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Daily Iraq Report for March 1, 2007

Baghdad has been relatively quiet over the past 24 hours, and no major mass casualty suicide attacks or car bomb atacks have been reported. It is far too soon to translate this into long term success, however, as al Qaeda has shown the capacity to 'surge' mass casualty attacks in the city after periods of calm. As we noted earlier in the week, the United States still has four combat brigades to deploy, and the Iraqis still have four combat battalions to move into Baghdad. The U.S. soldiers of the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division have just arrived in Baghdad.

To keep the violence down, Iraqi and U.S. forces will need to maintain the checkpoints and searches in Baghdad, and continue or initiate offensive actions against insurgent strongholds in Diyala, Anbar, and south of the city. There is evidence offensive operations outside of the capital are taking place. Eight were killed and 11 wounded in clashes between Iraqi police and insurgents in Iskandariya. An unconfirmed report by the Interior Ministry indicates 80 insurgents were killed and 50 captured during clashes between Iraqi security forces and insurgents in a town outside Fallujah. U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 10 insurgents and captured 5 in Muqdadiya. In Mosul, a curfew was imposed so U.S. and Iraqi security forces could conduct a cordon and search operation. Coalition forces (the hunter-killer teams of Task Force 145) maintain the hunt for al Qaeda operatives, killing 3 and capturing 16 in operations in Baghdad, Ramadi, and Bayji.

In Northern Iraq, a U.S. Army helicopter was forced to make a hard landing after the OH-58 Kiowa scout experienced a mechanical failure. This is the ninth helicopter downed either by mechanical problems or enemy fire. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has established anti-aircraft squads to down American helos, and military and intelligence sources tell us al Qaeda is armed with Strela anti-aircraft missiles provided by Iran.

The U.S. will join the regional conference hosted by the Iraqi government, which will also be attended by Iran, Syria, "all Iraq's neighbors as well as Egypt, the five permanent members of the Security Council, the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference," reports the Financial Times. But direct talks with Iran and Syria have been denied by the Bush administration.

"There will not be bilateral talks between the United States and Iran or the United States and Syria, within the context of these meetings," said Tony Snow, the White House spokesman. The US precondition remained unchanged, he said, that Iran first suspend its uranium enrichment programme as called for by the United Nations Security Council. "We want to make sure those waters don't get muddied," he said.
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