I did not expect to see any huge changes in the first couple of weeks, I was wrong.
Although Iraq has a long, hard road ahead of them and as Congress does everything in their power to make sure that his new strategy has no chance to work (God forbid the public see any success), we DO see that there are not just baby steps being made, but a couple giant leaps and bounds.
January 17, 2007, I wrote about al-Qaeda in Baghdad retreating in advance of the new surge into Baghdad by American troops with new mandates and a plan for counterinsurgency, which I mentioned at the time, should have been part of our plan all along.
January 18, 2007, I wrote about the 400 Madhi Army militia being arrested in Iraq, part of the new strategy to take out any and all militias, including al-Sadr's group, the Mahdi Army.
Today, January 19, 2007, I awaken to the news that U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested one of Muqtada al-Sadr's top aides Friday in Baghdad. (I am linking to Captain's Quarters which has the link to the original story because part of my new years resolution was to NOT directly link to any AP article unless someone else was able to verify the story)
U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested one of Muqtada al-Sadr's top aides Friday in Baghdad, his office said, as pressure increases on the radical Shiite cleric's militia ahead of a planned security sweep aimed at stemming the sectarian violence ransacking the capital.
Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, al-Sadr's media director in Baghdad, was captured Friday and his personal guard was killed, according to another senior al-Sadr aide.
"We strongly condemn this cowardly act," Sheik Abdul-Zahra al-Suweiadi said.
The U.S. military said special Iraqi army forces operating with coalition advisers captured a high-level, illegal armed group leader in Baladiyat, but it did not identify the detainee. It said two other suspects were detained by Iraqi forces for further questioning.
For those that do not know exactly why the arrest of the Madhi Army Militia members is important, a little history about al-Sadr might help you to understand why this is not a baby step but a giant leap.
The Mahdi Army, also known as the Mahdi Militia or Jaish al Mahdi (Arabic جيش المهدي) , is a militia force created by the Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in June 2003. The Islamist militia rose to international prominence on April 4, 2004 when it spearheaded the first major armed confrontation against the U.S-led occupation forces in Iraq from the Shia community in an uprising that followed the banning of al-Sadr's newspaper and attempts to arrest him, and lasted until June 6. The group is armed with assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades, mortars, Strela anti-air missiles, and other light weapons. The Mahdi Militia also utilizes IEDs (improvised explosive devices, also known as road-side bombs) during their attacks on Iraqi civilians, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces.
The truce agreed to in June was followed by moves to disband the militia and transform al-Sadr's movement into a political party to take part in the 2005 elections; Muqtada al Sadr ordered fighters of the Mahdi army to go into a ceasefire unless attacked first.
The truce broke down in August 2004 by the Mahdi Army, with new hostilities breaking out. The Mahdi Militia currently operates in an intimidation role towards Iraqis, using their illegal weaponry to influence local government, infiltrate the police, and terrorize Sunni Iraqis and their supporters. The militia is believed to have infiltrated Iraqi police forces and to be involved in vigilante activities. National Independent Cadres and Elites party that ran in the 2005 Iraqi election was closely linked with the army. Lately Mahdi army was considered as one of the most dangerous terrorist organization in Iraq, and even more dangerous than Al-Qaeda.
You can find more information on al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army here and here. Two different sites, so you can get a good feel for exactly how dangerous this group is.
The reason for this rush to try to stop the Presidents new strategy is not, as they say, their worry about American soldiers, but it is a political game that is aimed at stopping any possibility of success in Iraq. The "polls" say no surge and if these politicians want to be voted in again, they must do what is "popular" rather than do everything in their power to achieve success.
So, these politicians grab onto the word "surge" and ignore every other key point in the new strategy, which includes but is not limited to counterinsurgency, simply because they know the word "surge" will get them the outrage from the public that they are hoping for.
Read the full key points from the fact sheet for yourself and see how small a part of the new strategy the surge actually is.
One of the keys all along in Iraq has been al-Maliki's failure to confront the Mahdi Army and al-Sadr. The conditions set before him, basically the ultimatum he was given is that he DOES address these issues and stop hindering our efforts to stop and disband, disarm or arrest all militias, including al-Sadr's or we could not effectively help and there would be no need for American troops to be there.
In other words, we will help IF you help yourself..... the message seems to have finally gotten through that thick skull of his.
As Captain's Quarters states:
Another interesting point about Darraji's arrest is where it took place. The troops raided a mosque in Baghdad to get him, which may show that initial reluctance to enter the worship sites has faded. This might be the best indicator of how seriously the Americans and Iraqis take this mission. They're not out to win hearts and minds with this phase of the new strategy, but to find and destroy the enemy. This is reminiscent of the action taken in 2004 against the Mahdis, before Sadr wisely capitulated in return for his freedom.
The question in this round is whether the US and the Iraqis have the tenacity to finish the job this time. As CQ readers have noted, we have let Sadr off the hook at least twice before. That has led us to this point, where our mercy and political correctness allowed one of the most troublesome figures of the post-Saddam period garner enormous power and infiltrate the elected government. Sadr is the key, and the mission to end the sectarian strife has to include his capture. If that happens, then we know the effort is serious indeed.
Exactly, couldn't have said it better myself.
Now, even with a few days worth of good news, I am not saying nor implying that everything is going to work out and we will see success, what I am saying is that it is a good start.... a few leaps and bounds rather than tiny baby steps towards success.
If, IF this is to become a pattern and we continue to see al-Qaeda retreat and militias disbanded and arrested, then the violence that has overridden Iraq can and will be strangled and end.....is this not the purpose?
What strikes me as very odd is how Congress on this march to do everything in their power to see to it that this new plan does NOT succeed by trying to stop it just as we are seeing progress with it in such a short time. If that is not political games, what is? The close their eyes, refuse to acknowledge al-Qaeda's most recent retreat and the arrests of the Mahdi Army....has ANYONE seen Hillary, Pelosi or any member of congress or senate publicly acknowledge what has happened the last three days in a row???
If you have, please let me know, I will happily share their willingness to be honest with my readers.
Hat Tip to Potbelly Stove with the link to another fact that seems to be encouraging our commanders on the ground in Iraq.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2007 – The most important component of President Bush’s strategy to stabilize Iraq is an expanded freedom of operations in Baghdad, the chief operations officer for the Joint Staff said here yesterday.
Iraq’s government has renewed its commitment to prevent political constraints from impeding progress in the capital, Army Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute said in an interview.
“The Iraqi government has committed to a no-holds-barred approach to operations inside Baghdad,” Lute said. “(This means) there’s no geographic constraint on military operations, and there’s no political or sectarian group constraint on military operations.”
He noted these things have constrained progress in earlier operations.
Lute described Baghdad as “the center of gravity for Iraq,” and said that progress in the capital represents greater progress in Iraq. “As goes Baghdad, so goes Iraq,” he said, “so that’s really where our focus has been.
“It’s not only the political capital of Iraq, but it’s the center for media in Iraq, it’s the economic center of Iraq, and it’s the religious center of Iraq,” Lute said. “The multiple of dimensions of Iraqi society come to bear on Baghdad proper.”
The new strategy “is an Iraqi plan; it was Iraqi conceived, it’ll be Iraqi led,” Lute said.
In addition to expanded freedom of operations, he said, the new Iraq strategy differs from past strategies in two fundamental ways.
“First, (Iraqis) have established unity of command over the city of Baghdad,” Lute said. “They’ve placed one Iraqi general officer in charge … of both the Ministry of Defense forces and Ministry of Interior.
“This one three-star Iraqi general will be in charge of not only the Iraqi army but (also) the Iraqi police,” he said. “It will be very important to establish that one-man-in-charge approach to the very important problems of Baghdad.”
Another difference Lute described is the “plus-up” of Iraqi soldiers, a component of the new strategy to stabilize Iraq’s capital city and parts of western Iraq.
“They’re committing three additional brigades of their own army to this effort,” Lute said. “The six Iraqi army brigades that are in Baghdad today will be joined by three more.”
The three new strategic components of the Iraqi strategy will give “fresh promise” to security in Baghdad, Lute said.
The question here is, if Congress and the Senate refuse to see the differences in strategy and continue the rhetoric about it being "more of the same", will the American people look deeper, listen to the commanders, see the leaps and bounds already being made simply by Iraq and Coalition forces changing the rules of engagement or will they let the political gameplayers and the MSM tell them what to think?
Charles Krauthammer has an article with his plan B which can be found here.
Michelle Malkin who has just returned from Iraq has more about her embed with our troops.
Right Truth tells us how Hillary Helps Iran.
Amy Proctor reminds us that it was Bill Clinton that signed the Iraqi Liberation Act in the 90's, long before Bush was in office.
To contact the senate, United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.
To contact congress, click here and find your state to get the contact information.
[UPDATE] In a White House press conference with Tony Snow, he mentions other areas that progress is being made in Iraq:
SNOW: Take a look -- I think what's interesting is the volume of action that's taken place in the last couple of weeks, and interestingly, if you listen to congressional critics, we want these things to happen, we want political progress, for instance. That's been cited by a number of critics of the President's proposal. Well, guess what. Political progress has taken place on, and on arguably the two most important fronts, which are the hydrocarbon law, sharing oil and natural gas revenues, and also opening up society, full participation rights, to people who, in order to be employed when Saddam was in power had to be members of the Baath party, and therefore have been shut out, that they are going to have those opportunities, as well.
You've seen increased military activity, such as the actions on Haifa Street last week. You also now have the reports on the Mahdi Army , which I think reassures a lot of people, in terms of going after Shia militias. You have the reports of the two brigades moving down from the north.
So for people who have said, we need to see action on the part of the Iraqis, you've seen it, and I think it's encouraging.
Related in the news today:
NYT with U.S. May Cut Troops in Iraq by Summer, General Says.
International Herald Tribune, Henry Kissinger, with Withdrawal is not an Option.
THIS IS AN OPEN TRACKBACK FOR THIS WEEKEND.
Trackposted to Perri Nelson's Website, Adam's Blog, basil's blog, Stuck On Stupid, Thought Alarm, Phastidio.net, 123 Beta, Rightwing Guy, The HILL Chronicles, Woman Honor Thyself, stikNstein... has no mercy, The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns, The World According to Carl, Pirate's Cove, Dumb Ox Daily News, and Right Voices, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.
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