Iraq’s new oil minister offered an optimistic forecast for the country’s oil industry on Sunday, saying daily production has reached 2.5 million barrels a day and that Iraq hoped to rival top oil exporter Saudi Arabia within a decade.Iraq expects its daily oil production to reach 2.6 million to 2.7 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of the year, rising to about 4 million bpd by 2010, and 6 million bpd by 2012, Hussain al-Shahristani said in an interview on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
This comes as attacks on oil facilities are lessening:
For more than two years the attacks came like clockwork. As soon as the military secured and workers repaired the pipelines from Iraq’s northern oil fields, just when the valves were about to open, insurgents would strike.
But roughly three weeks ago they suddenly stopped, letting crude oil flow freely from Iraq’s vast reserves near Kirkuk.
Meanwhile, oil production is booming:
In the past three weeks, Iraq has exported 6.2 million barrels of crude to Turkey from its northern fields. Total exports from Iraq in that period, including the oil fields in the south, have increased to 2.5 million barrels per day, the highest level since the invasion, the Oil Ministry reported.
With a going market price of $60 a barrel in Turkey, military officials believe exports so far equate to about $372 million since oil began flowing from the north. Oil is the biggest source of income for the Iraqi government, which is struggling to curb violence and restore the supply of electricity and water.
Not coincidentally, a U.S. Marine writes that the insurgency is crumbling:
Still, the Marines here say that even though it has been a long and grueling three months, the insurgency is beginning to crumble in this city as local residents are warming up to the Marines’ presence and the Iraqi Army is becoming a more solid and independent organization.
A recent story in the Boston Globe backs him up:
The US military claimed an advantage in the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq yesterday, saying raids since the death of its leader have forced many of its foreign fighters out into the open to be captured or killed.
But he said the Americans gained momentum in their fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq after killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and have devoted a lot of resources to targeting his successor as leader, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.
“There is no question, if we can take him down, that will just disrupt the organization . . . to the point where it would be ineffective for a long period of time,” Caldwell said. “It is very disorganized right now. And it is very disrupted right now.”
He said coalition and Iraqi security forces had captured or killed 57 foreign fighters this month.
In related news, the Iraqi army is now responsible for security operations in the north:
The Iraqi Army’s 5th Division officially took charge of military operations in northern Iraq’s Diyala Province from Coalition Forces during a ceremony held here today.
The division’s colors were unveiled and presented to its commander, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Klepos Awad Majhool al-Kozaee by British Maj. Gen. Peter Everson, who serves as deputy commanding general, Multi-National Corps-Iraq. The division earned its colors after being validated as a viable fighting force by the 101st Airborne Division.
“I’d like to say that this division will be successful because it is composed of the full spectrum of Iraqi people,” Ahmed said. “It represents the hand of the government that carries the weapon and the olive branch at the same time.”
If you are anything like me, you continue to be amazed at the character, commitment, and resolve shown by our soldiers who are in Iraq or have served there. This story is further confirmation:
President Bush took a jog Tuesday with a soldier who lost part of both legs in Iraq, following through on a bedside promise even the president had doubts about at the time.
Despite a slight drizzle, Bush and Staff Sgt. Christian Bagge took a slow jog around a spongy track that circles the White House’s South Lawn. About halfway through their approximately half-mile run, Bush and Bagge paused briefly for reporters.
“He ran the president into the ground, I might add,” Bush said, as the two gripped hands in an emotional, lengthy shake. “But I’m proud of you. I’m proud of your strength, proud of your character.”
Iraqis, too, are resilient. Meet Maamoun Sami Rashid al-Awani:
Maamoun Sami Rashid al-Awani, the governor of Anbar province, has survived 30 assassination attempts over the past year.
His house has been the target of mortar shells, machine gun fire and hand grenades. Last August, insurgents kidnapped his 13-year-old son, who was released after the governor paid a ransom. “When they kidnapped my son, he was in school, studying. Imagine, a child studying in school,” he said.
In a recent attack, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed car near al-Awani’s convoy May 2, killing 10 bystanders and injuring the governor’s U.S. Marine escorts.
He keeps coming back to work. His explanation: “There’s nothing greater than serving my country.”
Eleven Sunni insurgent groups have offered an immediate halt to all attacks — including those on American troops — if the United States agrees to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq in two years, insurgent and government officials said Wednesday.
Sunni religious leaders joined in supporting of the plan. Any reconciliation with the Sunnis in Iraq hinges on a withdrawal of U.S. troops, and General George Casey recently outlined a plan of sharp troop reductions:
The New York Times said the officials, who were not identified, indicated the drawdown could involve the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division, which currently oversees a swath of west Baghdad, and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division, which controls troublesome Diyala and Salahuddin provinces.
“In the time it takes a child to sit up, talk, walk, laugh, Iraq has established a constitutionally based, permanent, democratic government with the votes of over 12 million citizens and the efforts of even more,” U.S. Army Major General William Caldwell told journalists in a press briefing in Baghdad.
Caldwell said that in today’s Iraq, free society is growing, as illustrated by increased cell phone coverage from about 1.2 million Iraqis two years ago to 7.4 million today, and an increase in Internet subscribers from 73,000 to more than 200,000. Progress further is illustrated by Iraq’s embrace of more open media with more than 40 new television stations, more than 25 new radio stations and more than 100 new newspapers, added Caldwell.
The empowerment of women has been especially impressive since Saddam’s fall, and the country now has a radio station just for women:
“It is critical that women’s voices be heard in the new Iraq,” said Liz Dolan, one of five Satellite Sisters. “The women of Iraq are at a critical time in their history. They need information, validation and community in order to succeed in a new and free society. That’s why Satellite Sisters is reaching out to Radio Al-Mahaba’s broadcast colleagues and friends here in the United States. They will not be able to continue their critical mission without our help.”
Radio Al-Mahaba is non-religious, non-governmental and non-sectarian. The station provides the only safe haven for women to call-in and talk to one another about their fears, experiences and opinions. Commentators and guests educate the audience about their rights as women and encourage them to take part in the political process.
Rep. Mike Pence has been to Iraq three times, and recently told his colleagues that the U.S. is winning:
Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., told Congress the U.S. is winning the war in Iraq and he continues to support the global war on terror.
“The enemy has never taken down so much as a full platoon in any military engagement,” Pence said.
“It is an extraordinary credit to soldiers.”
A new refinery is nearing completion in Najaf:
Oil Ministry engineers and technicians have completed 85% of a small-scale refinery in the holy city of Najaf, said the refinery’s director Zayd Sharif.
Sharif said the refinery’s first phase will be finished in two months.
He said once completed, the refinery will meet fuel needs of the Province of Najaf and those of its adjacent provinces.
Last month, work was finished on the $70 million Consolidated Fiber Network project:
On June 13, a new fiber optic communications link became fully operational, connecting a major southern power station to the Southern Regional Control Center and to the National Dispatch Control Center in Baghdad. This success marks the completion of the Consolidated Fiber Network (CFN), a nationwide effort that will support the reliability of telephone and electricity service in Iraq.
The 450,000 residents of Husseiniya are being served by a new $1.3 million fire station:
The 925-square meter concrete building features five bays: three for ladder trucks and two for SUVs. Other features are a dormitory area for 25 firefighters; a dining room for 30; a commercial-grade kitchenette equipped to feed 40; a training room for 20; locker room; a control room and a chief’s office.
The Iraqi army delivered school supplies in Mandali:
Iraqi girls jumped to their feet and chanted a welcome greeting to Iraqi army soldiers as they arrived with boxes of school supplies donated by a non-profit organization from Westchester County, N.Y.
Iraqi army soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division smiled as they handed out pencil cases and notebooks to the all-girls school of Mandali during the May 11 visit.
In Hibhib, a new water station is online:
“They have their national sovereignty. Part of a sovereign nation’s responsibility is to take care of its people. The water treatment and distribution facility is a great step towards demonstrating to the good citizens here in Khalis Kada the government is looking after their needs.”
Hibhib is the township equivalent to a U.S. city. Khalis is a kada which is equivalent to a county and Diyala Province would be considered a state in the U.S.
The facility was run down and could not support the needs of the people before it was given an upgrade by Iraqi contractors. Now, the facility with 11 km of new piping can provide clean water for up to 4,000 people, said Capt. Brian Soule, civil military operations planner, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-68 Combined Arms Battalion.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discovered an underground aquifer in northern Iraq, and is in the process of drilling wells to provide clean water to Iraqis who have never had it:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun a well initiative that is due to be completed in mid-summer 2006. At its completion, the initiative will create 49 wells to service 37 Northern Iraqi communities.
Each well project consists of a pump house that encloses a well head, a pump, a generator to run the pump, and a chlorinator with all of its associated instruments, pipes and gauges. Included in the project is a reservoir, a supply pipe to the village and, where needed, a tap-stand. The reservoir is a 500-800 gallon tank placed either on high ground or on stilts to provide the needed pressure at the tap. Most of these villages have never had flowing water available within their boundaries before, so they had no tap-stand. Where one was needed, a tap-stand consisting of a shut-off tap from the water pipe, a catch basin with a runoff drain and a stone decking surrounding the stand was built.
In Mukhisa, construction on several new projects is underway:
“We listen to what the Iraqi people want,” Creed explained. “Something like 70 percent of illnesses in Iraq are caused by dirty, polluted water.”
The water treatment facility is intended to reduce health problems in the area and provide drinking water for the population.
The next project started will be the paving of many of the roads in the villages, now just trash-laden dirt roads.
“Paving the roads has two purposes,” Creed said. “It allows commerce to flow freely into and out of the community, and it also makes it harder to hide [improvised explosive devices] on the roads.”
The last project, while seemingly innocuous, has specific intentions.
“While a soccer field may not seem important, it keeps the young men busy,” Creed said. “A lot of the younger men, with nothing to do, are the most likely to become terrorists. The soccer field will give them something to do, and they’ll hopefully remember Americans gave them something down the road.”
U.S. soldiers and their Iraqi counterparts are assisting the victims of terrorist violence, as this story from Kirkuk illustrates:
For four Iraqi families whose homes were damaged by fire from a recent vehicle-born IED, there was help from Iraqi Police; civil affairs and psychological operations Soldiers; and members of C Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
Police officers and Soldiers hauled in beds, water and school supplies to make the families’ lives a little easier until larger repairs could be made.
General George Casey commented on the security situation in Iraq recently:
Violence is not widespread in Iraq. Fourteen of the 18 provinces, which have 63 percent of the population, experience less than nine attacks per day. Violence is centered in a 30-mile radius around Baghdad. Eleven of those 14 provinces have less than one attack per day. While violence is still at unacceptable levels, it is declining when compared to the week following the Samarra mosque bombing.
In regards to training Iraqis, Casey said:
We have achieved great progress with the Iraqi security forces and have 265,000 military and police. This translates to three divisions, 18 brigades and 69 battalions in the fight now. By the end of this summer, 75 percent of the Iraqi Army brigades will be in the lead. Ninety percent of the divisions will be in the lead by the end of the year.
The general in charge of training Iraq’s security forces, General Martin Dempsey, says Iraq’s new army will be built by the end of this year:
Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey says the effort is on track to finish building Iraq’s new army by the end of this year.
“The Iraqi army will be built by the end of this calendar year,” said General Dempsey. “All of the pieces and parts and processes will be in place by the end of calendar year ‘06. Iraqis will be fully capable of recruiting, vetting, inducting, training, forming into units, putting them in barracks, sending them out the gate to perform their missions.”
The terrorist is reportedly a senior al-Qaida cell leader throughout central Iraq , north of Baghdad . He’s known to be involved in facilitating foreign terrorists throughout central Iraq, and is suspected of having ties to previous attacks on Coalition and Iraqi forces.
Soldiers from the 8th Iraqi Army Division, supported by Coalition force advisers, breached two objectives simultaneously and captured six insurgents including Ali Al-Najar, a local insurgent commander.
Al-Najar directed the operations of several cells in the Diwaniyah area, including a local assassination cell. He was directly responsible for repeated recent mortar and rocket attacks on a Coalition forces compound in the area.
During the same week, Iraqi forces also captured members of an IED cell:
Iraqi Army forces, with coalition advisers in support, captured three primary members of an IED cell operating in the Al Mansour district of Baghdad. This cell is suspected of two IED attacks on coalition forces in the Gazaliyah area in March and a rocket attack on the Baghdad International Airport in April.
The search for two missing soldiers yielded several weapons caches, more than 80 tips from Iraqis, and the capture of 36 anti-Iraqi forces:
Twenty-five military operations were conducted, including 11 air assault missions. More than 12 villages and an old power plant were searched. In the massive effort to locate the missing Soldiers, 12 Soldiers were wounded.
Six caches were discovered. Two of the weapons caches were found in the power plant. Some of the contraband found in the caches included a suicide vest, gun powder, plastic explosives with detonation cord, grenades, AK-47s, and homemade rocket launchers with several rockets.
Throughout the process, Iraqi citizens from across Baghdad provided almost 80 tips, which were all investigated. Coalition Soldiers engaged local religious, community and political leaders to maintain support and gain information.
In an attempt to thwart the search effort, the enemy conducted a series of harassing attacks with improvised explosive devices and indirect fire, all of which failed to stop the search. Ten IEDs detonated and 17 were found by searchers before detonation.
Coalition and Iraqi security forces detained 36 suspected anti-Iraqi forces involved in the murders and killed two enemy fighters. Coalition forces surged interrogation operations around-the-clock for three days while the search for the Soldiers continued.
Iraqi forces captured a terrorist facilitator during a raid near Baghdad:
Al Juburi facilitates terrorist activities by using his home to harbor terrorists of a local cell who train, live and operate in this area. This cell is responsible for mortar and improvised explosive device attacks against Coalition forces, including two IED attacks on convoys that killed three Coalition Soldiers.
Pfc. Thomas Tucker and Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, who were captured and killed by al Qaeda in Iraq in retaliation for the death of Zarqawi. Both men were honored with the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and the Prisoner of War Medal.
First, Pfc. Menchaca:
Services were held for Private First Class Kristian Menchaca of Houston. The 23-year-old soldier was abducted from a checkpoint in Iraq and killed.
Mass was celebrated at the Brownsville Event Center.
Afterwards, under the shade of the mesquite trees, more than 500 people gathered Wednesday afternoon to say their final farewells to Menchaca at the Buena Vista Burial Park in Brownsville.
As Menchaca’s flagged draped casket was taken out of the hearse, his mother, Maria Vasquez, was heard crying for her son.
And Pfc. Tucker:
The family of a Madras soldier killed in Iraq will open his burial service to the public and has invited people to a reception afterward as a way to thank them for their outpouring of support.
Army Pfc. Thomas Tucker’s parents originally planned a private graveside ceremony after a public funeral Saturday but changed their plans after many people voiced a strong desire to attend, said Jefferson County Sheriff Jack Jones.
“I know the family is greatly honored by the community’s response to the loss of their son,” he said.
Menchaca and Tucker are America’s finest, and we must make certain their sacrifice is not forgotten.
And so we carry on.
– Bill Crawford lives in San Antonio, Texas. He blogs at All Things Conservative.