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Iraq Report: Surprising Drop in Civilian Deaths

The civilian death toll in Iraq dropped sharply in June, by over 35 percent from May's totals and reached the lowest number since July 2006. This occurred despite the launch of Operation Phantom Thunder in mid-June. Iraqi Security Forces absorbed 222 deaths in June, more than twice the number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq over the same time period. The sharp drop in civilian casualties and the reduction of sectarian-related murders in Baghdad are encouraging signs, but it is too soon to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of the Baghdad Security Plan.

Despite Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's objections to Saturday's raids in Sadr City, another raid was conducted on Sunday morning. Three members "associated with key leaders in the secret cell terrorist network and have ties to Iran" were captured in Sadr City. Saturday's raids resulted in the death of 26 members of the Iranian-supported Qazali Network. Prime Minister Maliki's objections related to procedural issues of gaining approval for the raid from the Iraqi military.

Coalition and Iraqi security forces are pressing with operations inside Baghdad. The Iraqi Army killed three insurgents and detained 48 suspects over the past two days. Five of those captured were members of an al Qaeda IED and sniper cell in the Doura neighborhood in southern Baghdad. In the western district of Rashid, U.S. forces killed six insurgents and wounded three. Six more insurgents were captured in the eastern neighborhood of Kamaliyah after residents tipped off U.S. forces operating in the area.

Al Qaeda continues to strike at the Iraqi Security Forces. The two major attacks that took place over the past 24 hours occurred outside Baghdad in the provinces. On Sunday, a suicide bomber targeted a police station in Ramadi in Anbar province, killing five and wounding 14. On Saturday, a suicide bomber attacked police volunteers at a recruitment center in Miqdadiyah in Diyala province, killing 25 and wounding 22.

On the political front, Prime Minister Maliki has promised to hold provincial elections at the end of the year. This bodes ill for the Sunni Iraqi political parties currently in power, as the Iraqi Awakening looks to challenge parties such as the Iraqi Islamic Party in Anbar and other provinces.

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