Say what you will about the Iraqi insurgents, but they sure love fucking with Rich Lowry.
Here’s Rich earlier today:
Glimmers of progress in iraq [Rich Lowry]
There’s this wire story from the other day:
The meeting came amid reports from military commanders in Iraq that violent incidents in Baghdad have come down by 40 percent in the past three weeks as US and Iraqi troops have cordoned off and cleared some of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods.
Rumsfeld said he had discussed the situation with his top commanders in Iraq and was encouraged by the turnaround.
The military’s efforts “have been successful in the sense that we are seeing a reduction in the levels of violence, and in the numbers of attacks, in the areas particularly that the forces have been able to clear,” Rumsfeld said.
“Iraqi forces have been doing a very good job,” he added.
Thousands of US troops were brought into the capital earlier this month amid fears that spiralling sectarian violence could descend into all-out civil war, pitting Shiites against Sunnis.
Some analysts believe the situation had become a low-level civil war with elements of the Iraqi security forces either abetting the violence or looking the other way.
But Mahdi said the improved security situation in Baghdad was “our answer to all those talking about civil war in Iraq. We don’t think we are leading to one.”
Cue the insurgents:
At least 20 gunmen and 8 civilians were killed Monday when the Iraqi Army battled fiercely for hours with members of a militia loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric, in Diwaniya, Iraqi officials said.
The violence, which one Iraqi general said included militiamen executing Iraqi soldiers in a public square, amounted to the most brazen clashes in recent memory between Iraqi government forces and Mr. Sadrâ€™s militia.
After weeks of rising tensions and skirmishes between elements of the militia and American-led forces, it could increase pressure on Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a conservative Shiite, to find a way â€” political or military or both â€” to rein in Mr. Sadrâ€™s powerful militia.
The battle erupted after a particularly violent weekend in Iraq for American soldiers and Iraqi civilians, in what had been a relatively quiet month.
The American military announced Monday the deaths of nine American service members in attacks on Sunday. In Baghdad, a car bomb killed at least 13 people on Monday and wounded dozens at a checkpoint just outside the Interior Ministry headquarters.
Over all, more than 100 Iraqis were killed Sunday and Monday.
A group of Iraqi soldiers recently refused to go to Baghdad, Iraqâ€™s capital, to help restore order there, a senior American military officer said Monday.
The officer, Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard, who oversees the American-led effort to train Iraqâ€™s security forces, said the episode last week involved about 100 Iraqi soldiers based in Maysan Province, which borders Iran.
A formal investigation has begun, and the Iraqi government will soon decide whether to rescind the deployment order to the soldiersâ€™ parent Iraqi Army unit, the Second Battalion of the Fourth Brigade of the 10th Division.
â€œThe majority of this particular unit was Shia, and they felt â€” the leadership of that unit and their soldiers â€” like they were needed down there in Maysan,â€™â€™ General Pittard told reporters in a videoconference from Iraq. â€œNow, that will be worked out by the Iraqi government and the Ministry of Defense, and weâ€™ll be in support of that.â€
Though the episode involves only a small fraction of the 10-division Iraqi Army, it points to an important issue. The new Iraqi government wants to build a national military, one that is ethnically diverse and can be deployed anywhere in Iraq. It does not want to field a military that is essentially a collection of local units with regional loyalties.
But many Iraqis are reluctant to serve far from their home provinces. Sunnis in Anbar Province, for example, are reluctant to join the army if they will be sent far from home to predominantly Shiite areas. Shiites are often hesitant to serve in overwhelmingly Sunni regions.
â€œThe Iraqi Army is supposed to be a national army,â€ said General Pittard. â€œThey were recruited regionally, and for the most part theyâ€™ve been operating regionally. So thatâ€™s where the difficulty is.â€
The refusal of some Iraqi soldiers in Maysan Province to serve in Baghdad was reported late last week in The Daily Telegraph of London and The Washington Post.