The struggle to form a unity government in Iraq continues, but signs of hope are emerging. One of the sticking points continues to be Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, who has so far refused to resign; however, on Sunday the Iraqi Shia Alliance reported it was close to a deal to replace him.
For a little perspective, travel back to the States, to the U.S. Senate and watch the immigration debate in the Senate. We’ve been doing democracy for several centuries now, and we can’t get 100 politicians to agree on one issue. Considering we’re the pros, we could cut the Iraqis a little slack as they continue to get the feel of this democracy-project thing.
There continues to be plenty of good news to be found in Iraq. The Iraqi army continues to take over responsibility for more battle space, al Qaeda continues to take a beating, and rebuilding of the country is progressing. Moreover, the Iraqi economy is improving, and has doubled in the last three years.
News for Pessimistic Generals
The media has given an enormous amount of publicity to former generals who are calling for Rumsfeld to resign, and all but ignore those who remain optimistic about our efforts in Iraq. Colonel William Grimsley commanded the brigade that first took control of Baghdad Airport. Three years on he remains optimistic about the country’s future:
Grimsley, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Combat Brigade Team during the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, said history–not current events–will tell the true story of Iraq’s metamorphosis.
And that story will show how Iraq ultimately emerged from almost 40 years of a regime that ignored the people’s needs and undermined its potential, Grimsley, now a military assistant to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said during an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.
Major Kevin Carter just returned from Iraq, and shares this assessment:
Charter believes not enough attention is being paid to the progress being made by Iraqis in taking control of their country. He said the people of Iraq are grateful Saddam Hussein has been overthrown.
“I was told by an Iraqi that only two things could get rid of Saddam, the United States or Allah. I will never forget that,” Charter said. “An Iraqi officer told me that if we just up and left the country would implode. They are so grateful for us being there and toppling Saddam. Even the Sunnis, who benefited under Saddam, thanked us.”
Before you think I’m just parroting the Pentagon line by quoting only officers, a Marine serving with an Iraqi unit had this to say:
“Everybody hears about all the car bombs in Baghdad and how many people got shot. Those things are reality–I don’t want to downplay them. But there’s a lot of good things happening,” he said.
Despite being the main targets of terrorists and ex-Baathists, Iraqi soldiers remain well motivated:
According to the commanding officer of the local Iraqi-army unit here, the soldiers’ motivation to fight insurgents is steady despite the loss of two of their own comrades. During a memorial service for a fallen soldier, the Iraqi commander of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, assured his soldiers they were performing well and encouraged them to continue to listen and learn from the Marines.
“I want the soldiers to continue to do the job they are doing,” said the commanding officer, who wishes to remain anonymous. “We need the Marines’ support and they are very professional when it comes to training my soldiers.”
A tip led U.S. troops to a house where forged documents were made:
The two suspected forgers were found at a house where Soldiers seized $2,050 in U.S. currency, more than 500,000 Iraqi Dinars, 125 various forms of identification, fake stamps for the IDs and an AK-47.
Another tip led U.S. troops to a weapons cache at a terrorist training facility:
Found at the site were 19 155 mm artillery rounds and 21 mortar rounds of various calibers.
The site may have been a training site of insurgents. The cache was transported to a secured location for controlled detonation.
The 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division is assuming control of an area of responsibility that encompasses Balad, Al Duluyah and Yethrib, as well as the smaller villages surrounding these cities.
In addition to taking over battle space, Iraqis continue to take the lead in more security operations. Operation Cobra Strike was lead by soldiers of the 8th Iraqi Army Division. The operation was planned, and conducted by Iraqis, with U.S. soldiers in support.
Iraqi soldiers discovered four weapons caches during an operation in southern Baghdad:
In total, the four weapons caches consisted of seven RPG rounds, three machine guns, 28 70 mm mortar rounds, 38 60mm mortar rounds, landmines, a large bag of homemade explosives, a sniper rifle, grenades, 13 pre-made roadside-bombs, ten rockets, 403 linked rounds of small arms ammunition, three bags of linked ammunition and 5,000 rounds of sniper-rifle rounds.
“The Iraqi people are tired of the terrorists, extremists and instability and this unit fights that … I am very proud that I am part of this special unit that will help stabilize this country,” he said. “The terrorists have had their time. This is our time now.”
39 of 45 planned border forts along the Iran-Iraq border are complete. The border posts are manned by Iraqis.
U.S. troops discovered several significant weapons caches on an island in the Euphrates River:
On April 5, Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, discovered 34 fused 82 mm rounds, five fused 120 mm rounds, 600 82 mm mortar rounds, 23 fused rocket-propelled grenades, five hand grenades, 28 55-gallon drums of TNT, nine 55-gallon sacks of nitrate, two bundles of detonation chord, a penetrator and 5,000 AK-47 rounds.
The next day, Soldiers gathered 1,500 meters of command wire, a mortar sight, a receiver, 54 82mm rounds and a 107mm rocket.
On April 7, MND-B Soldiers discovered the following items on the island: 1,450 18 mm anti-aircraft rounds, 27 125 mm aerial bombs, 30 anti-tank grenades, seven 60 mm mortars, five 82 mm mortars, 25 RPG rounds, 96 sticks of dynamite, 600 mortar primers, 156 hand grenades, three cylindrical containers, a RPG launcher, a rocket (caliber unknown), 37 boosters and a small mortar.
In Mosul, U.S. soldiers discovered a significant amount of materials used to make IEDs.
In Tikrit, a terrorist planting an IED was captured.
In Yusifiyah, several terrorist were killed or captured after their safe house was attacked:
During the assault, five terrorists, three of them wearing suicide vests, were killed; five others, one of whom was wounded, were detained. Two of the suicide bombers were killed before either could detonate his vest, and the third detonated his body bomb killing only himself and injuring no one else.
I mentioned Operation Cowpens last week. The operation ended Friday, and the tally of captured munitions is impressive. The list is long, but bears repeating:
* 57 mm recoilless rifle: 1 * 105 mm rounds: 3 * 115 mm rounds: 5 * 120 mm rounds: 6 * 122 mm rounds: 4 * 125 mm rounds: 12 * 130 mm rounds: 4 * 155 mm rounds: 10 * 82 mm mortars: 4 * 14.5 mm ammunition in case: 15 * .50 caliber main gun: 1 * .50 caliber ammunition can: 1 * 60 mm casings: 6 * 60 mm mortar system: 2 * 7.62 main gun: 1 * 82 mm rounds: 28 * AC adapter: 1 * AK ammunition: 2,225 rounds * AK magazines: 1- * AK-47: 18 * AK-47 drums: 1 * aluminum tube with explosives: 1 * antennas: 5 * anti-personnel mines: 7 * anti-tank hand grenades: 5 * bandoleers: 3 * bulk explosives: 51 * batteries: 7 * bayonets: 5 * blasting caps: 146 * bolt action rifle: 1 * bottles of accelerant: 1 * cell phone charger: 1 * cell phones: 4 * charging bases: 4 * feet of copper wire: 500 * feet of detonation cord: 4,580 * electrical switches: 5 * pounds of accelerant: 100 * fragmentation vests: 2 * gas masks: 5 * German main gun: 1 * glue guns: 3 * grenade launchers: 2 * hand grenades: 23 * Iraqi-army uniforms: 5 * improvised explosive device making materials: 1 * IED paperwork: 1 * improvised devices: 5 * improvised mortar tube with aiming sights: 1 * improvised rocket launcher: 4 * pounds of TNT: 35 * long-range radios: 2 * machine gun: 1 * mortar fuses: 18 * mortar rounds: 12 * mortar sights: 3 * rigged Motorola radios: 10 * Motorola rechargeable batteries: 25 * other rockets: 4 * PKC rifle: 2 * PKC ammunition: 1 * 57 mm and 68 mm rockets: 32 * rolls of tape: 3 * rocket-propelled grenade fragmentation rounds: 5 * RPG launchers: 31 * RPG rounds: 52 * RPG sights: 1 * RPG triggers: 2 * SA-8 rocket: 1 * SA-14 rocket: 5 * SA-14 training round: 1 * SA-14 tracker head: 3 * scope: 1 * cordless phone base: 3 * soldering guns: 2 * Soviet .50 caliber main gun: 1 * Soviet anti-aircraft artillery main gun: 1 * spare main gun barrel: 1 * switches: 3 * talk about radios: 19 * unknown fuse: 1 Several al Qaeda suspects were killed in a raid Sunday:
US forces killed five suspected insurgents and detained five others in a raid on a house southwest of Baghdad early Sunday in a hunt for an alleged Al Qaeda operative, the US military reported, according to AFP.
In another raid, a senior al Qaeda operative was killed. Abu Umar was the terror groups “ambassador,” and was charged with forming relationships with other groups in Iraq. Umar was an associate of Osama bin Laden. More than 115 top al Qaeda operatives have been killed or captured in Iraq over the last few months.
Al Qaeda in Iraq continues to use unwilling people to carry out attacks. One attacker was identified by the fingerprints found on his hand, which was hand cuffed to the steering wheel of a car used as a bomb. It was the only part of him found.
U.S. military vehicles in Iraq will be getting a new anti-RPG system called Trophy from the Israelis [This item has been corrected since posting.--Ed.]:
The Trophy, unveiled by the IDF a year ago, combines two main systems: a radar built by Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd., detects threats; and a Rafael-designed system destroys incoming threats in flight. Rafael claims that the Trophy can protect armored fighting vehicles against all types of anti-tank rockets and missiles.
The two conceptual innovations incorporated into the Trophy are 360-degree protection of the tank or APC, which eliminates the need for adding armor plating, which can double a tank’s weight, restricting its mobility and maneuverability; and to provide protection from new threats from the side and top in low-intensity combat, compared with frontal threats of the past.
The State Department issued a report on Iraq’s economy. Iraq’s economy as nearly doubled in the last three years. GDP rose by 2.6% last year, and is expected to rise by more than ten percent in 2006.
The workshop focuses on fostering leadership, independence and financial stability among 18- to 24-year-olds. Profits from sale of furniture and doors made in the carpentry shop are reinvested in the youth center to purchase sports equipment, Internet access and secondary school supplies.
Three new power substations are now online in Najaf. At a cost of $4.8 million per substation, each should provide 25,000 households with electricity.
A ceremony in Baghdad marked the opening of a renovated youth center:
The Youth Center offers programs and training in weightlifting, boxing, wrestling, judo and soccer. During the tour, the guests viewed young Iraqi boxers sparring; wrestlers practicing takedowns; soccer players kicking goals; and weightlifters pumping iron.
The project was financed with funds from the 10th Mountain Division.
Everyday Americans are also helping out in Iraq. Frank Casa of Fairport, New York raised $25,000 to send wheel chairs to disabled residents of Hilla:
Casa has raised more than $25,000 to send desperately needed wheelchairs to Hilla, a city south of Baghdad, ravaged by the blasts of suicide attacks and car bombs. Later this year, he’ll travel to Iraq to help distribute the wheelchairs.
“There are many, many civilians that are caught in desperate straits, that were caught up in this war, and they’re strictly victims,” Casa said. “Not to have mobility is like throwing fuel on the fire.”
The latest weekly reconstruction update is available here. Highlights include:
* A water system is under construction in Fallujah. When completed it will provide 200,000 residents with clean water. * A firing range is under construction at the police academy in Hillah. * Renovations are complete on the police station in Kadhimiya. * The rehabilitation of a sewer pump station is complete in Mansour. * In Baghdad, construction is complete on three solid waste transfer stations. * A project to provide 10,000 residents in Basrah is complete. * Construction of two power stations in Erbil Province is complete. * Reconstruction is complete on two fire stations in Karbala. * 13 of 15 school projects are complete in Karbala. * Construction of new classrooms is now complete in Mosul.
U.S. and Iraqi troops conducted a dental clinic in Amu Shabi:
A smile can light up one’s face… and today, more than 200 Iraqis had a reason to smile.
Iraqi-army troops, along with U.S. Special Forces medics, Civil Affairs and 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division Soldiers, traveled to a school in Amu Shabi, Iraq, to provide a Dental Assessment and Care Clinic for local citizens.
A Scottish company has plans to build the first water park in Iraq. This story is pertinent because of the what the company’s sales managers said:
International sales manager Jim Stuart said yesterday: “I am delighted to be involved in this project and it shows that rebuilding in Iraq really is happening.”
Iraq is spending $25 million to purchase two new oil tankers.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Juan M. Rubio will be awarded the Silver Star later this month for actions in Iraq:
On Jan. 1, 2005, Rubio’s platoon was ambushed on the Euphrates River. The Marines left their boats and pursued the attackers, only to have an explosive set off nearby.
Rubio and three Marines were wounded. Despite having shrapnel wounds in his legs and arms, Rubio belly-crawled to the injured Marines and treated their injuries. He then dragged each of them across open terrain, under fire, to safety behind a wall.
He showed the uninjured Marines how to care for the wounded troops and then began directing covering fire while he helped take the wounded back to the boats.
“Your actions saved lives and you have set an example for future corpsmen and Marines to emulate,” wrote Maj. Gen. R.F. Natonski, who wrote a letter endorsing the medal. “Your service is coveted by each and every Marine in the 1st Marine Division.”
One Marine died that day, Lance Cpl. Brian Parrello. Rubio believes Parrello saved his life.
“He took a big chunk of artillery,” Rubio said. “He absorbed 90 percent of the explosion for me. I owe my life to him.”
Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Jewett was awarded the Bronze Star for action in Iraq:
Jewett ran through a hail of gunfire and dragged the injured teammate 20 feet to the protection of a large vehicle, the citation says. He then administered first aid.
Under continuous attack, he supervised the evacuation of his wounded teammate. The Navy said Jewett’s “courageous actions” saved his teammate’s life.
Lance Corporal Carlos Gomez-Perez was awarded the Silver Star this week for his actions in Fallujah:
In the late morning, the platoon came under fire from machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades coming from three directions, according to a citation signed by Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter.
Gomez-Perez first made sure that several injured comrades received medical attention, then moved another downed Marine out of the line of fire, suffering wounds to his shoulder and face in the process.
“Despite his injuries, he again exposed himself to enemy fire and continued to attack the enemy with grenades and by firing his rifle with his uninjured arm,” the citation states. “By his bold leadership, wise judgment and complete dedication to duty, Lance Corporal Gomez-Perez reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”