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Dan

Actually, there are indeed unmistakable signs that things are turning for the better in Iraq:

1) The turnaround that has occurred in Al-Anbar province in just a few short months is nothing short of amazing. This province, once the core of the sunni insurgency, has gone from being described as "lost" only six months ago to now being relatively peaceful.

2) A similar turnaround may now be possible in Diyala province, since the Al-Qaeda elements that had basically been running the place have now been cleared out and sent running by the U.S. and Iraqi armed forces. This is the "surge" at work.

3) Approximnately 50% of Baghdad is now considered to have been "cleared" of terrorist elements and private militias. Again, the "surge" is what has made this possible.

4) Moqtada Al-Sadr has fled yet again to go and hide behind the skirts of his paymasters in Iran. This has to be doing wonders for his image among Iraq's shiites.

5) Al-Qaeda's #2 man, Ayman Al-Zarqawi, recently felt compelled to come out with a new 45-minute videotape in which he was practically begging Iraq's sunni muslims to "show unity." Can there be any clearer indication that the tide of battle has turned against them?

The fact is that Al-Qaeda's extremist ideology is now being soundly rejected by the very people that they claim to champion, Iraq's sunni muslim minority. We are on the cusp of a HUGE propaganda victory here. The only thing that can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory is if domestic political pressures force a premature withdrawl of American forces.

I predict that we will start to see American forces gradually drawn down beginning in late 2007 or early 2008. We will ultimately settle in for the long haul with a garrison of 30,000 - 40,000 troops that will concertrate on training Iraqi forces, hunting Al-Qaeda elements, and securing Iraq's borders with Iran and Syria. I only hope that the Iraqis will be up to the task of governing their country without descemding into civil war, because we won't have the manpower to step in between them any more.

Tom

"He did say, however, that the extra 29,000 US troops were, perhaps, using the right tactics but two years too late"

Duh.

Ignant_dude

Minor point, Dan, it was "Zawahiri" that released the tape in which he was begged his AQ brethren to keep the faith and hold on just a little while longer until his allies in the US senate secure their victory. "Zarqawi", an Al Qaeda affiliate since 1999 who started operating in Iraq in summer 2002, was the leader of AQI when he was killed a little over a year ago.

Anyway, I agree that the success of our military should be overshadowing the "lack of political progress", especially as we're expecting the Iraqi govt to accomplish far more than our Congress ever could. I appreciate that we're attempting to pressure them to resolve some issues, but I feel it's about as helpful as if the UN were to give us a benchmark on solving our immigration problem. The point of the benchmarks was to help ensure stability and decrease sectarian violence. Benchmarks aside, we're making huge military progress in that realm that is meant to give the Iraqi govt time to develop meaningful - and not rushed - legislation. I'm personally torn on the idea of benchmarks (though if I were Bush I would have embraced them as a means of getting ANYTHING through Congress)- they're the only reasonable way of forcing political progress on the Iraqi govt, but I'm still not sure we should be forcing political progress.

I'll also agree that the Democrats can keep raising the bar of success above anything we can reasonably achieve and the MSM will back them on it. If no one died for an entire month in Iraq of any cause whatsoever and the Iraqi govt passed legislation meeting every benchark, they'd probably go back to reporting on "demeaning interogation techniques" or reporters would search for an Iraqi that hates Americans and interview him as an example of the entire population.

I can only hope that, as others predicted, we are able to maintain stability until the inevitable Democrat takes over. It'll be more difficult to blame Bush for the consequences of withdrawal if a Dem president is the one who orders it, so I don't believe they will.

Go Metro

The BBC is critical of the US government at all times under every circumstance. Of course, if the US looks ready to pull out the BBC will declare they are making the wrong decision. That's elementary.

Ron C

"...until the inevitable Democrat takes over." - ID

At this point I don't think it is inevitable at all - in fact, it could be turning quite 'unlikely.'

Simon Newman

"The fact is that Al-Qaeda's extremist ideology is now being soundly rejected by the very people that they claim to champion, Iraq's sunni muslim minority. We are on the cusp of a HUGE propaganda victory here.

Yes, but - the only reason Al Qaeda were able to operate in Iraq in the first place was the US invasion. It's good that a combination of Al Qaeda extremism and some good tactics by US commanders has undermined AQ support amongst Iraqi Sunnis, who now see them as foreign invaders. That doesn't mean they don't see the US as a foreign invader too though, merely that Al Qaeda are so evil that most Iraqi Sunnis are coming to see the US as the lesser of two evils.

AN Corby

Anyone that is still hung up on the idea that the BBC is intractably anti-American might want to have a listen to its recent radio series: 'Death To America'. It systematically looks at, and then rubbishes, the so-called grievances that many European and developing nations seem to hold against the US. I have not seen or heard anything as convincing in the US MSM to date.

Paul

Michael Yon - an American journalist who has been embedded variously with American, British and Iraqi troops for the past 2 years in Iraq - has some excellent insights into the surge and the real results it's delivering. He's as close as you can get to the situation (far more so than the many armchair dissenters) and very supportive of what coalition forces are doing. http://michaelyon-online.com/

Steevo

Somon, we discovered right after defeating Saddam's troops in the north there were terrorist bases (don't know if they were al-Queda). Saddam had already began compensating Palestinian families financially for their suicide bomber children. There is no reason not to believe he would have offered substantial assistance for bin Laden.

Al-Queda have been there after we entered, allowed by Sunnies who didn't want us because they didn't want to lose power, which for them meant repression of the majority and murderous control. Al-Queda also infiltrated on its own. So, what you have is people here who are evil, with no regard for human rights or life for that matter, wanting us to get out so they can rule by terror. Of course the population at large did not want an occupier, and being brainwashed about 'evil' Americans didn't help. As time has moved on this has changed substantially. Its what I've been telling you Simon but you refused to believe it. You even claimed al-Queda wasn't in Iraq! Then I quess you couldn't deny that and instead just claimed they are winning. And you have wanted to believe we have been losinging, right up to, well... this BBC acknowledgment? If you want it will be easy for me to bring up your exact statements?

"The fact is that Al-Qaeda's extremist ideology is now being soundly rejected by the very people that they claim to champion, Iraq's sunni muslim minority. We are on the cusp of a HUGE propaganda victory here.

Simon: "Yes, but - the only reason Al Qaeda were able to operate in Iraq in the first place was the US invasion. It's good that a combination of Al Qaeda extremism and some good tactics by US commanders has undermined AQ support amongst Iraqi Sunnis, who now see them as foreign invaders. That doesn't mean they don't see the US as a foreign invader too though, merely that Al Qaeda are so evil that most Iraqi Sunnis are coming to see the US as the lesser of two evils."

That's you Simon. There really is no BUT about it. No qualification here (i.e., but look its still America's fault). A gruesome brutal tyrant is gone. That's what I'm glad to see, and a hope of freedom for millions in a brutal and repressed area of our world. Finally, for the Kurds in the north who've experienced a genocide, a majority of Shia in the south who've lived through the nightmare of mass graves, torture and repression, and the remainder not part of Saddam's police state.

This is a combination of some hard fought trial and error: progressing with the determination of bravery and good will, to produce good tactics and overall composure of personnel, helping to persuade the Iraqi citizenry (having their eyes opened) to know who is putting their lives on the line for them, as opposed to who wants their destruction. You see Simon, al-Queda has become more brutal because of the relationship of the Americans and common Iraqis on the one hand, our troops (and increasingly well trained Iraqi troops) decimating them on the other.

And we are increasingly seen, not as 'invaders' that are merely less evil compared to al-Queda, Simon (although probably with the remaining holdouts of hardened Sunni, and some of Sadr's men). No Simon I won't let you imply that at all. As time goes on we are seen as occupiers, not evil people. And absolutely needed. The American military, working with the Iraqi military and now Sunni tribal leaders, putting their lives on the line fighting evil fanaticism so Iraqis can live in peace!

Since you now know al-Queda is in Iraq, they're increasingly not supported but instead hated and fought against, I'll leave you with this from Michael Yon. IT SAYS SO MUCH... it should for anyone who respects life:

>Since my reporting of the massacre at the al Hamari village, many readers at home have asked how anyone can know that al Qaeda actually performed the massacre. The question is a very good one, and one that I posed from the first hour to Iraqis and Americans while trying to ascertain facts about the killings.

>No one can claim with certainty that it was al Qaeda, but the Iraqis here seem convinced of it. At a meeting today in Baqubah one Iraqi official I spoke with framed the al Qaeda infiltration and influence in the province. Although he spoke freely before a group of Iraqi and American commanders, including Staff Major General Abdul Kareem al Robai who commands Iraqi forces in Diyala, and LTC Fred Johnson, the deputy commander of 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, the Iraqi official asked that I withhold his identity from publication. His opinion, shared by others present, is that al Qaeda came to Baqubah and united many of the otherwise independent criminal gangs.

>Speaking through an American interpreter, Lieutenant David Wallach who is a native Arabic speaker, the Iraqi official related how al Qaeda united these gangs who then became absorbed into “al Qaeda.” They recruited boys born during the years 1991, 92 and 93 who were each given weapons, including pistols, a bicycle and a phone (with phone cards paid) and a salary of $100 per month, all courtesy of al Qaeda. These boys were used for kidnapping, torturing and murdering people.

>At first, he said, they would only target Shia, but over time the new al Qaeda directed attacks against Sunni, and then anyone who thought differently. The official reported that on a couple of occasions in Baqubah, al Qaeda invited to lunch families they wanted to convert to their way of thinking. In each instance, the family had a boy, he said, who was about 11-years-old. As LT David Wallach interpreted the man’s words, I saw Wallach go blank and silent. He stopped interpreting for a moment. I asked Wallach, “What did he say?” Wallach said that at these luncheons, the families were sat down to eat. And then their boy was brought in with his mouth stuffed. The boy had been baked. Al Qaeda served the boy to his family.

Da Coyote

"Wars are lost- not won."

What will most likely happen is the American forces will be reduced to a token force which will make victory impossible but allow Al Qaeda and Al Jazeera to claim American defeat even as DC offers half-heartedly denials. The enemy will be emboldened by their victory, even if it's only a propaganda tool, and the token force will continue lose good people because of Washington's lack of resolve.
Dictators in the far east, South & Latin America, and in Africa will consider this a sign of American impotence and act accordingly. In the end, we'll have fought a war, but not to win, and the forces of oppression will become more hostile and militant as they see America is unwilling to smack them.

mamapajamas

Da Coyote, what you have outlined is the Vietnam Syndrome.

There are those of us in the US who actually DID learn from Vietnam and will not allow wars to be fought in Congress.

mamapajamas

Frogg, excellent post :).

I might add, too, that the "civil war" in Iraq looks to me as if Al Qaeda has been running "false flag" operations. While I'm sure that SOME of the operations have been done by insurgent groups of Iraqis, I would bet most of everything I own that Al Qaeda have been playing both sides against the middle from the start, attacking both sides and claiming to be the other side... especially in the mosque and market bombings.

Further, the rivalry between the Sunni and Shi'ites is nothing compared to the rivalry between Babylon and Persia. That is the oldest grudge in the world... and it's still going on. As much as Mookie Al Sadr may be accepting help from Iran, the fact that he keeps running to hide in Iran is going to wear thin VERY quickly. The Iraqi Shi'ites hate the Persians MORE than they hate the Sunnis. Temporary "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" situations is one thing, running to hide with a long-standing enemy repeatedly is quite another. ;)

mamapajamas

Simon, re: "That doesn't mean they don't see the US as a foreign invader too though, merely that Al Qaeda are so evil that most Iraqi Sunnis are coming to see the US as the lesser of two evils."

What Steevo said.

Further, all of those polls done in Iraq saying that the Iraqi people wanted the US to leave forgot to mention the other half of the answer... "...but not now."

The ONLY way pollsters could get the Iraqis to say that the US should leave was by adding the caveat that the US should leave "at some point in the future". Which was always the plan. "But not now."

Da Coyote

Unfortunately mamapajamas, there are those who believe the enemy is not iSlamic terrorists or oppressive "Banana Republic" dictators but those who oppose Gay Marriage, Universal Healthcare & Gun Control.

I've just had an excellent idea! Let's have a swap:

You British take the 'New England' states (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, & Massachusetts) off our hands, and we'll take western Canada (everything west of Ontario), Australia & The Bahamas off yours.

How about it?

mamapajamas

I can't speak for the UK (I'm in Florida), but that sounds like a plan to me :D.

JF

Da Coyote, Canada and Australia are no longer under the dominion of Britain, so we are free to forge closer links with those countries with or without Britain's approval. This is one of the hard truths that Britain under Malloch Brown will have to face: just as Britain has alternatives to the US (i.e. the EU), the US has alternatives to Britain. We would prefer Britain as an ally, but should Britain choose to become an enemy, we will hardly be alone in the world.

As for giving up New England, as much as I rail against the liberal politics there, I would prefer not to surrender the region from which the United States originated. Also, New England's economic strength is not something to be amputated lightly, so I would prefer a campaign to renew a conservative presence there rather than simply abandon it. (Full disclosure: I am a native New Englander).

Ken Stevens

Da Coyote | July 15, 02:31 PM"...You British take 'New England' ..."

I'd rather you took 'Old'England off of EU's hands! Then rename the cross-pond partners as West and East England. Maybe we'd then be able to revert to being a western democracy over here.

Da Coyote

Sorry mamapajamas I thought I had made it clear I was joking. Next time I'll emote something.

Mr. Stevens: As far as this American is concerned, 'Old England' isn't the EU's to give or take. But that's just the opinion of one poorly armed Oregonian. And the people of Massachusetts (in general) don't agree with me.

mamapajamas

Da Coyote: re "Sorry mamapajamas I thought I had made it clear I was joking. Next time I'll emote something."

I know... I was joking back. ;)

Simon Newman

mamapajamas:
"The ONLY way pollsters could get the Iraqis to say that the US should leave was by adding the caveat that the US should leave "at some point in the future". Which was always the plan. "But not now.""

The US is planning to leave Iraq? I thought the plan was to maintain ca 30,000 men in permanent bases in Iraq - I saw Newt Gingrich tell Fox News that a while ago. I've never seen the White House say they intended to ever remove all troops from Iraq.

mamapajamas

Simon, re: "The US is planning to leave Iraq? I thought the plan was to maintain ca 30,000 men in permanent bases in Iraq..."

Have you been paying any attention AT ALL to the US Congress?

They've been pulling every stunt in the book trying to schedule a pullout of US troops. It isn't going to work because the President will simply veto such a demand, but they've been trying, and they are using those PHONY poll results to back up their position.

My point was that the REPORTING on the polls is fake... the Iraqis DO NOT want us to leave now. Later, yes. Now, NO!

What Newt Gingrich has to say is irrelevant... he has NO say-so in the US government at this time.

Nash

I wish you-the attackers and fault-finders lived in the {wicked} Middle East... please endear ur freedom of speech by which you can kick up a stink on everything - even those who loyally serve ur countries. I think as Gen. Petraeus is a great warrior,leader and commander, he definitely knows more than you and I about the WAR and he will be a champ all over the lot... God bless u all

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Britain granted independence to Iraq in 1932, on the urging of King Faisal, though the British retained military bases and transit rights for their forces. King Ghazi ruled as a figurehead after King Faisal's death in 1933, while undermined by attempted military coups, until his death in 1939.

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