Before 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.
‐ — Bill Crawford lives in San Antonio, Texas. He blogs at All Things Conservative..