered during security sweeps in the past seven days, said Iraqi Army spokesman Major General Qassim Atta during a press conference in Baghdad today.

    The current security plan, called Fardh al-Qanoon, or `Enforcing the Law,’ has been in place since early 2007, when U.S. planners began implementing a U.S. troop surge and divided Baghdad into separate security districts. Iraq forces now lead operations in all three of Iraq’s major cities, Baghdad, Basrah and Mosul and are operating in Amarah, where the Iraqi Army is currently battle elements of the Mahdi Army, said U.S. Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll at the same press conference.

    "So far in Amarah, there has been little resistance to the extension of the rule of law," Driscoll said. "There are still foreign terrorists who want to reconstitute their forces. Elements of Al-Qaeda and Iranian-supported Special Groups are still in Baghdad, but they are under pressure" ...

  • Ramadi Citizens Continue to Sign Up to Defend Their City, by Lance Cpl. Casey Jones. Iraq's Inconvenient Truth June 22, 2008:
    Over the last two years, Ramadi has seen a dramatic in the number of policemen as the city progressively moves toward the final steps in becoming fully independent.

    In 2006, there were very few police in Ramadi when violence engulfed the city, the citizens lived in fear, and al-Qaida had a firm grip on the region.

    In the first two weeks of 2007, the city experienced an unexpected surge of applicants seeking to join the force. During that two-week span, more than 1,000 applicants sought law enforcement jobs in Ramadi, according to Army Maj. Thomas Shoffner, operations officer for the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. The turning point for the boost in applicants was the murder of a well-known sheik in August 2006. The murderers hid his body for 3 days denying his family the right to bury him in accordance with Islamic tradition. After the killing, tribal leaders could not tolerate al Qaeda’s lawlessness and violence throughout their land and formed an alliance against the terrorist network called, Sahawa al-Anbar, or the “Awakening Council.”

  • Marines Turn Over Outpost to Iraqi Army May 31, 2008:
    It’s a trend seen more and more frequently around al-Anbar province; Marines packing up their gear and returning their positions to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) so they can continue providing protection and security to the Iraqi citizens....
  • Improved Iraqi Forces Contribute to Four-Year Violence Low May 30, 2008:
    BAGHDAD — Last week, Iraq experienced the lowest level of “security incidents” since March 2004, a reduction that military officials attribute in part to improvements in Iraqi security forces.

    “The collective efforts … to increase the capacity of the Iraqi security forces is a key part of the reason why we saw last week the lowest level of security incidents in Iraq the past four years,” Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said May 28 during a news conference in Baghdad.

    “It is also why we are seeing Iraqi citizens increasingly supporting their security forces by calling in tips on criminal activity and illegal weapons,” Bergner continued. “And it is why we are seeing the Iraqi security forces conducting effective operations in Basra, Mosul and Baghdad to enforce the rule of law.”

  • Democracy Takes Root in Arab Jabour , by y Sgt. David Turner. May 18, 2008 (Multi National Force Iraq):
    FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — “Democracy is a new thing in Iraq,” said Sadi Kalif, the newly elected chairman of the South Rasheed Community Council. “When Saddam was in power, there were no elections. They just pointed to a person and said ‘You are in charge’.”

    After years of war and terrorist activity from insurgents and al-Qaeda in Iraq, the citizens of this area south of Baghdad are learning to trust the path of democracy. They are also discovering the process begins not at the top, but in their own neighborhoods.

    Members of the South Rasheed Community Council met in Bejiya May 14, where they elected their new chairman and met with Coalition and Iraqi forces. Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, responsible for the area for the past year, introduced the council to the incoming Iraqi Army commander.

    Leaders on all sides acknowledged that progress in the area is only possible while strong security forces are in place.

    “Al-Qaeda occupied this area for three years,” Kalif said. “It was like the Dark Ages … We had two previous elections, but nobody showed up because of al-Qaeda. If someone participated in the elections, they might get killed.”

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bishop Hollis: "Light of faith is alive in Iraq, despite persecution by Muslim extremists"

Despite tribulations, the light of faith is alive in Iraqi Christians, British bishop says Catholic News Agency. June 19, 2008:

London, Jun 19, 2008 / 06:26 pm (CNA).- In a Mass celebrated on June 16 at the Cathedral of Westminster, the president of the Committee on External Affairs of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Bishop Roger Francis Hollis, said that despite the violence and persecution of Muslim extremists, “the light of the faith is alive” in Iraqi Christians.

According to L’Osservatore Romano, Bishop Hollis recently visited the Iraqi towns of Erbil, Kirkuk and Sulemanyiah. His visit came just days after the kidnapping and killing of the Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho.

During his homily at the Mass celebrated in London by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Bishop Hollis denounced the violence in Iraq and “the killing of laypeople and priests by Muslim extremists has been systematically and deliberately carried out.”

Addressing the hundreds of Iraqi Christians present at the Cathedral of Westminster, the bishop explained that his trip to Iraq allowed him “to share the faith with your bishops, priests and fellow citizens. I felt very encouraged and strengthened by their courage and fidelity.”

Read more about Bishop Hollis' visit to Iraq.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Iraqi Museum "Looted"? - Behind the Myth

Donny George, director of the Iraq National Museum, was asked earlier this year if the Pentagon had apologized to him for failing to guard his museum in April 2003, as Baghdad fell.

George sidestepped the question, telling the National Arts Club in New York that he was “satisfied” with the financial and technical help the United States has given the museum in the last two years.

“I will take that as an apology,” he said coyly.

But George expects no apology, and it’s not because the Americans are making amends for some terrible wrong. He expects no apology because he knows that he, not the Americans, should be apologizing.

He knows that the world’s ungrateful archaeologists, not Iraq’s liberators, should be apologizing.

The Single Backpack Theory: Proof archaeologists owe the U.S. an apology for their accusations on Iraq National Museum looting July 3, 2005.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Sheikh Amed goes to Washington

Iraqi Sheik Offers To Take Fight to Bin Laden: Hero of Anbar Would Stir a Revolt in Afghanistan, by Eli Lake. New York Sun June 9, 2008:

WASHINGTON — The leader of the tribal confederation that has fought to expel Al Qaeda from most of Iraq's Anbar province is offering his men to help gin up a rebellion against Osama bin Laden's organization along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In an interview, Sheik Ahmad al-Rishawi told The New York Sun that in April he prepared a 47-page study on Afghanistan and its tribes for the deputy chief of mission at the American embassy in Kabul, Christopher Dell. When asked if he would send military advisers to Afghanistan to assist American troops fighting there, he said, "I have no problem with this, if they ask me, I will do it."

The success of the Anbaritribal rebellion known as the awakening spurred Multinational Forces Iraq to try to emulate the model throughout Iraq, including with the predominately Shiite tribes in the south of the country. Today, the tribal-based militias formed to protect Anbaris from Al Qaeda are forming a political alliance poised to unseat the confessional Sunni parties currently in parliament in the provincial elections scheduled for the fall and the federal ones scheduled for 2009.

During his nomination hearing for taking over the regional military post known as Central Command, General David Petraeus said one of the first things he would do would be to travel to Pakistan to discuss the current strategy of the government in dealing with Al Qaeda's safe haven in the Pashtun border provinces. A possible strategy for defeating Al Qaeda would be an effort there along the lines of the Anbar awakening to win over the tribes that offer Osama bin Laden's group protection and safe haven.

"Al Qaeda is an ideology," Sheik Ahmad said. "We can defeat them inside Iraq and we can defeat them in any country." The tribal leader arrived in Washington last week. All of his meetings, including an audience with President Bush, have been closed to the public, in part because the Anbari sheiks, while likely to win future electoral contests, are not themselves part of Iraq's elected government.

Of his meeting with Mr. Bush, Sheik Ahmad said he was impressed. "He is a brave man. He is also a wise man. He is taking care of the country's future, the United States' future. He is also taking care of the Iraqi people, the ordinary people in Iraq. He wants to accomplish success in Iraq ..."

Read more of the New York Sun's interview with Sheikh Ahmed al-Rishawi

Sheik Ahmad has also expressed his cooperation with the Vatican in Muslim-Christian dialogue and expressed his concern over Al Qaeda's persecution of Chaldean Catholics in Iraq. In March 2008, Sheik Ahmad received a letter of commendation by the Vatican for "efforts to promote harmony and reconciliation throughout [the] region." See The Vatican, The Anbar Awakening and the "Protector of the Chaldean Catholics" May 1, 2008.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Peace in Iraq

An Iraqi girl holds up the peace sign as Cpl. Paul Roderick talks to a group a Iraqi children while on a dismounted patrol through the Ayasha village, northwest of Baghdad, May 29, 2008. Photo by 2nd Stryker Brigade 25th Infantry Division. (Via Iraq's Inconvenient Truth).