efore we get to the latest good news from Iraq, a brief clarification is in order concerning why
it is important to compile this good news here in the first place: because it receives sparse or no coverage from the mainstream media. The purpose of these compilations is not to whitewash the situation in Iraq, nor to suggest that there haven’t been problems with the administration’s handling of the conflict. They are simply an attempt to fill in the news gaps, to help form a more complete picture of the current state of affairs, so that readers can be better informed about it.
And now, some news you might not have heard from Iraq:
We begin with U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, urging Americans
to be optimistic about his country’s fate:
I will give my bottom line up front. I believe Americans, while remaining tactically patient about Iraq, should be strategically optimistic. Most important, a major change–a tectonic shift–has taken place in the political orientation of the Sunni Arab community. A year ago, Sunni Arabs were outside of the political process and hostile to the United States. They boycotted the January 2005 election and were underrepresented in the transitional national assembly. Today, Sunni Arabs are full participants in the political process, with their representation in the national assembly now proportional to their share of the population. Also, they have largely come to see the United States as an honest broker in helping Iraq’s communities come together around a process and a plan to stabilize the country.
Moreover, al Qaeda in Iraq has been significantly weakened during the past year. This resulted, not only from the recent killing of Zarqawi, but also from the capture or killing of a number of other senior leaders and the creation of an environment in which it is more difficult and dangerous for al Qaeda in Iraq.
In November, a “rebuilding Iraq” expo will be held in Sulymania, in the Kurdish north. Due to the success of last year’s event, plans are being made to welcome more than 800 companies:
While many claim a rebuilding Iraq event should only be held outside Iraq for security reasons Kurdistan DBX is the only trade show on Iraqi soil, by Iraqi’s and for all Iraqi private companies and Iraqi government and last year event was a point and time in history for all present to remember, and realize that Iraq is on its way to become a magnet for trade and investment in the region.
This year['s] event expanded space will be able to handle upwards of 800 companies and many Iraqis that can not and will not attend rebuild Iraq events outside Iraq will attend Kurdistan DBX trade show , November 11th, 2006. More than 95,000 people attended last year’s event and not a single security incident was recorded.
A company has invested $70 million in a cement plant in northern Iraq:
Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) announced that rehabilitation of the 2.3 million ton per year Tasluja cement factory in northern Iraq has been completed for a total investment cost of $70 million.
An OCI-led consortium was awarded a tax-exempt 12-year lease for the Tasluja cement plant located near the city of Suleimaniyah in the Kurtdistan region of Iraq in November 2004. The OCI consortium includes the Farouk Rasool Group (FRG), an industrial group in northern Iraq. This month saw Iraq import the first shipment of Peugot sedans from Iran. Another 1,000 cars are expected to be imported soon.
In Kirkuk, USAID is working to provide residents with potable water: One local resident said:
“We thank the organization for this intervention; before we had acute shortage of water. Even the supplied water was very dirty with soil participles easily seen by unaided eyes. I am happy now since my children would drink clean water.”
A ceremony was held to mark the start of construction of a power station in Samawah. When complete, the station will provide 60 megawatts of energy.
Japan held a ceremony marking the completion of several rebuilding projects in Samawah:
The Project for Improvement of Al-Kornish Street and the Samawah Promedade Project total about 55.5 million yen; the Project for Improvement of Samawah Girls’ School Street totals about 56.8 million yen; and the Project for the Provision of Generators on Al-Kornish Street totals about 94.6 million yen.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently completed projects worth $190 billion Iraqi Dinars in various areas of Iraq. The projects include:
In Basra, work on the 186 billion ID Khor Az Zubair Power Plant has been completed. The project added two new power generation units to the existing four older units. The two new units have essentially doubled the output of the plant, adding approximately five percent more electric generation capacity to Iraq’s national grid that benefits more than 200,000 Iraqi homes.
In Wasit, reconstructing of Sheikh Sa’ad PHC cost 891 million ID. Scope of work required installation of electrical and mechanical systems.
In Nineveh, construction is complete on the 420 million ID Ba’aweza Secondary School. The project built a new school with 18 classrooms and five administrative offices to house approximately 450 students.
In Najaf, construction is complete on the 2 billion ID Najaf Road Segment Paving project; approximately 15 Km of rural roadway near the Header area was repaired and paved.
The U.S. has helped the Iraqis with more than $22 billion of infrastructure projects since 2003:
Iraqi reconstruction has been undertaken in every sector, McCoy said.
“We have built new power plants and refurbished dozens of turbines around the country,” he said.
“We are building water treatment plants to provide fresh potable water to Iraqis.”
Additionally, “we are now installing sewage treatment plants in parts of the country to begin the process to get the sewage out of the streets and make Iraq a more healthy country,” the general said.
U.S. efforts also have helped build, expand or renovate thousands of schools across Iraq, McCoy said, improving the learning environment for Iraqi schoolchildren. American assistance also has built new police stations, medical clinics and hospitals for the Iraqi people, he said.
“All of this has been done in close coordination with the Iraqi government and now, with the permanent government in place, with their leadership,” McCoy pointed out.
Iraq Star, the Iraqi version of American Idol, is now in its second season, and Iraqis love it:
Whatever the inspiration, the show has gained a strong following among Iraqi viewers. More than 1,200 contestants from all over Iraq have registered to try out for the show this season, compared with 500 last year, said Haitham Shaoubi, a music executive who is on the three-judge panel. The other two are music executive Waleed Hassan and famed Iraqi singer Ahmed Nema.
After calls for unity by Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraq’s largest Sunni bloc has ended its legislative boycott:
The Iraqi Accordance Front suspended its participation in parliament meetings earlier this month after one of its members, Tayseer al-Mashhadani, was kidnapped in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad. Many Sunnis blamed anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, although the organization has denied any involvement.
Al-Sadr has called for unity. A leading Sunni politician said the bloc was responding, in the first sign of accommodation by both sides amid a sharp rise in sectarian tensions.
“We have decided to attend the meetings as of tomorrow in response to the call by Muqtada al-Sadr,” lawmaker Adnan al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press. Two of al-Mashhadani’s guards were released last week.
A recent story about the 500 WMDs found in Iraq since its liberation ignores the other findings:
Former weapons inspector David Kay declared on Oct. 2, 2003, that U.S. personnel discovered “a vial of live C. botulinum Okra B. from which a biological agent can be produced.”
In January 2004, according to a New York Sun editorial published that June 1, a block of cyanide salt popped up in Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Baghdad safe house.
On May 2, 2004, U.S. forces in Iraq found a mustard-gas shell, rigged as an improvised explosive device. The Iraq Survey Group sent in by coalition forces to find WMD dismissed this as “ineffective” due to improper storage. Of course, the effectiveness of Saddam’s weapons was not the issue.
“The Iraqi Survey Group confirmed today that a 155-millimeter artillery round containing sarin nerve agent had been found,” also reworked as an explosive device, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters that May 15. Two soldiers exposed to the device “displayed ‘classic’ symptoms of sarin exposure,” Fox News reported.
Weapons sleuth Charles Duelfer told Fox News on June 24, 2004: “We found, you know, 10 or 12 sarin and mustard rounds.”
That July 6, the Department of Energy announced that a joint effort with the Pentagon removed 1.77 metric tons of low-enriched uranium from Iraq “that could potentially be used in a radiological dispersal device or diverted to support a nuclear weapons program.”
Major Gregory Bishop of the 101st Airborne, writes to the Louisville Courier-Journal that the mainstream media is ignoring many of the accomplishments in Iraq:
The bad news stories should absolutely be told. But so should the ‘not interesting’ stories of small Sunni villages receiving clean drinking water for the first time ever because of U.S. troops or their local governments providing for them, or the stories of local and provincial governments that are getting along (at least as well as the politicians in the U.S.) despite ethnic tensions and are making progress for the people of Iraq.
“… Or the Iraqi Army Brigades that are conducting independent operations and who have taken control of their own areas of operations with only small teams of military advisers.
“… Or the fact that electricity capacity is much greater than pre-war levels, but the reason the number of hours of available electricity is low is because the load on the electrical grid has increased exponentially due to the unprecedented availability of air conditioners, TVs, satellite dishes and other appliances that were not available to non-Sunnis during the former regime.
In addition, Major Bishop points out that our enemy in Iraq “feeds off” negative reporting:
Progress is being made, every day, in small ways and in large, newsworthy ways. Our enemy is feeding off of the nature in which U.S. and international media are treating this war. They (the enemy) conduct their operations SOLELY for the purpose of media coverage and to spread fear.
Good News About Bad Guys
In related news, Iraq’s prime minister said that fears of an Iraqi civil war are unwarranted:
“I don’t see the country falling into a civil war despite the regrettable activities of certain people who ignore that Iraq is united,” Maliki told reporters in the Kurdish city of Arbil in the north of the country.
“The security services are still in control of the situation and we would like to see matters move towards political (compromise) rather than resort to force,” he added.
“We have the capacity, if necessary, to impose order and suppress those who rebel against the state.”
Al-Maliki also revealed that Iraqis security forces had thwarted a plan by terrorists to take over parts of western Baghdad:
“There was a plan to occupy Baghdad’s districts west of the Tigris but Iraqi forces were able to thwart this occupation,” Maliki told a session of parliament.
“They tried but they failed. Nobody can threaten the security of Iraqis. Our forces started to creep into these areas and to control them.” Maliki did not say which militant group was behind the plan.
Major General Thomas R. Turner, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, said that security has improved immensely in the north of the country:
“Security is at a level where we can begin worrying about economics, about projects,” Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Turner told The Associated Press. “It’s true in Mosul. It’s true in Tal Afar. And it’s true in Tikrit.”
Turner, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, was referring to northern Iraqi cities that were once deeply embroiled in insurgent violence. Although the insurgent threat remains, the area is less turbulent than central Iraq or the western province of Anbar.
That’s notable, Turner said, because many U.S. military commanders had thought the northern provinces under his command would be lasting insurgent strongholds, with roads forever lined with bombs and gunmen always targeting U.S. convoys.
Now computer labs are being built in Mosul and libraries are planned in Tal Afar, he said.When the 101st leaves Iraq, only ten of the 35 U.S. military bases will remain.
The violence in Baghdad has “ebbed significantly,” according to this story in the New York Times:
After four days of rampant sectarian violence that killed more than 140 people here, the bloodshed ebbed significantly today as Iraq’s security and interior ministers appeared before the Iraqi Parliament and were aggressively questioned by legislators on their plans for imposing order in the streets.
You know it’s true if the Times actually has to report it.
Iraqi troops captured the number-2 man in the Islamic Army terrorist group:
The Iraqi army has captured a top rebel from the militant group the Islamic Army in northern Iraq, a senior army officer said on Sunday.
He said Ali Najm Abdullah, also known as Abu Hozeifah and the number two in the Islamic Army, was captured in a raid at 06:00 (02:00 GMT) on Sharifiyah village, located in the insurgent-plagued district of Hawijah west of the oil city of Kirkuk.
The officer said Abdullah and his commander Abu Aesha were responsible for nearly 75 percent of insurgent attacks in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk, Mosul and Tikrit regions.
In Baghdad, Iraqi troops captured two top Shiite militia leaders, and killed or wounded between 30 and 40 during the raid:
Iraqi soldiers backed by U.S. troops and military aircraft stormed a building in a Shiite slum here early Friday, killing or wounding between 30 and 40 gunmen and capturing a high-level Shiite militia commander accused of attacking Iraqi and U.S. troops, the U.S. military command said.
U.S. and Iraqi authorities did not disclose the identity of the captured militia commander, but residents said the building that came under attack was a base of operations for a man known as Abu Deraa, a top commander of the Mahdi Army, the restless and potent Shiite militia that answers to the militant Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.
British troops handed over security of Muthanna to the Iraqis. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq hailed the move as “milestone” in Iraq’s road to freedom and security:
In a joint statement, the U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and the U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey, hailed it as a milestone in Iraq’s capability to govern and protect itself as a “sovereign nation” and said handovers in other provinces will take place as conditions are achieved.
“With this first transition of security responsibility, Muthanna demonstrates the progress Iraq is making toward self- governance,” the statement said, adding that “Multi-National Forces will stand ready to provide assistance if needed.”
It’s the first time since the invasion that Iraqis have taken over sole responsibility for security of a province. Iraqi soldiers understood the importance of the handover:
Beaming Iraqi soldiers walked hand in hand along the field’s fringes in the pleasant morning heat (at least for Iraq in July, when temperatures can sometimes hit 130 degrees). Curious spectators pushed through the crowds to catch the dance performances by the splendidly dressed local tribesmen. Up in the stands, small groups of Iraqi soldiers — also looking smart in their now-meaningful uniforms — watched the ceremony in the comfort of the shade. The P.M.’s private security detail showed off their new matching gray sneakers on the track below while keeping an eye out for their boss.
The Iraqi army can now operate its base at Kirkuk independently:
Until recently, the Iraqi Army had to rely on Coalition Forces for their supplies; be it clothing, ammunition or food. Now, however, IA Garrison Support Unit soldiers at Kirkuk’s K-1 Army compound are taking over their own logistical support, fully capable of sustaining the base on their own.
“We all know that all armies are dependent on their logistic support,” said British Brigadier General Jamie Gordon, acting MNSTC-I commander. “This handover marks the first step in bringing the system alive and making the Iraqi Armed Forces fully self-sufficient.”
Iraqis are now in the lead in Diyala Province.
An emergency response unit is now operating in Kirkuk:
Kirkuk’s Emergency Response Unit is a new group of police officers trained to deal with crisis situations and get things under control before the regular police force arrives.
“They’re like a 9-1-1 center,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Salmo, executive officer, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. “Getting on the scene first and … conducting initial investigations for the police force.”
The number of tips from Iraqis continues to grow:
As Iraqis see their own countrymen defending them against the terrorists and Saddamists, they are stepping forward with needed intelligence. General Casey reports that the number of tips from Iraqis has grown from 400 in March 2005 to over 4,700 last month.
In Babil, Iraqi security forces captured a leader of anti-Iraqi forces:
The Iraqi forces, assisted by Coalition Force advisers, raided a house in Mahawil, north of Hillah, and captured this insurgent commander without incident.
He is responsible for the following activities: weapons smuggling, including the movement of SA-7 surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles; espionage activities for Iran ; participating in coordinated improvised explosive device attacks against Coalition forces; murder and intimidation of Iraqi citizens, inciting sectarian violence; and financing the operations of his organization through contacts in both Lebanon and Iran.
Based on tips from Iraqis, Iraqi security forces captured an entire anti-Iraqi cell during a raid in Mosul:
Local civilians provided tips and other investigative resources were used to identify the houses of three possible terrorists. Once the IA troops entered and cleared the houses, four males were detained and questioned about their involvement in insurgent activities. The four men then pointed the Soldiers to whom they believed to be their cell leader at another location.
A secondary raid based on this information lead the Soldiers to another house and two more terrorists, one of whom was identified by several different sources as the cell leader and a terrorist.
A senior insurgent leader was captured in Baqubah. The wanted man was responsible for terrorist activity throughout the middle Euphrates region.
In Baghdad, a top al Qaeda leader was captured by Coalition forces:
The targeted individual is reported to be an Umar Brigade member and recruiter with control of several terrorist fighting cells. The Umar Brigade is an Al-Qaeda in Iraq created and sponsored, Iraqi insurgent group known to target Shia and specifically designed to incite sectarian violence.
In another raid, Iraqi security forces captured a top insurgent leader, responsible for IED attacks, and the murder of Iraqi civilians:
The captured individual heads multiple insurgent cells in Baghdad whose main focus is to conduct attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces. These attacks include the use of Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs, and vehicle-borne IEDs.
He and his followers have kidnapped, tortured and murdered Iraqi citizens, and he is also is personally responsible for the killing two Iraqi soldiers in an attempt to improve his organization’s status with higher leadership. Additionally, he is linked to a “punishment committee” that carries out vigilante judgment on perceived enemies of his organization.
Iraq’s border with Syria will become more secure this month with the completion of construction on 23 border forts. Each outpost cost $250,000.
The 900,000 residents of Erbil now have a first-rate maternity and pediatrics hospital:
The two-story Erbil Maternity and Pediatric Hospital renovation began in December 2004 and was recently completed at a cost of $6,830,887. Major repairs and renovations were needed to meet the acceptable standards of functionality and cleanliness set by the International Health Code Standards.
Renovations included the installation of a reverse osmosis potable water treatment system as well as an incinerator to keep medical waste from entering into the solid waste and water systems. Repairs were made in many areas, including to mechanical, electrical, water, sewer and structural systems. Generators were also added to provide power to the hospital regardless of the local power supply.
The Erbil Maternity and Pediatric Hospital has 672 employees. This staff includes doctors, nurses, administrators and other staff members. A doctor’s residence attached to the hospital was also part of the rehabilitation and 39 apartments were modernized.
The community of Al Ahnaf Nahia now has a new government building:
“This is a great moment for our community,” said Anmar Thamer during a ribbon cutting ceremony that marked the official opening of the Al Ahnaf Nahia Council’s new building.
Thamer is chairman of that Council which represents about 50,000 residents in north Baghdad Province. “
After suffering 35 years of neglect under the old regime, our residents finally have something they can call their own.” He says their eventual goal is to have the facility open six days a week “so anybody who lives in this area has an opportunity to come here and get help — whether it’s to file a claim against the government if there’s a problem, or doing normal documentation like verifying one’s residence.”
Finally, what often gets lost in the debate over Iraq here at home is what our military men and women think about it. Please check out what the Air Force Pundit had to say about it.
— Bill Crawford lives in San Antonio, Texas. He blogs at All Things Conservative..