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November 19, 2007
Attacks in Iraq down 55%
The Washington Post is reporting that attacks in Iraq against civilians and the US military have declined 55% over the last nine months:
Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a senior U.S. military spokesman, said violence in parts of Iraq had fallen to its lowest levels since summer 2005. Iraqi civilian casualties are down 60 percent since June, and they have dropped 75 percent in Baghdad, Smith said. Twenty people died in bomb attacks across the country on Sunday. But those attacks are becoming rarer - especially in Baghdad where AFP reports an encouraging return to normalcy in many parts of the city:
But Sunday's attacks brought a tone of caution. "The fight we're up against has not gone away. Today's mortar and rocket attacks demonstrate that the enemy has the capacity to wage violence," Smith said.
"We're working our way through those attacks and the level of damage." In response to reports that Iran was limiting its alleged support to Shiite militias, U.S. Embassy spokesman Philip T. Reeker said it was unclear whether the country had played any role in the downturn in violence.
"It's difficult to read trends in reductions," Reeker said. "Vis-a-vis Iran's action, that is something we're not yet prepared to do."
The gaudy orange, green and purple electronic palm trees flashing in the dark alert you that you're getting close to one of Baghdad's bustling nightspots. The palms, like a mirage, can be seen from way down the darkened streets, lighting up the night and giving a promise of normality in the otherwise bleak and deserted capital, ravaged by four years of insurgency and sectarian strife. Make no mistake. Iraq is still not a garden spot of peace and tranquility. Remnants of al-Qaeda are now bedeviling northern towns like Tikrit and Mosul. Insurgents are still trying to kill American soldiers as evidenced by a mortar attack on Forward Operating Base Rustamiyah in Baghdad yesterday that caused no injuries or deaths but reminded everyone that the bad guys are still out there. And there are still some neighborhoods in Baghdad that are suffering from the twin plagues of militia and sectarian violence.
And then, suddenly, you've arrived and the mirage has become an oasis of generator-driven light; a colourful jumble of trendy juice bars, cosy restaurants, fruit shops, roadside eateries and fish vendors, where children play, families dine and lovers meet.
"Even two or three months ago we would have been afraid to come here at night," said 20-year-old Hussein Salah, an off-duty soldier, slurping a milkshake with his wife, Shihad, at the Mishmesha (apricot) juice bar in Baghdad's relatively safe Karrada suburb.
"Now we sometimes sit outside here till one or two in the morning. It is quite safe. The security situation is vastly improved," said Salah, the orange light from a nearby flashing palm alternatively brightening and dimming his clean-shaven face.
But by now, even the press can't ignore the huge turnaround in the security situation not to mention the continuing improvement in the effectiveness of Iraqi police and army units.
It remains to be seen whether the Democrats will recognize what is going on in Iraq and stop being obstructionists over funding for the war and give the military what it needs to continue its successful operations.