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Iraq: working the other side
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Interesting story out of Iraq:
Top U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus has met with representatives of Muqtada al-Sadr, once one of the top enemies fueling the insurgency against the elected Iraqi government, FOX News has confirmed.

The general has not met personally with al-Sadr, the military said, but the meetings come as the Pentagon is softening its approach to the firebrand Shiite leader who recently eased his hard-line stance with a ceasefire call last August.

Al-Sadr's aides have been quietly working with U.S. military officials to discuss security operations.

"Gen. Petraeus has not had any direct engagements or meetings with Muqtada al-Sadr. The command has indeed had direct engagements with some of his people that are within the organization. Mainly that has been via the Force Strategic Engagement Cell or FSEC as part of the overarching efforts to assist with reconciliation efforts," Petraeus spokesman Col. Steve Boylan said in a statement provided to FOX News.
These are very important talks which could extend or make permanent the ceasefire al Sadar called recently. As the article notes, keeping the ceasefire in effect is important to the effort at national reconciliation.

In other news, the first surge brigades is packing up and leaving. The 3rd BCT of the 1st Cavalry Division is pulling out of Diyala province. It's an immediate test for the ISF forces left there in what is considered one of the most ethnically diverse provinces in Iraq. That will bring the total of US combat brigaded down from 20 to 19. I would assume, if all continues as it is, you'll see a report of one or two more packing up next month.

And in Baghdad:
Iraqi military commanders signaled Monday that they would soon remove some roadblocks and other restrictions that had been imposed over the past nine months as part of the effort to reduce violence here in the capital.

However, with tens of thousands of American troops likely to remain on the streets of Baghdad for some time, the announcement appears to have been made by the Iraqi leadership to show its constituents that it wants to change the emphasis of the nine-month security operation from the military crackdown of its earlier stages to the provision of vital utilities and social services.
Some fine lines being walked here. It is important to demonstrate progress and intent, obviously. But it is equally important not to do things which will allow AQI or other insurgent groups easier entre to areas that are now secure and let them again sow random violence. We'll see how this works out.

Meanwhile, the reality based community refuses to face reality:
During an interview on Fox News Sunday, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson refused to concede any success had been achieved by the surge in Iraq. He stuck to that position even as host Chris Wallace reeled off statistics demonstrating the U.S. military's accomplishments.
While even the press is beginning to notice:
Rocket and mortar attacks have fallen to their lowest level in nearly two years. Civilian deaths have dropped sharply since summer. Shoppers are venturing out, even in Baghdad's most dangerous neighborhoods.

Iraq's capital is by no means yet safe. But the trend toward better security is indisputable.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Man, hear that hollow echo. Where are the usual suspects, telling us how Iraq is an unmitigated failure, no matter what positive signs there are?
Written By: Billy Hollis
It’s true! I’ll be watching carefully to see how the antis react if things continue to improve at this rate for another year. I don’t expect them to own up or apologize. I note that Erb has gotten more shrill that Iraq is a failure no matter what in the past couple months.

In a better world, this would hurt the Dems in the 2008 election. I suspect it will just eliminate a talking point.
Written By: huxley
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