Monday, December 06, 2004

Good news from Iraq, Part 16 

Note: Also available at the "Opinion Journal" and Winds of Change. As always, many thanks to James Taranto and Joe Katzman respectively, and to all the others who support the series.

Also: If you would like to contribute to rebuilding Iraq, why not consider donating to the Spirit of America's "Friends of Iraq" appeal and help our troops help the Iraqi people (the link on the side-bar to your right).

It takes a lot to get a man of God annoyed and
Louis Sako, the Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, is a very frustrated man these dyas: "It is not all death and destruction," says the Archbishop. "Much is positive in Iraq today... Universities are operating, schools are open, people go out onto the streets normally... Where there's a kidnapping or a homicide the news gets out immediately, and this causes fear among the people... Those who commit such violence are resisting against Iraqis who want to build their country."

It's not just the terrorists who, according to His Eminence, are creating problems for Iraq: "[January] will be a starting point for a new Iraq... [Yet] Western newspapers and broadcasters are simply peddling propaganda and misinformation... Iraqis are happy to be having elections and are looking forward to them because they will be useful for national unity... Perhaps not everything will go exactly to plan, but, with time, things will improve. Finally Iraqis will be given the chance to choose. Why is there so much noise and debate coming out from the West when before, under Saddam, there were no free elections, but no one said a thing?"

Lastly, the Archbishop has this wish for the international bystanders: "Europe is absent, it's not out there; the United States is on its own... [Europe] must help the Iraqi government to control its borders to prevent the entry of foreign terrorists, [but] also provide economic help to encourage a new form of culture which is open to coexistence, the acceptance of others, respect for the human person and for other cultures... Europe must understand that there is no time to waste on marginal or selfish interests: The entire world needs peace."

Archbishop Sako's frustration is increasingly shared by other Iraqis, who can hardly recognize their country from the foreign media coverage. Westerners, too, both military and civilians, upon their return are often finding to their surprise and concern they had lived and worked in a different country to that their loved ones, friends and neighbors back home saw every night on the news. "Our" Iraq is a place of violence, uncertainty, and frustration; "their" Iraq all that, too, but also so much more: work and renewal, hope and enthusiasm, new opportunities and new possibilities. Here are the last two weeks' worth of stories you might have missed while watching "our" Iraq on the news:

SOCIETY: After initially canvassing various other dates, Farid Ayar, spokesman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, has announced that the election will take place on
January 30. Says Abdel Hussein al-Hindawi, the head of the Electoral Commission: "These are the first free, multi-party elections since 1954 and I can tell you that according to our 6,000 electoral agents throughout the country, there is a real fervour (to vote) even in the Sunni regions." The numbers involved in the exercise are considerable:

"Nearly 14 million voters are eligible to go to the polls, according to the number of ration cards issued to adults by Iraq's commerce ministry under the UN programme 'oil for food' in the days of Saddam. But there are newcomers who have returned home after Saddam's fall in April 2003. They will be able to register to vote by showing two identity documents proving their Iraqi nationality. In addition, some three million Iraqis living overseas, many of whom fled the regime, will also be able to vote from January 28 to 30 in 14 countries. These are Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United States.

"Iraq is spending 250 million dollars for this landmark election. Voting papers are being printed in Switzerland to avoid counterfeiting, and a company will distribute them to the 9,000 polling stations which will be equipped with 40,000 ballot boxes. Each voting list will have a number and a logo."
Adds Hindawi: "We have banned any emblem showing violence or religious symbols... Under this rule, we have rejected one list which depicted a tank, another which opted for a Koran with a sun, and a third which had mass graves."

Elsewhere, Hindawi adds that voters will have sufficient opportunity to acquaint themselves with
party logos: "We will have an electoral campaign where each entity has to inform voters who they should vote for the party. The campaign will run from Dec. 15 to Jan. 28. For example, the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (a popular conservative religious party) may already have a logo that people recognize, so they'll use that in the media campaign." There might be a lot of these logos to learn, as the authorities have approved of 156 political parties to run in the election (rejecting 56 parties that failed to fulfill necessary criteria). "The Iraqi Islamic Party is one of those approved. The Sunni group had threatened to boycott the election to protest the U-S-led assault on Fallujah but later decided to participate."

Among the 156 political parties registered is the
Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party, the brainchild of Iraqi bloggers, the Fadhil brothers. Read Ali Fadhil's wonderful and moving post about a dream finally achieved: "You can't imagine the thrill and happiness I felt when I held the document that state that the 'Iraqi pro-democracy party' is registered and approved as a political entity that has the right to participate in the upcoming elections!... That was not a dream, it's for real and it didn't happen in the 'free and independent' Iraq at Saddam's time, it happened 3 days ago in 'occupied Iraq'."

Another registered party is the
Iraqi Nation Democrat Party. The party is run by Mithal al-Alusi, Iraqi politician who created a controversy by being the first to visit Israel a few months ago. Says Alusi: "We are keeping Iraqi interests in sight. These interests includes strategic relations with the United States and also ties with Israel... The style of rule of Sadaam Hussein must change in the direction of closeness with Israel... The Iraqis need to deal with various Israeli companies - particularly those of the half million Iraqis in Israel - from the standpoint of supporting peace and Iraq." The report goes on quote "Al-Hayat newspaper [which] reported... that the Iraqi National Congress party, under the leadership of Ahmed Chalabi, will join Alusi's new party, since he has officially declared the demise of his previous party. He added that a few men of Muqtada al-Sadr, the extremist Shi'ite leader, have joined him as well."

In an effort to boost the poll's chance of success in the Sunni areas of Iraq, the authorities have
extended the deadline for the registration of political parties for one more week after the registration had finished everywhere else throughout Iraq. As a fallback option, however, "Iraq's interim government is considering leaving some seats on the elected national assembly vacant so troubled districts that may not vote in the January elections could still get an opportunity to participate later." Elsewhere, though, security plans are now being put in place to safeguard the election process. The city of Diwaniya, and the province of al-Qadisiya, provides an example:

"Security forces in the southern city of Diwaniya have drawn up a plan to protect voters and polling stations from attacks by insurgents. The plan, among other things, includes a substantial increase in the number of police patrols to guard the seven polling stations in the Province... 'We would like to coordinate efforts by all security forces. Police officers, the army, the National Guard and other security organs will try to work as a unified body in the run-up and during the elections,' Major Saadi Saleh, commander of the National Guard in the city, said."
The democratic bug has certainly bitten hard in al-Qadisiya, with 1,600 candidates competing to fill the seats allocated to the province in the National Assembly. In the Najaf province, some 2,200 candidates are competing for the allocated spots.

The last few days have witnessed the start of an
electoral awareness campaign on television - Iraqi-style:

"Iraq has drafted in a local comedian to star in a series of adverts designed to drum up enthusiasm for elections due next month.

"The set of four TV spots, launched on Wednesday, feature a popular Iraqi comic encouraging Iraqis to think positively about their elections and ensure they are registered to vote.

"In the first one the comedian, known as Udai, is talking to his much taller girlfriend who mischievously reminds him that he'd said things would get better after the elections.

"Employing plenty of innuendo, Udai tells her Iraq's recent difficulties have been keeping him down but after the elections are successful he'll grow much bigger."
Meanwhile, the logistical support for the election continues to flow into Iraq. China will donate $1 million worth of supplies. In Switzerland, meanwhile,

"hundreds of people in... Geneva are working around the clock to ensure that voting in Iraq can go ahead as planned on January 30. They have been employed to fulfil a contract won by recruitment agency Manpower to establish a database of information contained in the country's electoral rolls...

"Before polling can take place, the authorities have to sift through the existing registers of voters as part of efforts to ensure that the elections are as free and fair as possible. By the end of last week, Manpower had recruited 'over 1,100' of the 1,400 temporary staff it needs to create an electronic database of all the names and addresses contained in the election registers...

"The project being carried out in Geneva is not the only Swiss connection to January's election in Iraq. The ballot papers to be used by millions of Iraqis are being printed in Switzerland."
USAID also continues to support the election process with funding and expertise:

"The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announces support to the Iraqi election process through a cooperative agreement to the Consortium for Elections and Political Process (CEPPS), a consortium of three U.S. non-governmental organizations, and a $40 million grant to the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) to support the Independent Election Commission of Iraq (IECI).

"The CEPPS consortium consists of the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and IFES and is supporting civic involvement in the upcoming Iraq elections scheduled for late January 2005. Specific areas of support are (1) voter education, which includes educating voters on broad issues of democracy, participation, and elections, (2) providing Iraq election monitors, and (3) conflict prevention."
USAID is also working to help build Iraq's constitutional structure (link in PDF):

"Two seminars on the rule of law in Iraq were held in October as part of a university partnership led by DePaul University to improve legal education in Iraq. The first seminar was titled 'The New Iraqi Constitution' and was held in Baghdad. The second rule of law seminar was also held in Baghdad and more than 47 participants attended, including three university Deans, faculty members, judges, and lawyers. These seminars are part of a series of seminars on rule of law which began in September. They are supported by USAID's Higher Education and Development (HEAD) Program for Iraq which is being implemented through five different university partnerships - each with a separate academic focus."
USAID's Local Governance Project, meanwhile, is operating on the grass-roots level to help improve local administration and standards of governance throughout Iraq. Some of its latest projects include the renovation of tax offices for Al Basrah governorate, implementing a new computerized personnel and salary system for the employees of Baghdad Mayoralty, donations of computer equipment, and introduction of decentralization projects in various governorates around the country.

And in an effort to strengthen the integrity of government and administration, the Commission on Public Integrity has set up a
phone hotline where citizens can lodge complaints about the public corruption.

Refugees continue to make their way back to Iraq in time for the election:

"After weeks of standing in line every day at the immigration office, Zainab Ahmed, an Iraqi who lived in Iran for the last 18 years, finally got the required official's signature this week to start getting her identity documents back.

"Like thousands of other Iraq residents, Ahmed, 65, and her family of seven were kicked out of Iraq by former president Saddam Hussein. She moved back months ago, but lives with her son-in-law -- her house is occupied by another family told to move there by Saddam. 'This is my homeland, all of my relatives are here,' said Ahmed, when asked why she moved back. 'But I have no house, no furniture, nothing but some blankets to sleep in.'

"Families like Ahmed's have been returning since the fall of the regime, but now up to 1,000 people per day are making the trek, said Sorya Isho Warda, Iraq's minister of displacement and migration. Statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also indicate a huge rise in returnees, many repatriated by UNHCR. Up to 1 million people may have come back so far, Ahmed said. Official statistics put the number at more than 116,000, Warda said."
Iraqi women, meanwhile, continue with their struggle for greater rights and freedoms in the new Iraq. Read this profile of Zainab Al-Suwaij and Ala Talabani, two Oraqi feminist activists and their multi-faceted work on behalf of their fellow countrywomen. Al-Suwaij, who went into exile to the US after the failed uprising in 1991, "created the American Islamic Congress with the goal of promoting moderation and tolerance within and outside the Islamic community. After the American occupation of Iraq she has also spent 14 months there working to develop projects focused on improving the educational system - her schools for dropouts have a 97 percent rate of success - and empowering Iraqi women." Together with Talabani, Al-Suwaij successfully lobbied the authorities on a number of projects, including greater political representation for women and protecting women's legal rights.

The authorities are also trying to deal with the
human rights legacy of the Saddam years. According to Bakhtiar Amin, Iraq's human rights minister, "Iraq has 1.5 million people handicapped by war wounds, or crippled physically or mentally by Saddam's forces. Another 1.5 million are internally displaced. And a million have simply disappeared off the face of the earth." Challenges are enormous:

"Amin said he also hopes to discover how, since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, Germany has handled the files kept on millions of citizens by the dreaded Communist Stasi secret police. Iraq has a similar need to archive, catalogue and document the atrocities of the Saddam era.

"Just as in former Communist East Germany, Saddam's police kept information about everyone in a highly controlled and militarized society, Amin said.

"As a result, he told a news conference, 'Iraq's genocidal policy is the most documented in the history of mass murder. We have documents about the deportation of villages and the suppression of political opponents in Iraq and abroad'."

"So far Iraq has recovered enough documents to cover 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) of shelf space, but they are widely scattered, while 17 ministries lost their entire archives. Amin says Iraq needs to recapture its memory by creating a national archive. At the same time, he promised documents would be used to prosecute Saddam's trial."
Great Britain is helping with the task:

"Thirty-four Iraqi medics, academics and police officers arrived in Britain in October to study forensic archaeology at Bournemouth University so they could identify their dead and gather evidence of genocide in their homeland.

"When they return in February they will face the constant threat of being killed by members of the old Baathist regime who may want to stop them uncovering the true extent of mass killings in Iraq.

"Seven of the group agreed to be interviewed about the project, paid for with nearly £1 million [$1.9 million] of British Government funds, on condition their identities were protected. Many of them count friends or members of their own families among the estimated 300,000 people who disappeared during Saddam’s reign of terror."
Iraq will also receive other valuable foreign assistance to help deal with the tragic legacy of dictatorship:

"Bosnia's International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has announced its plans to assist Iraq in identifying missing persons, following a visit to Sarajevo by Iraqi interim human rights minister Bakhtiar Amin, who expressed hope that Bosnia's tragic experience could prove useful in identifying exhumed bodies in Iraq. The ICMP said it would donate its forensic Data Management System (fDMS), a unique electronic database that tracks the process of exhumations and identifications from site reconnaissance and exhumation to the identification of remains, notification of family members, and final burial. According to the ICMP, there are believed to be between 300,000 and one million missing persons in Iraq - 10 times more then in all the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Most of the missing are believed to be buried in mass graves, and several mass grave sites have already been found and exhumed."
Of the less painful past, Iraqi historical and cultural heritage continues to be recovered and returned to rightful owners:

"Police in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah, some 350 km south of Baghdad, retrieved 70 stolen antiques and gave them back to the city's museum... Nasiriyah's antiquity protection police force, which was established to prevent the smuggling of the ruins and antiques, managed to seize 70 stolen antiques of the ancient times in the regions of Oma and Jokha with the help of the Italian police."
Meanwhile, a Providence, Rhode Island, resident was recently sentenced for his attempt to smuggle 4,000 year old artifacts out of Iraq.

Also a part of Iraq's rich historical mosaic, other faiths continue to survive inside the country, despite the attempts by jihadi zealots to drive them out. In
Mosul, the Christian community is rebuilding churches and chapels destroyed in recent terrorist attacks. Some valuable assistance is now coming from Iraqi Christian living overseas. In Florida, St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church in Weston is collecting money for rebuilding destroyed churches in Baghdad. Muslim organizations, including the local branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have offered their help in raising the awareness of the issue and collecting funds. "This is a shame to hear about it... By Allah, if I don't condemn it, I will carry the sins," says Sofian Abdelaziz, director of the American Muslim Association of North America.

Alan P. Larson, the Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs, provides an useful overview of the economic situation in Iraq before and after the liberation:

"In 1979 Iraq had a per capita living standard on a par with Italy. By the fall of Saddam Hussein's government, Iraq had the GDP of an impoverished developing country and had become the most heavily indebted nation in the world. This grim legacy, compounded by a serious security situation, poses big hurdles to economic development.

"Despite these problems, the Iraqis are persevering and succeeding. Iraqi policies made it possible for economic output in the first ten months of 2004 to be 51.7% higher than in 2003. Per capita income in 2004 is projected to be $780, up from approximately $500 in 2003.

"The Iraqi government has set forth a solid medium-term economic plan. The newly independent Central Bank is keeping inflation in check, with the consumer price index rising only 5.7 percent in the first eight months of 2004 compared with 46 percent in 2003. The new dinar has appreciated 27 percent against the dollar in the past year."
Says Larson: "The economic progress Iraqis have achieved so far, under very difficult circumstances, testifies to their competence and courage. This holds especially true for the men and women who make up the new Iraqi government, who, at great personal risk, are busy building their vision of a democratic and free Iraq."

On the international front, there is more
good news for Iraq: "The United States, Germany and other G7 nations agreed... to write off up to 80 percent or $33 billion of Iraq's Paris Club debt, which could pave the way for a wider international accord, officials said." That means, for example, that Australia will forgive Iraq the $1.1 billion owed. The deal might have another good financial spin-off for Iraq: "The accord with the Paris Club, which holds about $42 billion in Iraqi debt, may help pave the way for Iraq to receive about $8 billion in aid from the IMF and World Bank." The Kuwaiti government, meanwhile, will be asking the parliament to approve an 80 per cent cut in Iraq's $16 billion debt, a reduction in line with the Paris Club decision. Iraq's debt to Russia will be reduced from around $10.5 billion to between $1 billion and $700 million. And Saudi Arabia has now also expressed willingness to make substantial cuts in Iraqi debt.

Despite security concerns,
Baghdad Stock Exchange continues to move ahead:

" 'There's a lot of interest,' said Mazin Aziza, who represents one of the 13 Iraqi banks now listed on the exchange. 'People like to buy and sell on the exchange. We wait for security to improve. Then there will be much more trading'...

"The exchange operates as an independent entity under the scrutiny of the Iraq Securities Commission but counts on the financial support of the Finance Ministry as well as the enthusiastic advice of experts in the American Embassy in the Green Zone, a few blocks away...

"More than 70 companies are now listed on the exchange. By now these firms have issued more than 100 billion shares, and anywhere from 100 million to 500 million shares are traded in a session (in comparison, volume on the New York Stock Exchange was a little less than 2 billion shares on Friday)."
The numbers are still small, dwarfed by Iraq's oil-based economy, but Taha Ahmed Abdul-Salam, chief executive of the exchange, is optimistic: "I believe the Iraqi economy is growing by steps, not in a hurry... On the Iraqi exchange, sometimes you see the shares are moving very fast, but the economy is slow. I believe in the future."

USAID continues to provide assistance to improve economic governance throughout the country through its
Iraq Economic Governance II Program and Local Governance Program (link in PDF). Among the latest initiatives:

"Advisors are continuing with the implementation of a government-wide Financial Management Information System, an automated accounting and budget execution system with online access and a centralized database. The system is already in use at the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Interior, and in Babil Governorate offices...

"[Another] IEG II project is working to improve utilities regulation and encourage the use of information technology in the government...

"Local Governance Program (LGP) staff in northern Iraq conducted a seminar on tourism and economic development for officials from the Ministry of Municipality, a Dahuk Governorate university, the Dahuk Tourism Office, the Ministry of Tourism, and representatives from private sector companies...

"During the last month, newly arrived IEG II staff conducted several meetings with bank executives from Iraq's two largest state-owned banks. These meetings provided a venue to discuss technical issues such as upcoming training events, work plan design, and status and plans of restructuring activities."
In oil news, "Iraq, the fifth-largest oil producer in the Middle East, will spend more than $1 billion next year to increase oil production capacity by about 15 percent to 3.25 million barrels a day, an Iraqi official said. 'The budget is fixed for priority projects to build new export pipelines and complete modifications to our refineries,' Abdulilah al-Amir, a foreign relations adviser to Iraqi Oil Minister Thamir al-Ghadhban, said." The authorities are also planning to build a new refinery in the town of Zakho, in the Kurdish north, close to the Syrian and Turkish borders and along a pipeline route to Turkey. Iraqi authorities are currently conducting talks with Norway towards building a greater cooperation in the oil industry. And the Ministry of Oil has announced that it has shortlisted five foreign companies to study the giant Rumaila oil field in the south and another four to study the oil fields around Kirkuk.

The US Army Corps of Engineers is, meanwhile, onto the second leg of it
Restore Iraqi Oil (RIO) program (the first stage consisting of renovation of existing oil infrastructure):

"The new program goal is to increase liquid petroleum gas (LPG) production to 3,000 metric tons. 'This is what we think of as propane,' said [Marcia] Meekins, [oil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' southern district]. 'And, of course, the reason they (Iraq) want to increase their production is that now, they have to import it. They want to decrease their reliance on imports.'

"The Corps' role in the new program involves managing the construction, and making sure it's done on time and correctly. 'Our projects are on a longer timeframe, but then again we will produce some amazing results,' said Greg Waner, PCO, Basrah area project manager for the oil program. 'Our program will have the potential of having the biggest effect on the Iraqi people than any other money spent by PCO because we are going to create jobs and pump a lot of money into the economy when it's all said and done.'

"Waner said that the project has several goals, one of which is to work toward increasing Iraq's crude oil production to three million barrels a day. The average crude production now is roughly two million barrels."
Overall, one report concludes that "the Iraqi petroleum industry, despite frequent sabotage attacks and other disruptions, is managing to pump a steady stream of oil, providing a much-needed cushion to international markets and a silver lining to the insurgency-riven aftermath of the US-led invasion. Problems still haunt the industry, including a major pipeline rupture last week. Even so, Iraq has been a reliable supplier this year."

Arguably, this is at least partly due to hard work and determination of a
new generation of experts who are trying to rebuild Iraq's oil production:

"Amid Iraq's rusty refineries, sabotage and fuel shortages, there is a new breed of savvy bankers, hands-on oil managers and western-educated engineers who believe oil can help build a dynamic, modern nation which will inspire the Middle East."
As the report notes, the challenge is not only to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed through neglect, war and sabotage, but to avoid the "rentier economy" trap that most oil-rich countries tend to fall into: "Countries rich with oil export it and use the proceeds to finance the state and the ruling elite. There is no need to tax the population or let them be represented. The results include a weak private sector and an education system that does not generally produce qualified graduates." With the ongoing democratic and economic reform in Iraq, there is hope that the benefits of the oil economy will be used more wisely and shared by more people than in the past.
In communication news, the Internet infrastructure is developing surprisingly well around Iraq, according to an
Iraqi blogger: "Internet service had recently reached the small town where I work which is practically in the Iraqi marshes area. The service was limited in the past few months to the governmental facilities like the hospital and the town hall but now it's available for public use in a neat, small internet cafe' from which I'm posting these news."

In Suleymaniyah, in the Kurdish north, an
employment boom is taking place:

"The stable security situation has led a number of foreign companies to set up in the region, offering job seekers an alternative to the public sector or unskilled manual labour for the first time in years. While government jobs may have traditionally been people's first choice because of the cachet they carry here, a significant number of graduates are now tempted by the higher wages offered in the private sector.

"The combination of strong private and public sectors has led to a manpower shortage in an area which used to suffer from high unemployment. 'Before the fall of Saddam's regime, there was high unemployment because the government was basically the only employer,' explained Mahdi Shera, media manager for the Investment Support Board. 'Now they are actually having to compete with the private sector for employees'."
Says taxi driver Yusuf Nureddin "I don't need to work for the government because I'm earning around 20,000 dinars per day, which is enough to look after my family." The job opportunities are attracting increasing numbers of people from outside the region, including expatriate Kurds. Elsewhere in Kurdistan, an interesting government program is causing a car boom:

"A few kilometres east of the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, in an area as big as a football stadium, drivers are lining up to watch their cars get crushed in the jaws of a wrecking machine.

"The piles of crushed vehicles are now stacked as high as three-storey buildings, following a decision by the governing authorities to use financial incentives to get environment-damaging old vehicles off the roads.

"In areas under the control of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, party, one of the two controlling parties in the Iraqi Kurdish region, the authorities have ordered all cars built before 1995 to be taken off the road and destroyed. In return, drivers are given a cash loan to help them upgrade to newer models.

"Buses and taxis are also covered by the ruling. Bus owners are getting cash advances of seven million Iraqi dinars (5,000 US dollars) to buy models produced after 1995, while taxi drivers are offered four and a half million Iraqi dinars to upgrade...

"The advance is just that, and car owners are supposed to pay the money back to the government in quarterly installments over a seven-year period. To guarantee that people pay up, the government uses the driver's property as collateral. As a result, anyone who doesn't own property can't get the cash."
Kurdistan might soon have the most modern looking roads in the region outside of the oil Gulf kingdoms.

RECONSTRUCTION: In Amman, Jordan, the
Iraq Procurement 2004 forum and exhibition have recently opened, "providing the opportunity for Iraqi businessmen to meet with representatives of global companies hoping to play a role in the rebuilding of the war-stricken state... An exhibition hosting over 50 regional and global companies will be held on the sidelines of the forum, providing the companies with the chance to display their products. During the three-day event, certain projects in the fields of IT, healthcare, energy production, telecommunications, banking, agriculture, water and sewage system will be presented to foreign investors."

Reconstruction is currently successfully progressing in
some old hot spots: "Just weeks after the Bradley's 25mm guns were clearing Anti Iraqi Forces from the streets of Samarra and restoring order, economic activity was climbing to new heights, store fronts booming with goods for sale, market places bustling with movement, and decades old trash, rubble, and graffiti disappeared as it was being carried away by a robust and motivated work force. To many, it had transformed itself into a new city, made up of smiling faces that showed few signs of lingering animosity." Read the whole long article to find out how this was achieved.

In another former hot spot,
Nasiriya, peace brings employment growth:

"More than 32,000 jobs have been created in the southern city of Nasiriya in the past few months, according to a provincial official. Kareem Adhab, head of Nasiriya Employment Center, said the creation of so many jobs was only made possible after the return of peace and stability to the city. Nasiriya, home to about 550,000 people, is the provincial capital of Dhi Qar, where the ruins of ancient cities Ur and Larsa are located. Most of the newly employed people are given permanent contracts, according to Adhab, who also said the promising employment figures did not include recruits who have opted to join the country's fledging security forces. He expected the provincial authorities to employ thousands more people to meet demand for the much-awaited-for reconstruction campaign."
The next on the list is, of course, Fallujah: "Together, the United States and the Iraqi government have earmarked as much as $100 million for the reconstruction effort in Fallujah, according to Ambassador Bill Taylor of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office... He said that the reconstruction will likely begin with infrastructure projects aimed at restoring basic services. Specifically, he identified a need to repair electricity distribution lines, sewage lines and water treatment facilities. Once basic services are restored, reconstruction efforts will turn to schools, clinics and solid waste management, he said." The work is already under way:

"The next invasion of this battered city has begun. Teams of reconstruction experts have set up shop in the municipal government complex downtown, having commandeered a former youth sports complex to serve as their headquarters. There, they have launched a crucial, large-scale effort aimed at rebuilding a city that was devastated during the U.S.-led offensive to take control of the longtime rebel stronghold."
Read also this report on the challenge of rebuilding the relationships with locals, as reconstruction money starts flowing in.

In addition to civilian effort, the Coalition troops are also contributing to restoration of vital infrastructure throughout Iraq. Here are few examples:

In the Al Hawjia region, local residents now have a
steady supply of drinkable water, thanks to recently completed 411th Civil Affairs Battalion projects. "The primary source of drinking water for the whole district comes from a plant that was built in the 1970's. Since that time almost no maintenance or replacement parts have been provided to the facility. This has led to the degradation of pumps, generators, filters and other mechanical parts. The facility's condition was so dire that the next mechanical failure would most likely have resulted in complete plant shutdown and loss of water to the entire city. Under current operating conditions, less than half of the 40,000 in the city and outlying areas of Hawija were receiving water." Thanks to the renovation work by the soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division that's no longer a problem.

In Balad, Task Force Danger Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division and the Al Huda Company are
constructing new roads, including new highway from Balad to Baghdad, as part of a $985,000 Accelerated Iraqi Relief Program (AIRP) project.

The US Army Corps of Engineers and the Programmes and Contracting Office in Baghdad are also expected to shortly issue contracts worth $36 million to Iraqi firms to renovate some 76
train stations throughout the country. Speaking of rail infrastructure, an USAID program is constructing a 72 kilometer railway line between the southern port of Umm Qasr and Shuaibah junction near Basrah. The project should be completed by January 2005 (link in PDF).

In electricity news, work to increase the output of a power station in
Babil is now one third complete. "Built in the early 1980s, the plant was generating about 435 MW a day when USAID began work in spring 2004. After additional maintenance work in the fall and spring to increase generation by 250 MW, the plant's total output will reach nearly 1,000 MW." Meanwhile, east of Baghdad, work is commencing on a new facility that will use natural gas for the power generation.

Reconstruction of physical infrastructure is also being complemented by initiatives to further educate and train the local specialists. In a new program from
Jordan, "the National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) will start training and rehabilitating around 40 Iraqi electrical engineers in a few days at a cost of $220,000. The company will cover 15 per cent of the cost and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will finance the balance... Company officials expect they will be able to train around 200 Iraqi officials by the end of 2004 and early 2005." The Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ) and Japan's International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will also be training 20 Iraqi engineers from Baghdad Municipality.

Assistance continues to flow in from
Iraq's neighbors:

"Kuwait has allocated $40 million as a grant for developing the education sector in Iraq, the Iraqi Education Ministry announced... Iraqi Education Minister Dr Sami Al-Mudhafar... disclosed that the ministry prepared a comprehensive plan to invest the sum in construction and maintenance of schools in addition to execution of projects in Baghdad and others governorates.

"Kuwait had earlier presented a grant of $11 million to the health department in Al-Basra governorate as a contribution to development of health services in the governorate.

"The Chairman of the Humanitarian Operations Center, Retired Lieutenant General Ali Al-Moumen, has said in previous statements that Kuwaiti aid to the Iraqi people since the country's liberation last May reached the sum of $204 million while aid from international institutions and other governments through the centre reached an additional sum of $422 million."
A large part of the effort to rebuild the country's health system consists of upskilling Iraqi doctors who, in most cases, have been for many years cut off from the latest overseas medical developments. As part of that strategy, "the Japanese government will invite 10 doctors from the southern Iraqi city of Samawah and its vicinity to Japan from next Wednesday for training in infectious disease prevention as part of its reconstruction assistance for Iraq." Already, "in March and October this year, Japan and Egypt jointly provided medical training for a total of 215 Iraqi doctors at Cairo University."

Provision of water and good hygiene are an important part of improving health infrastructure, as this
local program demonstrates (link in PDF):

"A new initiative to provide water and sanitation systems as well as hygiene awareness is improving sanitary conditions for the residents of 21 villages in eastern Kirkuk as well as the southwestern part of As Sulaymaniyah Governorate. This initiative is being implemented by an international NGO in partnership with USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. This project is supporting well drilling, construction of water storage and distribution networks, provision of household latrines, and is addressing health and hygiene education and awareness and delivering some basic health interventions."
Just as Iraqi doctors need to catch up with the rest of the world after years of isolation, so do Iraqi academics and teachers. To help them, British academic institutions continue to provide assistance for Iraqi universities:

"The AOC-British Council Further Education Iraq Group was launched in February this year following discussions with Dr Hamadi and the president of the Iraqi Foundation for Technical Education.

"Its vision is to help develop a 'restructured, modernised and responsive' vocational education system along regional lines to support the skills needed to reconstruct Iraq.

"A total of ten UK FE colleges are so far involved in providing expertise in areas such as management, exchange programmes and standardised qualifications for teachers, and developing teaching and learning methods and the curriculum.

"Books and learning materials are also being provided by organisations such as British Education Suppliers Association and The British Publishers Association."
There is also support for rebuilding Iraq's emergency services. Iraqi authorities and the Multinational Forces are spending nearly $20 million to bring 28 fire stations up to modern standards. Says Michael Stanka P.E., a civil engineer and project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: "Years of outmoded operating practices, a lack of funding, a decade of sanctions and insurgent attacks on reconstruction projects have left Iraq's fire fighting capability in dire straits; in many cases fire stations are falling apart and equipment either doesn't exist or it doesn't work. Combine that with a lack of proper training and poor maintenance and you have all the ingredients for a disaster. This project will restore the stations to their original conditions, and in most cases modernize them. It will also give the Iraqi people confidence in their local government's ability to protect their property."

And in the environmental field, USAID continues its work on restore Iraq's
southern marshlands (link in PDF):

"Under USAID's Iraq Marshlands Restoration Program (IMRP), progress is being made on several fronts in an overall effort to restore the social, economic, and environmental systems for Iraq's marsh dwellers. IMRP is supporting three successful agricultural production initiatives in Al Basrah, Maysan, and Dhi Qar Governorates. These include sorghum production, date palm farming, and planting of wheat, barley, and broad bean plants. IMRP monitoring teams also continue to collect data on wildlife, water quality, and water flows as areas drained under the old regime are allowed to flood again. To provide highprotein and nutritious feed for marsh livestock, a total of 26 sites have been planted with alfalfa. This is an increase from the original plan for 15 sites, and brings the total land area to 80 acres."
HUMANITARIAN AID: It will clearly take years to rebuild the damage of decades of destruction and neglect. In the meantime, emergency aid continues to play a vital role, filling in the gaps. For example, there is some assistance coming for Iraqi hospitals:

"More than eight tons of donated medical supplies will leave Detroit next week bound for a storage depot in Baghdad, Iraq, to help the interim government there resupply war-torn civilian hospitals... The materials were donated by doctors and hospitals. The shipment was organized by local Iraqis.

"Wally Jadan, president and chief executive of the Southfield-based Arabic content radio and television network Radio and TV Orient, hopes to organize more shipments in the coming months along with a mission by Iraqi physicians living in Metro Detroit."
Elsewhere (link in PDF), "Six boxes of nursing manuals and medical reference
materials collected by Jackson State University and the Mississippi Consortium for
International Development (JSU/MCID) were recently delivered to faculty members
of the medical, dental and nursing colleges at three northern Iraqi universities." The
Near East Foundation, meanwhile, is making its fourth shipment of medical supplies valued at $890,000.

And on a more personal scale, a 14-month old Iraqi girl,
Fatemah Hassan, is returning home from Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where for the past six month she has been receiving treatment for a large hemangioma, a tumor-like dense group of blood vessels that sometimes can restrict the airways. The transport back was provided courtesy of the US Army.

Not all aid is restricted to schools and hospitals: the
Iraqi police will be receiving some potentially life-saving help because of the work of this Illinois resident: "As part of his job to oversee seven police stations in Baghdad, Army Captain Erik Archer realized his stations' lacked supplies such as computers, paper and pens. The 25-year-old Mundelein native sent e-mails to Chicago area police departments to ask for help. Mundelein Police Chief Ray Rose responded and told Archer he had 39 old bulletproof vests -- valued at 500-dollars each -- in storage. The Mundelein police department then started collecting old bulletproof vests from several other departments including the Chicago Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives." The first of the vests are now on the way to Iraq.

Other humanitarian actions also continue to be
inspired by the US troops currently serving in Iraq:

"A letter from an Indiana soldier in Iraq that included photographs of impoverished children -- and a plea to help them -- has prompted an American Legion post to begin shipping toys overseas to brighten the youngsters' lives.

"CM-1 explosives expert Bill Halliday mailed the letter and photos last month to Jerry Prevatt, commander of the Burton Woolery American Legion Post 18 in Bloomington. 'There are lots of kids in Iraq who are poor and hungry and see things every day I hope my kids never have to see,' he wrote. 'I don't need anything for myself, but I'd like some things for these kids -- games, books, anything at all will help. I'll pass them out to the kids on the way to my missions'.
" The first of many shipments is now on the way - check the story for details if you can help. Firefighters of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, are sending gift packages for American soldiers to give out to Iraqi children. "The idea of sending toys to Iraq came from a letter that firefighter Peter Rice received from former resident Tarren Windham, who is stationed in Fallujah with the First Marine Division."

Meanwhile, this
North Carolina teenager was inspired by her father serving in Iraq:

"Many teenage girls have plenty of shoes, and Niki Streussnig is no different. The 14-year-old from Gastonia has hundreds of pairs.

"But they are not for her. 'What we basically are doing is collecting shoes, or any other stuff, to help the Iraqi children,' she said Friday."
Niki's Little Feet Society is now in full swing, but she needs your help with shipping. And in Muscatine, Iowa, children from Muscatine High School were inspired by the visit of two soldiers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District to collect over 100 backpacks full of supplies to send to Iraqi children.

Also in

"The Keokuk Rotary Club is seeking donations to help pay to get a boy from Iraq to Iowa City for surgery to repair a hole in his heart.

"Sgt. Corey M. Johnston, an Airborne Ranger medic from West Liberty, identified 5–year–old Rebaz Shamsadeen, who was born with a hole in his heart, as someone who could be helped by treatment at an American hospital.

"Johnston arranged for doctors in Iowa City to volunteer to do the operation at no cost. But he needs some money for minimal hospital costs and expenses to get the child to Iowa."
See the details of the story if you can help. Elsewhere, Brenda Liebengood, of Flint, Michigan, is making her son Kirk's Christmas wish come true by organizing presents that Kirk, currently serving in Iraq, can hand out to Iraqi children. Calvary Wesleyan Church in Harrington, Delaware, is aiming to have 300 gift packages to send to to the needy in Iraq and Afghanistan. And students from Florida State University are collecting school supplies to contribute to Operation Iraqi Children. Inspired by the Operation, the Eastern Kentucky University's Office of Volunteerism has so far collected about 200 kits (backpacks filled with school supplies) which will be shortly sent to Iraq: "Trina Day, EKU's president of Alpha Phi Sigma, decided to help out when she found out there was a small youth group that collected $600 for the cause. 'My big idea was, what can 18,000 people do,' said the 31-year-old undergraduate, referring to the students of EKU. 'It isn't about the war; it's about helping kids'."

And the
Fall Mountain School District in Claremont, New Hampshire has collected 1,200 pairs of shoes for Iraqi children to be distributed by soldiers in the 744th New Hampshire National Guard Transport. All shoes were disinfected, courtesy of a local business No More LLC, which manufactures an antibacterial and antifungal spray that neutralizes shoe odors.

THE COALITION TROOPS: There are many ways of making Iraq safer for the future. In one of those valuable initiatives, the Coalition troops continue with clearing Iraq of unexploded munition. Near
Tikrit, "working closely with the 201st Iraqi National Guard Battalion, more that 30 Bravo Company 'Predator' soldiers worked with more than 40 ING soldiers for two weeks to clean up the area. More than 1,000 rounds of highly explosive artillery ammunition were destroyed during the operation." Iraqi National Guard soldiers also conducted classes in local schools to teach children about dangers of ammunition.

The troops also continue to support the growth of local democracy. In Balad, the 1st Infantry Division has renovated former Baath Part headquarters at a cost of $100,000 and transformed the building into the
Balad Municipal Building, which now houses both the city and district council, and a media center with a newspaper a radio station.

The troops are working to restore not just the physical infrastructure, but also the human one. In Tikrit, for example, Bravo Company, 411th Civil Affairs Battalion has cooperated with the Provincial Governor to establish an
"On the Job" training school: "Here, students receive job-specific training in one of several fields including masonry, carpentry, ceramics and casting, electrical and sewing. The courses last 30 days and are taught by members of the trade who are already established in the local community." The school recently graduated its first class composed 110 men and women. Each one received a $50 voucher towards starting their own business.

There is also strong support for Iraq's health care system. Soldiers from Task Force 1-77 Armor (1st Infantry Division) together with members of the 203rd Iraqi National Guard Battalion were recently delivering medical supplies to the
Balad General Hospital. Elsewhere, the troops are providing training opportunities for Iraqi doctors:

"Two Iraqi physicians doing post-graduate training were given the opportunity to intern at Charlie Company's Aid Station. These physicians had already completed a 9-month rotation at Baqubah General.

"Both students shadowed the provider on call, focusing on Emergency Room and Trauma practice. They also were able to get some hands-on in assisting with the medical screening for Iraqi Army recruits. They saw a significant amount of trauma, and although the interns were a little timid at first, they were anxious to learn."
The internships are expected to continue for one student or physician per week.

And there's also help for schools. In Tikrit, the 701st Main Support Battalion has
sponsored two schools, the Al Barudy Primary School and the Al Barudy School for Girls, the first girls' school in northern Tikrit, among other things providing them with supplies: "The 701st MSB did not complete this project on its own. Key contributions of school supplies came from Germany, where the Wurzburg American Middle School, also sponsored by the 701st, put together packages of school supplies for their Iraqi counterparts." Says 1st Lt. Scott Preusker, the battalion civil affairs officer, of her visit to school: "The girls were very interested in speaking to the female officers and had many questions about their leadership roles in the US military."

Baghdad, soldiers from A Company, 1st Battalion, 153rd lnfantry Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, and Detachment 1, 1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery Regiment, attached to Company A, 1-153rd, delivered the stuffed toys and school supplies to children at the Ayn Al Mali Kindergarten in the Babil neighborhood. And in Al Neida area, "the Al Sa'ad and Hamalathania schools received supplies donated by churches and the families of the 30th Brigade Combat Team. The donations were sent from the United States and included individual supplies for the students, black boards, and class room items that were given to the teachers."

In addition to work on schools and hospitals, infrastructure projects continue, like this one in the village of Albu Bali, where Marines from the 372nd Engineer Group together with local contractors constructed a
new water treatment plant for 500 residents.

The troops are also involved in many
charity actions: "The 201st Iraqi National Guard Battalion, the Police's Emergency Service Unit and Charlie Company, Task Force 1-18 Infantry gave children's clothing away to needy families in Tikrit during the second week in November. Family members in Germany and the United States sent the clothing to Iraq. They gathered it as part of Charlie Company's plan to donate to the poor at the conclusion of Ramadan." Tikrit, Saddam's home town and once very hostile to the Coalition is now relatively peaceful and quiet.

Balad, meanwhile, soldiers from the 111th Signal Battalion, a National Guard unit from Abbeville, S.C., donated numerous clothing items and school supplies to befriended local postal workers and their families. Another distribution is planned shortly. In Daquq, the 1st Infantry Division troops from the Forward Operating Base Grant have presented the town with a renovated Youth Centre:

"After months of renovation, the Youth Center was returned with everything from new paint and windows to ping pong tables and ten brand new computers with high-speed Internet access. Now the children of Daquq will be able to participate in several sports to include soccer, boxing, volleyball, feather ball and weightlifting with new equipment purchased for the facility by [Multi-National Force]."
And in Najaf, "Marines from the 11th MEU distributed more than $1.1 million on 22 November in condolence and collateral damage repair payments to demonstrate goodwill to Iraqis caught in the crossfire during fighting... this August. Payments began on Sept. 30 and have resulted in a total of $4.7 million paid to more than 8,300 Najafis since then. Payments will continue as long as needed to meet each valid case. Condolence payments, known as solatia, are being paid to express sympathy to those injured or who lost a family member during the fighting. Collateral damage repair payments are intended for Iraqis who experienced damage to their home, business or other property."

DIPLOMACY AND SECURITY: In further evidence of the fraying of relations between the insurgents and the community, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi lashed out at Islamic scholars in a taped message, accusing them of
betrayal of insurgency:

"You have let us down in the darkest circumstances and handed us over to the enemy... You have quit supporting the mujahedeen... Hundreds of thousands of the nation's sons are being slaughtered at the hands of the infidels because of your silence.

"You made peace with the tyranny and handed over the countries and the people to the Jews and Crusaders... When you resort to silence on their crimes, when you refused to hold the banners of Jihad and Tawhid, and when you prevented youth from heading to the battlefields in order to defend the religion.

"Instead of implementing God's orders, you chose your safety and preferred your money and sons. You left the mujahadeen facing the strongest power in the world... Are not your hearts shaken by the scenes of your brothers being surrounded and hurt by your enemy?"
A recent internet posting, apparently authored by an insurgent commander Abu Ahmed al-Baghdadi, while boasting of recent attacks throughout Iraq, paints a worrying picture of the insurgency:

"The new message opens with a plea for advice from Palestinian and Chechen militants as well as Osama bin Laden supporters in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 'We face many problems,' it reads in Arabic, 'and need your military guidance since you have more experience.'

"The problems, the message says, are the result of losing the insurgent safe haven of Fallujah to U.S. troops. It says the insurgency was hampered as checkpoints and raids spread 'to every city and road.' Communications broke down as insurgents were forced to spread out through the country.

"The arrest of some of their military experts, more 'spies willing to help the enemy,' and a dwindling supply of arms also added to the organizational breakdown, it reads."
According to military analyst Tony Cordesman, "This particular memo asks for strategic advice, but it makes it very clear in the text that what they really want are volunteers, money and more munitions." Another report about the posting notes that its author is also bemoaning the heavy losses suffered by the insurgents in recent actions in Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul, and Ramadi.

The old Shia hot-stop of
Najaf, meanwhile, is now enjoying some peaceful times: "Iraqi police are in full control of the holy city of Najaf, the governor Najaf Province said. Adnan al-Zurqi said the nearly 600,000 inhabitants in the provincial center, Najaf, now enjoy peace following large-scale disturbances in August. He said peace has returned to the province with people going about their daily work without any difficulty. Zurqi made the remarks as he laid down the foundation of a new building for the city's National Guard battalion. 'The citizens in Najaf today can perform their daily duties with ease and in peace - thanks to the National Guard,' he said." And in a related development, "approximately three months after decisive combat operations ended in Najaf, the 11th MEU commander declared today that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have formally assumed local control of An Najaf province."

Not just in Najaf but also elsewhere throughout the country, the Iraqi security forces are increasingly taking on more tasks. For example,
2,000 Iraqi National Guardsmen have been recently deployed to protect vital oil infrastructure around Kirkuk.

American personnel in charge of training the Iraqi army are becoming
more optimistic about the success of their mission. Good training is translating into good outcomes on the ground:

"Iraqi security forces performed much better in recent fighting in Fallujah and other towns than they did in battles in the spring, U.S. officials say, but some units remain ill-equipped and infiltrated by spies.

"That is the initial assessment of military officials and outside analysts in the wake of two weeks of fighting in Iraq in which a Marine-led force secured Fallujah and other U.S. forces put down uprisings in Ramadi, Mosul and Baqouba."
Says Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command: "The Iraqi security forces have fought well... The way they performed in Fallujah clearly shows that there are a core of fighters in the Iraqi security forces that are prepared and capable of operating independently in war-fighting operations that does give us confidence that our efforts to train the Iraqi security force can be successful."

The training continues both in Iraq and overseas. Some alternative ways of
police training are being currently trialed: "the employment of contracted civilian International Police Liaison Officers or IPLOs, a solution that has previously met with success in areas such as Bosnia and Kosovo. Working in close association with the Soldier's of the First Infantry Division's Task Force 1-7 (TF 1-7), these IPLOs in Bayji, Iraq, provide the required expert capabilities and are helping the Bayji and Sharqat Police to become a capable, professional law enforcement agency." Read the whole article about how the IPLOs are working on the ground in Iraq.

The Iraqi armed forces, meanwhile, can now benefit from
mobile training: "The Multinational Security Transition Command - Iraq began dispatching nine, five-member training teams to the Multinational Force's six major subordinate commands, Nov. 28, to assist in the training of Iraqi brigade and division senior staff officers. The teams - comprised of U.S. Army personnel - will run Iraqi Army and National Guard officers through 30-day training cycles before rotating on to new staffs at the discretion of the various MSC commands. All trainers were formerly instructors at the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College or Combined Arms Service Staff School."

At a military base in Nu'maniyah, 140 kilometers south of Baghdad, the first batch of 6,000 troops of Iraqi
rapid reaction force graduated recently. "The graduates were trained as quick reaction forces to launch defensive and offensive operations in emergencies all over Iraq." And in a more life-saving mode, "in an effort to augment the Iraqi Security Forces' battlefield and operations medical support capability, the Multinational Security Transition Command - Iraq is working with Iraqi officials to finalize a 'combat lifesavers course' for Soldiers and police in service. The course - designed to teach skills in providing advanced first aid - has already ran 18 Special Police Commando Battalion Soldiers through the instruction in November with future iterations to kick off in the coming weeks."

Overseas, "
Italy has hosted 42 Iraqi army officers for studies at the Centro Alti Studi Difesa military college in Rome. The Iraqi officers consisted of captains and majors who would spend three and a half weeks in school before returning to Iraq during the first week of December." Norway, meanwhile, is sending additional 20 army instructors to Iraq. In the region, a company from the Iraqi Army's 17th Battalion, 7th Brigade, 5th Division, is also training with Egyptian troops at the Mubarak Military City training facility near Alexandria. The training will involve "individual movement technique, squad movement, land navigation, basic rifle marksmanship, rifle qualification, and platoon and company attack and defense training including live fire exercises with their Egyptian counterparts."

Equipment continues to flow in for the new Iraqi security forces:

"Since Nov. 15, the 12-day rollout through Nov. 27 includes 2,120 riot and smoke grenades; 4,085 AK-47 assault rifles; 1,000 various-make 9mm pistols; 16 computers; 14 ambulances; 2,338,600 AK-47 rounds; 600 tactical vests; 800 9mm Glock pistols; 1,260,000 9mm pistol rounds; 1,020 holsters; 4,574 pairs of running shoes; 278 RPK machineguns; 5,292 sets of body armor; 39,486 sets of desert combat and other uniforms; 20-9mm Walther pistols; 9,839 t-shirts; 5,445 helmets; 10 Russian-made GAZ heavy trucks; 1,208 binocular pairs; 1,050 handcuff sets; more than 1,750,000 PKM/RPK machinegun rounds including 248,000 tracer rounds; 20 blunt trauma suits; 1,476 compasses; 132 GPS satellite systems; 800 MAG lights; 750 whistles; 44 rocket propelled grenade launchers; 124 PKM machineguns; 4,150 hats; 52 Chevy Lumina police sedans; 344 first aid kits; 149 vehicle and handheld radios; 2,046 canteens; 450,000 12 gauge shotgun shot and slug rounds; 991,000 5.56mm rounds; 150 riot helmets; 48 shotguns; two two-ton trucks; four Dodge Durangos; and 20 Chevy Trailblazers."
On a heavier end of the scale, the Iraqi army has received 38 French-designed Panhard M3 armored personnel carriers, donated by the United Arab Emirates. Another six are due shortly. "The Iraqi Armed Forces have recently began adding a significant armored element to its ranks with the delivery, Nov. 22, of four T-55 Russian-designed heavy tanks and 18 multi-purpose armored vehicles (MTLBs) to the Army's 1st Mechanized Brigade also located at Taji. Another 22 tanks and MTLBs are scheduled to arrive this week in addition to the six remaining Panhard M3s."

Air Force, too, is acquiring new equipment: "The United Arab Emirates delivered four Comp Air 7SL aircraft to Basrah Air Base... to be used by the Iraqi Air Force. The aircraft were a gift to help Iraq's air force continue to build its operational capability. Three more Comp Air aircraft will be delivered within the next two weeks."

In Najaf, construction work began on a new
$1.8 million barracks facility for the 405th Battalion, 50th Iraqi National Guard Brigade. "Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) is funding the project. A local contractor was awarded the project." And throughout Iraq, the US troops will spend some $22 million to renovate 240 police stations over a six month period. One example of the initiative in action is the recent opening of a new police station at Hatamia Village: "The police station is a newly constructed building that provides critical infrastructure to the police force of the local village. Iraqi contractors built the new $65,000 facility, which was sponsored by the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, Army Materiel Command and the 13th Corp Support Command civil affairs staff."

Weapons and munitions continue to be recovered throughout the country, for example this

"Multi-national forces from the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) unearthed Nov. 22 one of the largest weapons caches ever found in northern Iraq, about 45 kilometers south of Mosul in the village of Shafa'at.

"During their patrol, Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment discovered huge stockpiles of weapons and munitions, including an anti-aircraft gun, 15,000 anti-aircraft rounds, 4,600 hand grenades, 144 VOG-17M anti-personnel grenade launchers, 25 SA-7 surface-to-air missiles, 44 SA-7 battery packs, 20 guided missile packs, 21 120mm mortar rounds, two 120mm mortar tubes, 10 122mm rockets, six 152mm artillery rounds and two 57mm artillery rounds.

"Soldiers also discovered a building full of explosive-making materials. The three-acre site is secure and still under investigation with more weapons and munitions discoveries expected."
This, however, pales next to the amount of weaponry and ammunition recovered from Fallujah - according to Marine Lieutenant Colonel Dan Wilson, "the sheer amount of caches we've found would stun you... You could literally take over this country with the number of weapons we've found."

"Marine combat engineers and explosives experts were again scouring homes yesterday amid the battered streets in south Fallujah's Shuhada district, where the day before gunmen traded shots with units trying to seize two homes that were later found to be hiding nearly 700 mortar shells...

"For more than an hour yesterday a daisy chain of marines passed mortar shells - from 60mm rounds the size of a small water bottle to large 120mm mortars and artillery shells that had to carried in both hands - to a waiting truck as a convoy of vehicles snaked its way through one ruined neighbourhood cleaning out weapons caches.

"Elsewhere, an AFP correspondent saw a captured arsenal laid out in the dirt on the edges of another neighbourhood: rockets and antiquated shotguns jumbled next to clean, well oiled assault rifles, heavy machine guns and several homemade bombs."
The largest weapons cache in Fallujah so far has been found inside the Saad Abi Bin Waqas Mosque compound. Other reports note that the troops in Fallujah have uncovered nearly as many homemade explosive devices (650) as they have uncovered throughout the rest of Iraq over the past four months.

Increasingly, local cooperation is bringing positive results - in
Samarra, soldiers from the Task Force 1-26 Infantry were distributing fliers about the danger of explosive devices when ten minutes into the exercise they were approached by a local boy who pointed them to an IUD in an nearby alley. "Task Force 1-26 Soldiers investigated and found one 155mm artillery round and one 120mm mortar round, wired as a phase II IED." Read also this fascinating relation from a raid on two Iraqi villages to check for insurgent activity: "We didn't leave the villages as Warriors, but as guests."

In other recent security successes: the arrest of over
100 suspected insurgents in Baghdad ("Among the 104 detainees, most were Iraqis but some were from Syria and other Arab countries... Nine of the total had escaped from Fallujah"); a seizure of a senior insurgency commander in the Anbar province; detaining 38 insurgent suspects in a raid near Kirkuk; the arrest of one of Al Zarqawi's top commanders in Mosul; the capture of five foreign fighters who escaped from Fallujah and were preparing attacks around Basra; the arrest of 116 suspects in a sweep southwest of Baghdad; the arrest of 57 suspects throughout Mosul and Ad Dawr, the town where Saddam was captured last year; rounding up 32 suspects and uncovering a stockpile of more than 500 artillery rounds by Iraqi and Coalition troops south of Baghdad; rounding up another 24 suspected insurgents in an operation around Tal Afar; and the arrest of 210 suspects in a week-long sweep through the so called "triangle of death".

And from the war on terror to the war on drugs, the border police in southern Iraq seized
52 kilograms of hashish destined for Saudi Arabia.

As Archbishop Sako, quoted at the beginning of the article, says: "The Middle East needs help to rediscover peace and usher the Muslim countries into contemporary society, with its foundation of democracy and freedom. If the Iraqi model fails, it will be a disaster for everyone. These terrorist groups will gain strength around the world."

It would be dangerous and very unwise to ignore or downplay all the bad things happening in Iraq right now; but it would be equally dangerous if without hearing other voices and other stories from inside the country we were to give up and walk away, leaving Iraqis alone to try to secure their future. The bombs are deadly, but the perception that in Iraq today there is nothing else but the bombs could prove even deadlier in the long run - for the Iraqis, the Middle East, and the West.


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