In another story calculated to cause liberal heads to explode:
Violence in Iraq drops sharply
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Violence in Iraq has dropped by 70 percent since the end of June, when U.S. forces completed their build-up of 30,000 extra troops to stabilize the war-torn country, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.
meanwhile, the various factions are working toward reconciliation:
BAGHDAD (AP) — In a major reconciliatory gesture, a leader from Iraq’s largest Shiite party paid a rare visit Sunday to the Sunni Anbar province, delivering a message of unity to tribal sheiks who have staged a U.S.-backed revolt against al-Qaida militants.
Ammar al-Hakim’s visit was the latest sign that key Iraqi politicians may be working toward reconciliation independently of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, which has faced criticism for doing little to iron out differences between the country’s Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis.
Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi visited Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, last month at the holy city of Najaf south of Baghdad. The visit amounted to an unprecedented Sunni Arab endorsement of al-Sistani’s role as the nation’s guardian.
No one likes war. But sometimes its necessary. For too long we coddled dictators in the Middle East. It didn’t work. Only when there is true democracy and self-determination will there be peace. We didn’t _force_ Iraqis to vote. They did it themselves, in huge percentages that shame most democracies, in the face of danger to themselves and bombing of polling places. How many of us would go to a polling place if we thought we might get blown up?
So the fact is, Iraqis want democracy and are willing to die for it. I think we should continue to help them. Something the media never speaks about is that we’ve handed over 7 provinces to Iraqi control already, including Basra, which is peaceful and thriving. We will continue to do so.
I think news like this is really causing cognitive dissidence in the heads of liberals because they have so much invested in America’s failure and the “narrative” that “Bush is incompetent and won’t change course”- well, he did change course and its working. The “reality based community” should realize that.
More from Powerline
Fouad Ajami is a professor of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies. He’s also the author of several books about the Middle East including most recently The Foreigner’s Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and Iraqis in Iraq. If you ever have the chance to hear him speak, take it. I did so this evening at a small dinner gathering of journalists and policy experts hosted by the Hoover Institution.
Ajami has made eight trips to Iraq, the last one in August of this year. During that three week visit, he spoke to virtually all of the top leaders in Iraq, representing all three of the major factions, as well as General Petraeus and other U.S. military leaders. On a previous visit, he became one of the very few westerners to speak with Ayatollah Sistani.
Based on what he has seen, Ajami concludes that the tide has turned in Iraq and that the country is basically “working.” The Kurds, he says, have what they want — autonomy. They don’t really want independence because, despite their oil reserves, they rely on oil revenue from the south. Moreover, they do not want to have to deal with Turkey and Iran alone. Finally, they hold their share (or more) of the key government positions.
The Shiites also have what they want — the upper hand. They decisively and irreversibly won the Battle of Baghdad, and it’s now their government. Naturally, therefore, they are heavily invested in the success of the state. In addition, as a matter of pride, they want to prove that they — the much maligned and ridiculed Shia Arabs — can govern. They realize that this means some accommodation for the Sunnis, and they are increasingly willing to accommodate them now that they know they (the Shia) have won. Thus, according to Ajami, Moqtada al Sadr’s influence is down, and the Shia center appears to be holding.
For their part, the Sunnis bet on al Qaeda and the powerful Sunni Arab states, and lost. As a result, they now are switching horses, working increasingly with the U.S. to defeat al Qaeda and with the Iraqi government upon which they rely for revenue.
Ajami disputes the conventional wisdom that the current government is dysfunctional. He finds that the government is paying its debts and distributing money (including oil revenue) to the provinces. The parliament is functioning as a parliament should, passing laws and budgets, etc. The congressional “benchmarks” may not have been met, but that’s largely irrelevant. For example, the Iraqis have not passed an oil law, but oil revenue is being shared, and “rather equitably.”
Ajami, an Arab, adds that it’s not the Arab way to do this sort of thing according to a formal written instrument. Similary, there may be no “national reconcilation” as the U.S. defines it, but the three factions manage to get things done together. Finally, corruption is still widespead, as it invariably is in Arab countries, but outright plunder has diminished sharply under Maliki, who Ajami regards as generally “clean.”
Ajami thinks the U.S. will remain in Iraq for a long time regardless of which party wins the presidency, but that we will be able to reduce troop levels substantially. From Iraq, we’ll be in a posiiton to “monitor” Iran, and that will be fine with the Iraqis. Iran will have influence in Iraq, but will not dominate.
Meanwhile, from Captain’s Quarters, it appears Osama’s got problems (which is good for us and the Iraqis):
According to ABC News, Osama has begun singing a different tune in his latest missive to the ummah. Bin Laden’s video and audio messages usually contain plenty of triumphalism for Islamists, but in a new message to his fellow terrorists, he sounds a little more desperate about their prospects:
Showing apparent signs of concern over events in Iraq, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged insurgents to “unite your lines into one” in an audiotape played on al Jazeera Monday.
“Don’t be arrogant,” bin Laden warned. “Your enemies are trying to break up the jihadi groups. I urge you all to work in one united group.”
People familiar with bin Laden’s voice say the tape appeared to be authentic, although there was no reference to any event that would indicate when it was recorded.
Bin Laden’s message comes at a time when U.S. strategy to split Iraqi insurgent groups from al Qaeda units appears to be working.
The US strategy has certainly helped in splitting insurgents from al-Qaeda, but we haven’t been the only point of pressure for this fracture. AQ has to take quite a bit of the credit for themselves. Thanks to the brutality of AQI under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his pseudosuccessor “al-Masri”, the radical Islamists have alienated the natives who back the nationalist insurgencies.