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Winds Of Change In Iraq

...In accepting to reduce violence, lessen attacks against American forces and in agreeing to participate with the Iraqi government, the insurgency -- no matter who they are -- would be seen as ultimately helping the Bush administration at a time when it needs it the most, i.e. election time...
by Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
Washington (UPI) Oct 09, 2006
Is a wind of change about to blow over Iraq, or is it more likely to be a desert storm bringing greater chaos? With violence reaching new heights every week -- this past week alone claimed the lives of 22 American soldiers -- the Bush administration is starting to worry that reports of more American deaths so close to the mid-term elections could hurt the Republican Party.

Already, allegations surrounding a sex scandal involving Congressman Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, and a teenage male Senate page, was the last thing the GOP needed with the November election finish line within sight.

And the death toll on Iraqis has not been any kinder. The number of corpses that show up around the country's morgues every day now averages around 50-60. The bodies typically have their hands and feet tied and show signs of torture and mutilation. Also on the increase is the number of attacks on American and Iraqi government forces.

And as if to add insult to injury, only a day after President George W. Bush declared the Iraqi city of Tall Afar as one of the safest in Iraq, insurgents detonated a truck bomb in that city killing eight people.

Enter U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She is on her fifth visit to Iraq since assuming the job of America's top diplomat. Rice, much as the rest of the administration, must be feeling the heat in Iraq more than ever since U.S. forces occupied the country three and a half years ago.

The pressure on the Bush administration to begin identifying a solution to the Iraqi dilemma is twofold.

First, with the approaching mid-term elections in which the Democrats are likely to take back the House, and some analysts believe even possibly the Senate too, the administration is eager to show that some progress is being made in Iraq. They know the war will be a point the Democrats will use in their campaign to try and win back the House and Senate.

Second, with the approaching U.S. presidential election now less than two years away, the Bush administration has to appear to be making a serious effort in trying to bring about some solution to the mess that has developed in post-Saddam Iraq.

So, the onus appears to be on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. While in Iraq, Rice met with leaders of all main three religious/political/ethnic factions: the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds. The American secretary of State told Iraq's leaders they needed to speed up the reconciliation process.

Then the Secretary of State conveyed to the leaders of Iraq something very intriguing: "Get more people involved in reconciliation and out of the insurgency," said Rice.

This short statement, composed of hardly two lines of text, carries a profound meaning. It's an important statement because it reveals that the administration is softening its position in fighting the insurgency and is willing to accept some concessions, given the new political realities on the ground. It also sheds a little more light on the hitherto obscure insurgency.

First, Rice's statement implies that the Americans and the Iraqis know where and who these elusive insurgents are -- or at least a portion of them. If the Iraqis can "get more people" from the resistance involved, as Rice asked them to, it means they have the possibility of contacting the insurgents.

This, in fact, serves as confirmation that the insurgency is not entirely made up of foreign jihadis, but includes a good number of Iraqis, either former Baathists, former military or former members of the intelligence services: In other words, mostly Sunni Muslims. And that a line of communication between the insurgents and the Iraqi government already existed.

Second, it's a clear indication that in the hope to move ahead in what has become a stagnating political situation threatening to take the country into a full-blown civil war, the United States is willing to forgive the insurgents and forget some of the crimes they have committed, if they in turn will give up their guns and renege on violence in exchange for dialogue with the Iraqi government with a view to offer the Sunnis in Iraq more say in the government.

However, in accepting to reduce violence, lessen attacks against American forces and in agreeing to participate with the Iraqi government, the insurgency -- no matter who they are -- would be seen as ultimately helping the Bush administration at a time when it needs it the most, i.e. election time.

This may explain, in part, the administration's renewed efforts to bring about a quick solution to the violence in Iraq. But at the same time it may also explain why the next few weeks may witness an increase of activity by the insurgency.

Source: United Press International

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Washington (UPI) Oct 06, 2006
Iraqi police have suffered 12,000 casualties in the last two years, with 4,000 of them killed in action, a top U.S. military officer said Friday. The U.S. Army general in charge of training Iraqi police said Friday there is no way of knowing how many police officers are involved with sectarian militias.

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