Daily Iraq Report for March 15, 2007
Yesterday marked the first full month since the official commencement of the Baghdad Security Plan. During joint press conference with Major General William Caldwell Brigadier General Qassim Atta Al Mussawi, the Iraqi Army spokesman for the Baghdad security operation, noted the dramatic reduction in violence over the past month. According to Mussawi, over the past month, deaths are down by about 75 percent, terrorists killed up by over 80 percent and detentions of suspects up by 1000 percent:
"A total of 265 civilians and 57 military men, including nine officers, have been killed since the plan kicked off February 14," Mussawi said. This compared with the preceding month when 1,440 people were killed. He also said that 94 "terrorists" were killed by Iraqi and US forces since the launch of the plan, compared to 19 in the preceding month. Security forces had arrested "713 terrorists and 1,052 terrorist suspects compared to 169 terrorists before the plan was put into action," Mussawi said.
Maj. Gen. Caldwell was cautious about the indicator, warned the operation is still in the initial stages, and said no long term conclusions can be drawn from the past month's results. He also noted that car bombs incidents last February were at an all time high, and are the greatest weapon of the al Qaeda led Sunni insurgency. Today, al Qaeda triggered only its second major car bomb attack since last Saturday. An attack on a bus carrying government workers in Iskandariya killed six and wounded 23.
Yesterday's visit to Ramadi by General David Petraeus and Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki signals a sea change in the Iraqi government's views on the Sunnis in Anbar province. The high level visit demonstrates a level of confidence in the security situation in Ramadi. General Petraeus and Prime Minister Maliki are prime targets for assassination by al Qaeda. The meeting cements the yearlong effort to get the Sunni tribes in Anbar to back the government and fight al Qaeda in the province. Shiekh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the leader of the of the Anbar Salvation Council, has been forming battalions of tribal fighters called Emergency Response Units, and has begun to secure regions in Ramadi.
"[Sattar's] been given guns and money by the Americans to set up auxiliary police units to fight al Qaeda ... and even become a star of an anti-insurgent TV commercial," noted CBS News. An American military intelligence official informs us Sattar has been named chief of counterterrorism for Anbar province. The Anbar Salvation Council now appears to be spreading into Fallujah, where al Qaeda has conducted a campaign to collapse the local police and Iraqi Army since U.S. forces withdrew from the city late last year.
The Iraqi government's recognition and support of Sattar and the Anbar Salvation Council is an important step in the reconciliation process with the Sunni community in Anbar.
Iraqi and Coalition forces press the operations again al Qaeda in Iraq and the insurgency. The Iraqi security forces claimed to have captured Mohammed Younis al-Hayali, al Qaeda's commander in the northern city of Mosul. Two al Qaeda were killed and 11 captured during raids in Balad and Mosul. An insurgent improvised explosive device emplacer was captured near Rushdi Mullah, and 7 other suspects were detained.
The whereabouts of Muqtada al-Sadr remains an item of great interest to the Iraqi government and Multinational Forces Iraq. Sadr's Mahdi Army (or Jaysh al Mahdi, JAM) has been behind much to the sectarian violence that threatened to push Iraq into a full scale civil war. Sadr is being tracked closely by MNF-I, General Petraeus noted several days ago. "Twenty-four hours ago [Sadr] was not in Iraq. All indications are that he's still in Iran," Major General William Caldwell said yesterday. "In the last six months, 700 people have been detained from the Jaysh al-Mahdi whom we believe are associated with illegal activities, including death squads," Maj. Gen. Caldwell said.