Iraq snapshot: It's 130 degrees over there!
"The U.S. troop casualty figures in Iraq that jumped this spring have been gradually dropping because U.S. and Iraqi forces are stabilizing volatile and dangerous areas, a U.S. commander said Thursday. Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commanding general of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, called the development in recent weeks 'an initial positive sign. This is what we thought would happen once we get control of the real key areas that are controlled by these terrorists,' Odierno said at a press conference."
"Six more US troops have been killed in Iraq, including three marines and a sailor killed in a day of fighting in the restive province of Diyala north of the capital, the military said on Thursday. . . The latest fatalities took the US military's losses in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to 3,640, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures."
"Security progress in Iraq is undeniable, Iraqi and American leaders in Baghdad said today. Iraqi army Lt. Gen. Abood Qanbar, commander of the Baghdad Operations Center, said sectarian violence is decreasing and his country will not slip in civil war. . . Abood said the number of bodies discovered by authorities has decreased by 90 percent. He added that improvised explosive devices are down 40 percent, and car bombs are down 15 percent."
George Bush in Philly yesterday:
"I believe it's in the interest of this country, for our own security, for the United States Congress to fully support General Petraeus in his mission and to give him time to come back and report to the United States Congress the progress that he's making."
"With five days to go before the end of July, an Associated Press tally showed that at least 1,759 Iraqis were killed in war-related violence through yesterday, a more than 7 percent increase over the 1,640 who were reported killed in all of June. Victims of sectarian slayings were also on the rise. At least 723 bodies were found dumped across Iraq so far in July, or an average of nearly 28 a day, compared with 19 a day in June, when 563 bodies were reported found, according to the AP tally. . . The actual number is believed to be higher, as many killings go unreported or uncounted."
Now, that's progress!!
Meanwhile, in another AP report:
"Jordan and Syria complained yesterday that they had been abandoned by the West to deal with more than two million Iraqi refugees who have fled the violence in their homeland . . . About 1.5 million Iraqis have also fled to Syria, and 200,000 to both Egypt and Lebanon. By contrast, the United States has accepted only 133 Iraqi refugees, citing security concerns, but it recently said it would resettle about 7,000 more by the end of September. . .
'The U.S. offer to take in 7,000 refugees is symbolic,' said Iraq's deputy foreign minister, Mohammed Haji Hmoud. 'This is not a solution. Seven thousand is nothing.'"
"In Baghdad, cleanup crews used tractors and cranes to clear out the debris from a highly sophisticated simultaneous truck bombing and rocket attack on a Shiite market district in one of the capital's safest central neighborhoods Thursday. Rescue workers pulled three more bodies from the rubble, and police raised the casualty toll to at least 31 people killed and 104 wounded.
Residents angry about the lack of security in the neighborhood - which was hit by a double car-bombing earlier this week -threw stones and empty cans at U.S. soldiers arriving at the scene of the blast, according to a police officer and a witness, who declined to be identified because they feared retribution. The soldiers left the area."
Again, W. in Philadelphia yesterday:
"It's really interesting to watch this counterinsurgency strategy work. I mean, when people on the ground begin to have confidence, they, all of a sudden, start making good decisions for a state that will represent their interests. There is such a thing as top-down reconciliation -- that's the passage of law. And the Iraqi parliament has passed quite a few pieces of legislation, and they're working, trying to work through their differences.
"Iraq's largest Sunni political group gave Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki one week to respond to demands or the group said it would boycott the government. 'After one more week, we'll give the prime minister a chance to show us and the elected people a real direction for improvement or we will leave altogether,' said Alaa Maki, a senior member of the Accordance Front, which has six Cabinet ministers. . . One of Maliki's advisers, Sadiq al-Rikabi, told the newspaper the group's deadline was counterproductive. 'The Iraqi people would like to see the politicians stand strongly together to push forward and make real progress,' Rikabi said. 'And yet all we hear from them are threats.'"
"The White House said Friday that Iraq's parliament may take the month of August off but downplayed the impact on political reconciliation efforts seen as key to quelling deadly violence.
'My understanding is at this juncture they're going to take August off, but you know, they may change their minds. . . You know, it's 130 degrees in Baghdad in August."
It's going to be hot at the Bush compound in Kennebunkport Maine, too.
"Mr. Bush is getting ready to take his vacation up in Maine at the Bush Family Compound in Kennebunkport, recreating (as his daddy said back in 1990) while Baghdad burns. However, Mr. Bush won't be alone. In fact, in what organizers hope will be an even larger manifestation of the last two previous protests in that bucolic playground of the rich, a broad coalition of antiwar groups are holding a protest and convergence over the August 24 - 26 weekend."
That'll be something to look forward to. Too bad our guys in Iraq will be sweating it out under 60 pounds of equipment this August, hoping this time that their 15 month deployments are really only 15 months.