An important step in stemming the violence in Iraq is to find a formula to share the country’s oil revenues fairly between the three main groups: Shiite, Sunnis, and Kurds. Iraq is preparing to take a step in the right direction by providing opportunities for foreign oil firms to invest in the country, thereby increasing its output and revenues:
The production-sharing agreements (PSAs) would allow oil giants to sign 30-year contracts for extracting Iraqi oil.
Under PSAs, the state retains legal ownership of its oil but gives a share of the profits to companies that invest in infrastructure and in operating the wells, pipelines and refineries.
The newspaper [the Independent] said that under the draft law, oil companies could recoup 60 to 70 per cent of revenue until initial costs had been recovered, which compares to around 40pc usually.
Along the same lines, Lt. General Graeme Lamb, Deputy Commander of Multinational Forces-Iraq, sees 2007 as the year that Iraq moves forward, and says he sees plenty of progress to base his optimism on:
Let me give you an example. I was out at Hit the other day, Ramadi. The battalion commander out there, young battalion commander — actually, I suppose he’s not that young; he just looks it — had been in Ramadi two years before, had done a full year’s tour. As far as he was concerned, he always just seemed to be going backwards. When I saw him the other day, as far as he was concerned, they were making huge progress.
Ramadi. Four months ago I don’t think there was any policemen in the town. Seven hundred and ninety-one now.
They were shot at from a building. Two hundred policemen drawn together surrounded the building, cleared it. Now, that’s just an example of some progress.
I then look at some of the economic issues. I look at the megawatts of power that are coming on line. I see some of the reconstruction programs that are going out. Now, that gives me a degree of optimism.
I see this prime minister. I see this government. I see the challenges they face, and I’m not trying to dismiss the difficulties or trying to give you some sort of political upbeat spin. I don’t do optimism. I don’t do pessimism. I just do realism as I see it. And I do spend a lot of time out here. I spend a lot of time out here. I got a feel for the Arabs.
So it’s just the way I see it, and it’s not sort of in effect trying to — I don’t know — make something out of nothing. I think the situation here — you know, as someone once said — I think it was a field marshal of ours said things are never as good or as bad as you think they are. I just see these in fact at a point in turning.
Mosul and al Qaim are other areas where significant progress has been made over the past year. In Mosul, Iraqi police and army forces have brought law and order to a historically violent area:
“Yes, there is violence in this city. But, there is violence in American cities that have nearly two million people in their population as well,” said [Maj. Gen. Benjamin R.] Mixon.
Recognizing the similar levels of violence in a comparable city in America, Twitty paints an optimistic picture of the current state of Mosul and Ninewa Province.
“Amidst the turmoil and issues that persist in Iraq, there is a semblance of peace and normalcy in the north. Ninewa’s leadership works hard to provide its citizens security, build its economy, and implement programs that will continue to keep sectarian violence from the province,” said Twitty. “One thing we cannot do is attempt to put an American standard on any Iraqi city,” said Twitty. “We have to remember that this country lived under a dictator for more than 30 years. The major and significant difference between U.S. cities and Mosul is the use of improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades, and other military – grade weapons. Anti-Iraqi forces persist in their attacks, but the Iraqi security forces, consisting of the Iraqi Army, border patrol and police, continue to quell those attacks daily,” Twitty continued.
Al Qaim was frequently called the “Wild West,” but the Marines cleaned the area up in 2005, and the situation is improving daily:
Two years ago, the same streets were fraught with roadside bombs and snipers, and sellers and buyers stayed away. The area was considered too dangerous even for a quick tour by a U.S. general in his armored Humvee.
The Al Qaim region routinely was described as an out-of-control “wild west” where the Marines were fighting, with only limited success, to control the smuggling of insurgent fighters and weapons from Syria.
Today, Marines walk the downtown beat, chatting with residents, fielding their complaints, encouraging them to contact the Iraqi police if they suspect insurgent activity.
In a country studded with areas where the United States either has failed or had only limited progress toward stabilization, Husaybah and the surrounding Al Qaim region stand out as a success, officials said.
Unfortunately, the American people aren’t hearing about this, as Army medic Corporal Ignacio Garza observes:
Based on his experiences in Iraq, events there are not as bad as the news media make it seem, an Army medic from Adrian said.
Cpl. Ignacio Garza, a medic in the 1st Armored Division home on leave after serving in Iraq for six months, said the troops don’t watch television news for war updates because they think none of the networks show an accurate depiction of what’s happening. He said they ignore large parts of the country, including the Kurd-dominated north, that are stable.
In fact, if the mainstream media isn’t ignoring a story in Iraq they could just as easily be making one up. For the second time in six weeks, the Associated Press has put out a story from Iraq that isn’t backed by the facts:
The Associated Press has again put out an Iraq story detailing events that did not happen. This time, it involves an airstrike that, ” killed a family of four during a firefight.” However, according to the press desk of Multi-National Forces-Iraq, no air strike happened during that firefight, and MNF-I also reported that which six insurgents were killed by American troops in Baghdad on January 1. This is the second time in roughly six weeks that the AP has been caught fabricating events.
Iraqi Security Forces
In an operation on January 7, members of the 6th Iraqi army division captured the leader of a cell responsible for kidnappings, murder, IED attacks, and car bombings.
Near Baqubah, soldiers of the 5th Iraqi army killed three insurgents during an operation to capture a cell leader. The Iraqi patrol came under fire from men exiting a mosque. They returned fire, killing three.
The 1st Iraqi army division assumed tactical command of the 2nd Brigade on January 9. The brigade will operate within Fallujah:
“We will be loyal soldiers to defend our precious country and to implement security and stability,” said Brig. Gen. Khalid Juad Khadum, the commanding general of 2nd Brigade. “And this will hit the pages of history in godly words, and we promise Allah that we will take care of this handover and to protect it, God willing, until the last drop of our blood, and Allah is a witness of what we say.”
The Iraqi police enlisted 301 recruits during a recent recruiting drive in Fallujah and Habbaniyah. The new recruits will undergo six-week basic training in Jordan. Another 400 were enlisted during a recruiting drive in Ramadi. The situation was far different last year:
One year ago a murderous intimidation campaign prevented local Iraqis from enlisting in Ramadi. Recruiting numbers for police were insignificant. More than 1,000 enlisted in the police force last month. Over 800 are expected to enlist in Anbar Province this month.
“The local tribes stood up to the intimidation campaign and are taking back their city from the terrorists,” said the Coalition spokesman in Ramadi Marine Maj. Riccoh Player.
“Hundreds of Iraqi Police are holding areas cleared by Iraqi and American forces in recent operation in the worst neighborhoods of Ramadi,” said Player.
“Building and manning a police station in Ramadi is what progress looks like in a counterinsurgency.”
Based on tips from Iraqi civilians, the Iraqi national police, with Coalition forces, detained ten and uncovered several weapons caches during an operation in Baghdad:
The operation was the result of tips from local citizens of possible insurgents and weapons caches in the neighborhood.
The national police seized three large weapons caches containing one rifle fitted with a silencer, one machine gun, one sniper rifle, assorted small arms ammunition and bomb-making materials.
In Fallujah, Iraqi police and army troops captured 47 insurgents during Operation Ar Bead. The operation was planned and executed by Iraqi troops, who have tamed the once restless city:
“The district police chief – this was his idea,” said Lt. Col. Race Roberson, the RCT-5 police implementation officer. “It was (an Iraqi Security Forces) operation; they were the owners of it.”
”The police are a strong force, and they will go anywhere at anytime in the city of Fallujah,” Roberson said.
The Iraqi army has begun a major operation in Baghdad. Thirty terrorists were reported killed on the first day, including five from Sudan.
The 2nd Division of the Iraq army is now operating independently of Coalition forces.
In Qasaiba, soldiers of the 5th Iraqi Army Division captured the leader of an insurgent cell operating in the area:
The insurgent cell leader is suspected of limiting the travel of Iraqi civilians in the area through intimidation and violent criminal activities. It is also believed the cell leader coordinates and conducts kidnapping, torture and murders of Iraqi civilians and security forces in the area.
On January 10, Iraqi soldiers rescued a kidnapping victim:
Working on a tip, Iraqi troops from the 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized) searched for the kidnapping victim’s vehicle. They discovered it on a farm. Upon conducting a cordon and search of the farm, the soldiers found the kidnapped Iraqi in a farmhouse unharmed, with his hands tied.
Iraqi Special Security Forces captured two leaders of an insurgent cell during an operation in Al Doura. The cell is responsible for car bombings against civilians in Sadr City and IED attacks against Iraqi security forces.
In Tal Afar, Iraqi police killed four insurgents after they came under attack while on patrol. A later search of the area found a weapons cache consisting of 12 RPGs and two mortar shells.
Iraqi army special forces captured 19 during an operation targeting the leader of an insurgent cell responsible for attacks against Iraqi civilians and Coalition forces.
During two operations in Fallujah, Iraqi soldiers captured six members of al Qaeda. The men are suspected of involvement with IED attacks against Coalition troops and weapons trafficking.
Iraqi security forces joined Marines and U.S. soldiers in conducting a successful operation to clean up Ramadi:
Iraqi Army, police and Coalition forces seized hundreds of weapons and explosives during the operation, including three mortar systems, 101 mortar rounds, 90 pounds of explosives, eight rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 47 AK-47s, five Dragonov sniper rifles, 26 grenades, 26 mines, 34 artillery rounds, 12 rockets and other items used to attack Ramadi’s security forces and civilians.
During the operation 44 enemy combatants were killed and 172 suspected insurgents were detained.
The Iraqi army captured a high-level insurgent leader during a raid in Hajjan:
The suspect is allegedly an experienced IED builder and an illegal armed group member. He was believed to be training other illegal armed group members how to construct and employ IEDs.
Prime Minister al-Maliki has finally been convinced to drop his protection of the Mahdi army. The move came after U.S. officials convinced al-Maliki that the militia was infiltrated by Shiite death squads. In related news, Sadr’s political block is ending its two month boycott of parliament.
Two tips led Iraqi national police to a kidnapping victim and a sizeable weapons cache in Baghdad:
“This raid was planned and executed entirely by the Iraqi national police,” said Maj. Blaine Wales, the team chief for the 1st Battalion, 7th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police Transition Team.
The weapons cache consisted of 31 mortar and artillery rounds, 12 rolls of detonation cord, one can of ball bearings, three blocks of C4 explosive, 100 blasting caps and fuses, two completed improvised explosive devices, multiple batteries of all types, four handheld radios, nine cellular phones and seven completed electronic circuit boards similar to those found in roadside bombs.
In eastern Baghdad, an Iraqi patrol found an IED before it could be detonated.
In Baghdad, an Iraqi army patrol successfully fought its way out of an ambush:
While conducting a routine patrol in Baghdad’s Fahhama neighborhood, an element of the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army was ambushed by a group of insurgents armed with pistols and AK-47s. The patrol immediately returned fire on the men attacking them.
Two insurgents were killed and four others wounded in the fire fight.
Tips from citizens led Iraqi police to two large weapons caches:
The first cache included fifteen 9mm TNT rounds, a dozen 90mm Composition A3 rounds, five 155mm High Explosive rounds, four artillery fuses, six 20mm rockets, and nine RPG rounds among other items. The second cache included two 105mm rounds rigged as improvised explosive devices.
Iraqi Police captured the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq’s cell in Samarra during an operation on January 18.
Iraqi forces captured two high-level insurgent commanders in separate raids:
Special Iraqi army forces, with coalition advisors, captured a high-level terrorist leader today during operations in eastern Baghdad, military officials said. The suspect is allegedly affiliated with Abu Dura and other Baghdad death squad commanders, and is responsible for assassinating numerous Iraqi security forces members and government officials. Military officials said he has also organized kidnappings, torture and murder of Iraqi civilians.
During operations in Samarra yesterday, Iraqi police forces with coalition advisors captured the suspected leader of several al Qaeda in Iraq terror cells. The suspect is responsible for directing several IED and small arms attacks against Iraqi security forces, coalition forces and Iraqi civilians. During the operation, combined forces captured an additional insurgent and confiscated IED components, assault rifles and ammunition.
In Morocco, security forces have disrupted a cell responsible for recruiting terrorists to fight in Iraq:
Moroccan security forces have dismantled a radical cell recruiting volunteers to fight in Iraq and arrested 26 people, the government said on Thursday.
In Tal Afar, Iraq forces discovered a tunnel leading below a house where they found a weapons cache consisting of 200 pounds of explosives, more than 125 rockets, and 2,500 rounds of ammunition.
Over at the Department of Defense website, a map of Iraq shows the progress made by Iraq’s army over the last year. “Green areas” indicate areas under control of Iraqi forces. The “green areas” increase significantly as the year progresses. Check it out.
Nine terrorists, including an al-Qaeda leader, were killed during raids conducted by coalition forces in Baghdad today and yesterday. Also, one terrorist was wounded, and three were detained during the raids.
A known al-Qaeda weapons dealer was among those killed during today’s Baghdad raid, according to officials. Another terrorist was wounded in the action, while two more were detained. The wounded terrorist was provided first aid and transported to a nearby medical facility. Coalition forces had targeted the weapons dealer, whose body was identified by his wife.
In other news, coalition troops killed six terrorists and detained one suspect during a fierce morning firefight in Baghdad yesterday, officials reported.
Intelligence reports indicated the targeted location was used as a possible al Qaeda in Iraq safe house for terrorists to conduct operational planning.
Another 90 al Qaeda terrorists were killed by American and Iraqi forces during a ten-day operation near Baghdad. A patrol consisting of troops from the 1st Cavalry Division uncovered seven weapons caches in the village of Arab Salman Salman:
…uncovered the caches, which included 51 rocket-propelled grenade rounds; 11 RPG launchers; two assault rifles with 13,000 rounds of ammunition; six 57mm rockets; eight plastic explosives; two 120mm artillery shells; two 137mm missiles; 225 pounds of explosives; and other IED-making materials.
Iraqi and Coalition troops discovered a weapons cache in Yusufiyah consisting of materials used in the manufacture of IEDs:
The cache, which contained a variety of improvised explosive device making items and weapons included six 120mm mortar rounds, a directional charge, five rocket propelled grenade launchers, seven RPG charges, nine RPG rockets, 150 small metal cylinders filled with plastic explosives, 1000 7.62mm rounds, 200 ft. of detonation cord, seven hand grenade fuses, five hand grenade shells, five long-range antennae, 22 transformers, four cordless phones, two cordless phone base stations, two cell phones, 12 cell phone cases with assorted parts and 12 60mm mortar round casings.
Twenty-eight suspected terrorists were captured during raids across Iraq which targeted the safe houses of foreign terrorists.
Over the past month, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne have found more than 500 artillery rounds that could have been used to make IEDs or VBEIDs.
Reconstruction & Economy
If it were any other country, the reconstruction of Iraq would be a huge story. As of December 31, 2006, there are 658 projects underway at a cost of $2.67 billion, 3,026 projects have been completed at a cost of $7.11 billion, and 94 more projects are planned.
A $43 million upgrade to the Al Basrah oil terminal is expected to be completed by April. The upgrade includes an emergency shutdown system, control valves, metering system, and fire protection. The upgraded terminal will meet all international safety and metering standards.
Twenty hospitals throughout Iraq are currently undergoing $103 million in renovations.
A small water project was completed in Dahuk Province. The new water storage tank and pipeline serves more than 1,000 residents of Dahuk.
An $8.6 million renovation to the Samawah Railroad Maintenance Center has been completed. The Samawah site is one of two railway maintenance centers in Iraq, and employs more than 250 Iraqis.
Iraq’s power grid is now being monitored by a central control system, called SCADA:
“The main function of SCADA is to create and maintain a digital connection in order to check the provinces’ power loads and control them easily by connecting them to the central power distribution points,” Perry said.
The SCADA system includes input and output signal hardware, controller networks, and communications software.
There are 47 primary health-care centers under construction in northern Iraq. The first completed center recently opened in Salah Al Den Province:
More than 112,000 people in the Salah Al Den Province are receiving healthcare from the first completed Primary Healthcare Center (PHC) in the north.
Built by local construction companies with quality assurance managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this $3.35 million dollar facility provides routine and initial emergency care to patients including X-ray, laboratories and dentistry. Medical supplies and laboratory equipment were included in the contract to make this facility complete and operational.
On January 15, three new schools were opened in Mushahidah: an elementary school for girls, a secondary school for girls, and an elementary school for boys:
“This is a great example for the projects in this area,” said Shiek Naif Moutlak, the chief of the city council. “We thank the coalition for all they have done and hope for other projects in the area to help the people.”
The Pentagon is helping fight unemployment in Iraq by reopening factories that were once owned by Saddam Hussein:
Under a new program, the U.S. Defense Department is already helping reopen factories that were owned by Saddam Hussein’s government and abandoned by occupation authorities shortly after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The Pentagon may also start providing them with contracts to support U.S. troops.
One factory restarted operations in the past two weeks, and nine more are to open by the end of this month, adding some 11,000 Iraqis to employment rolls, a Pentagon official said Wednesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information had not been released yet.
The president’s speech this week put Iran on notice that the U.S. was going to work to prevent its interference in Iraq. Iraqi forces took the first step in confronting Iran when they raided Iran’s diplomatic mission in Irbil:
Iraqi officials said today that multinational forces detained as many as six Iranians in an overnight raid on Tehran’s diplomatic mission in the northern city of Irbil just hours after President Bush gave details about his new military plan for Iraq. The forces stormed the Iranian mission at about 3 a.m., detaining the five staffers and confiscating computers and documents, two senior local Kurdish officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. Irbil is a city in the Kurdish-controlled north, 220 miles from Baghdad.
During the mission, one female physician’s assistant and one female pediatrician medically examined over 80 people; 65 percent children, and 35 percent women.
Three dozen soccer balls were distributed to the children of the town, courtesy of a donation from a radio station in the United States, as well as clothing, toys, shoes, and school supplies.
Cpl. Dunham’s squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in Karabilah, Iraq, on April 14, 2004, when a nearby convoy returning to base was ambushed. Hearing gunfire, Dunham and his squad rushed over to help suppress the attack. He led a team a few blocks south of the immediate ambush site and ordered his squad to block seven vehicles attempting to leave. As they approached, an Iraqi insurgent jumped out of one of the vehicles and grabbed Dunham by the throat. As Dunham fought the enemy hand-to-hand, two Marines moved in to help. Dunham noticed that the enemy fighter had a grenade in his hand, and ordered his Marines to move back as he wrestled the insurgent to the ground. The enemy dropped the live grenade and without hesitating Dunham took off his Kevlar helmet, covered the grenade with it, and threw himself on top to smother the blast. Dunham’s actions saved the lives of the other two Marines. Dunham will be the second serviceman and first Marine in the Global War on Terror to receive the Medal of Honor.
On April 12, 2005, Dean rushed to the scene of a suicide-bomb explosion near Fort Tal-Afar, which killed and wounded several Iraqi army soldiers and civilians. Dean set up a triage for 10 wounded, including a 4-year-old boy with head injuries. He provided care for the child, and prepared him for medical evacuation, most likely saving the boy’s life.
While in Iraq, Dean was the primary provider of lifesaving emergency care to more than 45 wounded soldiers and civilians during six mass casualty situations. For his lifesaving actions, Dean was awarded the Bronze Star on June 1, 2006.
Sgt. Hester’s squad was following a supply convoy on March 20, 2005, in Iraq when insurgents ambushed the convoy. Her squad quickly moved into position, cutting off the enemy’s escape route. Hester led her team directly into the line of fire into a flanking position, and then began an assault on a trench line. She and her squad leader cleared two trenches. When the attack was over, 27 insurgents were dead, six were wounded, and one was captured. In June 2005, Hester was the first woman soldier since World War II to be awarded the Silver Star Medal.
1st Lt. Butler and his team were conducting operations in Fallujah, Iraq, on Dec. 23, 2004, when insurgents ambushed his platoon. Butler raced to the attack where several men in a house were taking heavy automatic weapons fire. He evacuated the men from a house under intense fire, and then organized an assault force to confront the insurgents who were pinning down additional men on the second floor. Jumping roof to roof, Butler and his team cleared two buildings under fire to retrieve the other men. Butler disregarded his own safety and shielded the bodies of fallen Marines when a grenade landed nearby. For his actions, Butler was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device.
— Bill Crawford lives in San Antonio, Texas. He blogs at All Things Conservative.