Monday, January 03, 2005

Good news from Iraq, Part 18 

Note: Also available at the "Opinion Journal" and Winds of Change. As always many thanks to James Taranto and Joe Katzman for their support, as well as to fellow bloggers and readers for publicizing the series and sending in the tips.

Update: Speaking of good news from Iraq, why not check some more from Greyhawk, currently stationed there.

An interesting experiment recently took place in Iraq seeking to uncover a rarely explored aspect of life in the country, writes Jeff Jacoby: "How would Iraq appear if we saw it through not the reporting of Western journalists, but the candid testimony of Iraqis themselves? American reporters accustomed to freedom and the rule of law experience Iraq today as a place of danger and violence. Iraqis who lived under Saddam were accustomed to tyranny, cruelty, and secret police. What do they make of their country today?"

To find out, three Americans (two film-makers and a former Marine) distributed 150 digital video cameras to ordinary Iraqis, asking them to record anything they consider worthwhile and then pass the cameras on to others. The resulting 450 hours of footage from 2,000 Iraqis was distilled into an 80-minute documentary "Voices of Iraq". As Jacoby writes, the documentary "is by turns heartbreaking, exhilarating, and inspiring. The war and its destruction is never far from the surface... But bad as the war is, the horror it ended -- Saddam's 24-year reign -- was worse... Yet for all they have been through, Iraqis come across as incredibly optimistic, hopeful, and enthusiastic. And above all, normal."

Occasionally - but not too often - we catch in the media the glimpses of that other Iraq; the optimistic, hopeful, enthusiastic, and normal one. More often than not, however, our access is restricted to the now very familiar Iraq of constant bloodshed, rampant terrorism, political instability, stalled reconstruction and widespread disillusionment and frustration. Only time will show which Iraq proves to be more resilient and consequential. But for the time being, as the struggle for the soul and the future of the country goes on, it pays to bear in mind that this struggle if far from an one-sided one; that as the violent Iraq strikes, the normal Iraq fights back, on thousands of fronts, and in thousands of small ways. Here are some of these stories from the past fortnight.

SOCIETY: The latest public opinion poll paints a cautiously optimistic picture of Iraq:

"The poll of nearly 2,200 people across most of Iraq found a resilient citizenry modestly hopeful that the Jan. 30 elections will improve life. Iraqis said pocketbook issues such as unemployment and health care are more pressing than the bloody insurgency that claims Iraqi and U.S. lives virtually every day...

"The poll, conducted Nov. 24 to Dec. 5, found improvements over the last two months in Iraqis' feelings about the country's direction and, to a lesser degree, about the interim Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi...

"Nearly 54 percent said Iraq is generally headed in the right direction - compared with 42 percent in late September and early October - while 32 percent said it's headed in the wrong direction...

"More than 71 percent of those polled said they 'strongly intend' to vote, and 67 percent said they believe Iraq will be ready to hold elections by the end of January, compared with 24 percent who said the country won't be ready."
Not surprisingly, the pessimism about the direction of the country and the coming election is strongest in the Sunni areas. "The poll [also] found nearly 50 percent of Iraqis said religion and government should be separate. Forty-two percent said religion 'has a special role to play' in government, and of that smaller group, slightly less than half said either that the religious hierarchy has authority over political affairs or that supreme religious leaders and political leaders are the same. But by a margin of 52 percent to 20 percent, Iraqis said they preferred a faith-based party to a secular party."

For the best overview of election preparations see this piece from "USA Today": "The white bed sheet, punctured and strung between a tree and a utility pole, carries just a few words of hand-painted Arabic script. 'Every vote is more precious than gold,' it says - common words in a normal election campaign. But White House political guru Karl Rove would abandon his TV ad budget for the power in this banner and thousands more like it. It's not just words but a fatwa, a decree, from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, spiritual leader of Iraq's majority Shiite Muslims. Vote, it says, or you have shirked your religious duty." Then there is this ad on Iraqi TV: "[It] declares January 30th is Iraq's 'date with fate and duty.' It shows masked gunmen confronting an elderly man in an alley. He stands firm and is joined by others who eventually outnumber the militants. As the Iraqi national anthem swells in the background, the ad proclaims, 'We are not afraid. We are not alone. Our power is in our unity'."

With the election less than a month away, we now know the final state of political play: in the final figures released by Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission, 73 political parties, 25 individual personalities and nine coalition groups will be competing for the 275 National Assembly seats. All these political entities will together field some 7,200 candidates running on 107 separate electoral lists. Among them, one of Iraq's oldest political parties, the communist party, long suppressed by Saddam Hussein.

And speaking of political parties and Iraq's new found-freedoms, you can also read this profile of the Fadhil brothers, the people behind the popular blog Iraq the Model, as well as candidates at the election: "What makes these two men [Omar and Mohammed] -- and a third brother, Ali, a pediatrician -- a refreshing presence on the Internet is that they are not professional bureaucrats or polished writers. They are a family of Sunni Arabs describing what they see and feel -- a revolutionary development in a country where Internet access had been previously restricted to a few government-approved sites and e-mailers were subject to arrest for hostile correspondence." Ironically, the communist party and the pro-Western Fadhil brothers could be seen as the opposite poles of the political spectrum, yet their commitment to democratic election and struggle to build the new Iraq make them strange bedfellows in the confrontation with jihadis and neo-Baathist insurgents.

The order in which all the parties will appear on the ballot paper has been determined by a random draw of balls from a drum. "United Nations envoy to Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, pulled the first balls from the drum on Monday, as hundreds of candidates looked on expectantly, in a process designed for maximum transparency in the country's first democratic election in nearly 50 years. 'Today is a great day in the history of your great nation,' Qazi told a crowd gathered in a room at a conference centre that used to be part of Saddam Hussein's presidential complex. 'It is truly in the interests of every Iraqi citizen, whatever their political views, to participate in this electoral process. It is the only way forward'."

Such sentiments are echoed on the ground by ordinary Iraqis: as insurgents target election infrastructure, Ali Waili, a 29-year old taxi driver from Karbala speaks out for the silent majority of Iraqis: "I swear to God, even if they burn all the elections centers, we will still go and vote... We have been mistreated for a long time, we have been tortured for a long time."

USAID, meanwhile, is providing extensive assistance in local governance and administration, civic education and election preparation. Among the recent varied highlights (link in PDF): "Salah Ad Din's Local Governance Program (LGP) staff held three democracy education conferences for 225 Iraqis. These conferences focused on human rights and the relationship between Islam and democracy"; donations of furniture and computer equipment for the Ninawa Governorate Council Secretariat; a week-long software training seminar for the officials and staff from local councils and government departments in Babil Governorate; production of electoral education information and the capacity building of the electoral administration under a $50 million program.

In the run-up to military action in March 2003, many anti-war activists were predicting that the Coalition invasion will lead to a humanitarian and a refugee disaster. In reality, not only have the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of refugees did not materialize, but ever since, the old Iraqi refugee problem has been gradually solving itself:

"Until the spring of 2003, the Islamic Republic of Iran hosted over 202,000 Iraqi refugees, by far the largest registered refugee population from Iraq in the world. The majority were living in Iranian cities and settlements. About 50,000 of them, like Mohammed, stayed for many years in the 22 camps scattered across Iran's western provinces.

"Since last year, more than half of all Iraqi refugees in Iran - an estimated 107,000 people - have returned to their homeland. Most of them have gone back of their own accord, some 12,500 with UNHCR assistance. The rate of departure has been even higher among refugees staying in camps, with more than 80 percent of them choosing to repatriate. This has led to a drastic fall in the overall camp population to 8,000 from 50,000. Six out of 22 camps are now empty, another two are expected to be closed by the end of the year. Of the remaining 14 camps, many are already near empty."
As Iraqi refugees and exiles are coming back, many areas of their homeland don't resemble the chaotic picture seen every night on the news. Kuridstan remains peaceful and buzzing with activity; an example of what the rest of the country could aspire to: "Western businessmen move freely around the region's capital, Irbil, and American soldiers eat in restaurants without their body armour. In the crowded foyer of the Sheraton, Kurdish businessmen and politicians discuss reconstruction work." It's not just peace and growing prosperity, but also free intellectual climate which is attracting people to Kurdistan:

"Kurdish students living in Iraq's neighbours are flocking to universities in the Kurdish areas to escape repression at home and to benefit from the opportunities they say the region offers.

"The University of Sulaimaniyah alone has so far accepted more than 110 Kurdish students from neighbouring countries, mainly Iran and Syria, under a programme that reserves five per cent of all places at Iraqi Kurdish universities for high school graduates educated elsewhere.

"The foreign students receive free tuition and accommodation and a 100 US dollar allowance each term.

"Thirty-year old Farzeen, a first year student at Sulaimaniyah's media college from the Iranian town of Saqiz, said education in Iran is expensive in Iran and freedom of speech limited. 'You can't express any political beliefs or air your views freely or you end up in jail, especially if you are a Kurd,' said Farzeen."
Elsewhere in Iraq, the insurgent dreams of civil and ethinic strife are not eventuating:

"Despite increasing reports of deteriorating relations between Kurds and Arabs in many areas of Iraq, the notorious Baghdad district of Sadr City has become an unlikely example of harmony among the two groups.

"Stories of Kurds being attacked or forced to move from their homes in cities in the so-called Sunni Triangle have become commonplace, as have reports of harassment of the Kurdish community in certain Baghdad neighbourhoods and even in the eastern province of Baquba.

"But thousands of Kurds continue to live peacefully with Arabs in one of the capital's poorest slums, frequently described as a no-go area for Coalition troops."
And in the media news, "the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) has set up training courses in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil to teach locals the basics of objective news reporting. Selected for their writing and analytical capacities from among 80 applicants, the 20 participants in the second course IWPR has run in Iraq's Kurdish north are learning about interviewing and writing techniques and the ethics of journalism. When the two weeks' training ends, they will be encouraged to continue working for IWPR as freelance reporters." Says Hiwa Osman who runs the course: "The most common complaint Iraqis make about coverage of their country is that it is shaped by outside factors... Western reporting is still shaped by divisions into pro and anti-war camps, and al-Jazeera and other Arab TV stations talk about Iraq as though it was a purely Sunni Arab country... By teaching these people, IWPR's idea is that they will be able to make their own voices, and their own priorities, heard by the outside world."

ECONOMY: As Iraqi Finance Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi was recently visiting Washington to participate in the second meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Joint Economic Commission, there was plenty of good economic news to report: the International Monetary Fund was estimating Iraq's economic growth for 2004 to surpass 50 percent, and the country continued to enjoy low inflation, a stable currency and strong foreign exchange reserves.

At the meeting itself, a wide range of initiatives to help strengthen and grow Iraqi economy has been discussed:

"The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has agreed to establish 100 agricultural support sites throughout Iraq to strengthen crop and livestock production. Programs are already in place to revitalize historically important agricultural industries such as date production in central and southern Iraq and fish farming in the restored Iraqi marshlands.

"Iraq's oil sector also will benefit from training programs and technical exchanges established under the terms of two bilateral memorandums of understanding signed during the meeting... The Iraqi officials also discussed their plans to restructure the oil industry in order to create opportunities for private and foreign investment.

"The United States offered to provide technical support for Iraq's banking sector. This support would include assistance in restructuring the state bank and supervising commercial banks as well as in training commercial bank officers in loan management. The U.S. Treasury and USAID will also help the Iraqi government establish a mortgage finance program to support its plans to build 30,000 new residential units in the Baghdad area during 2005.

"The U.S. and Iraqi officials studied the need to boost private-sector job creation, and the United States reported on a USAID program to distribute 16,000 small-business loans over the next six months. USAID also plans to establish 11 new vocational education centers and 10 new job placement centers across the country."
You can also read in some details on the work USAID is doing to upgrade and modernize Iraq's tax system (link in PDF).

Perhaps the most important piece of good economic news, following up on the recent decision by the Paris Club nations to forgive 80% of $40 billion owed by Iraq to member countries, is that the United States will be going beyond the 80% and will write off 100% - or $4.1 billion - of the debt owed by Iraq to the US. Speaking of international finance, Iraq "has cleared all overdue service payments to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) as of December 16... Consequently, the country's eligibility for new operations has been reinstated. Iraq's arrears to IBRD amounted to around $110 million, of which approximately $53 million was overdue principal payments. Clearance of these arrears will raise IBRD's FY05 net income by around $74 million."

In trade news, "Iraq and Jordan decided... to establish a free-trade zone 20 kilometers away from their borders... The first stage includes establishing 500 square-kilometers of the 2000 square-kilometers specialized for this project, noting that the area will be a starting point for many Iraqi products, which will reinforce economic relationships between the two countries.

David R Francis of the "Christian Science Monitor" provides this overview:

"You can tell things are changing in Iraq by the traffic. Thousands of families have bought used cars from abroad - clogging city streets and boosting smog. Many Iraqi families have been able to afford the cars - and move from poverty to middle-class respectability - because the government has doubled the salary of its million or so workers.

"It's a sign that, despite the daily mayhem caused by the insurgency, Iraq's economy is quietly gearing up from its war-time low in 2003. How quickly it's picking up speed - and whether the momentum is adequate to dampen the insurgency by providing jobs for idle Iraqi men - is hotly contested. What's clear is that oil alone won't turn the tide: Small business and manufacturing need to revive.

"Iraq's economy has expanded 40 to 50 percent this year from war-depressed 2003, says Alan Larson, undersecretary for economics in the US State Department. He predicts double-digit growth in 2005."
Not surprisingly in this general favorable economic climate, Iraqi business owners are showing a great deal of optimism in the future:

"Eight of 10 Iraqis businesses say Iraq's economy will grow over the next two years, and almost half felt the business climate was better than under Saddam Hussein, according to a recent survey.

" 'Security is the first concern, but people thrive in the midst of catastrophe everywhere,' said John Zogby, whose organization conducted the poll on behalf of an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce...

"Pollsters conducted face-to-face interviews with 454 Iraqi owners or managers between Oct. 17 and Dec. 3, a period of major violence as U.S. forces battled guerrillas for control of Fallujah. They found almost 70 percent were optimistic for post-Saddam Iraq...

" 'There was incredible optimism, particularly among Sunnis and Kurds,' said Zogby International's Hala Kotb. 'The results are consistent across demographic groups.' Businesses also want clear rules and better governance although the top two nonsecurity needs cited were English-language training and computer skills."
Lebanese traders who deal with Iraq are optimistic, too:

"A leading Lebanese merchant said... that the country's trade with Iraq was barely affected by the current unrest there. The head of the Gathering of Lebanese Merchants with Assets Held in Iraq, Abdel-Wadood Nsouli, said that the only difference was that the consignments of goods destined to the war-torn country were now 'loaded on Iraqi trucks rather than Lebanese ones.'

"Nsouli said that Iraq, which headed the list of importers of Lebanese goods, bought '17 percent of Lebanese exports.' He said that Lebanon's exports to Iraq had exceeded, up to the end of August 2004, $194 million. Nsouli added that merchants were hopeful that 'this figure could even be doubled'."
In oil news, "Iraq hopes to produce 3.5 million barrels of oil a day by the end of 2005, Iraqi Finance Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi said... 'Actual production of oil depends on pipelines, if they are functioning or not,' Mahdi said, adding that 'we could achieve 2.5 million of production per day and we expect to reach 3.5 million, maybe by the end of 2005'." To assist in that goal, the governments of Iraq and the United States have signed two memoranda of understanding that provide "for technical cooperation in the areas of energy analysis, energy technology and energy training and education with a focus on capacity building in Iraq. The participants anticipate carrying out these activities through a consultative mechanism, and through the exchange of experts, participation in workshops, exchanging technical information and training... [They also provide for] cooperation in training and capacity building in Iraq's oil sector. Under this understanding, the parties will cooperate in developing training programs in basic business management, English language and information technology. In addition, the program anticipates technical training provided by private sector firms and professional societies, and in longer-term training provided through U.S. and Iraqi universities."

The Iraq authorities have awarded the first post-war oil contracts:

"Turkey's Everasia won the contract to develop the Khurmala Dome field in the north and Canada's Ironhorse Oil & Gas Inc will develop the Himrin field...

"The projects aim to realize Khurmala's potential to produce 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) and raise output at the Himrin field. The ministry is still studying offers for another contract to raise the output of the Suba-Luhais field from 50,000 to 180,000 bpd.

"The contracts involve constructing new flow lines, building gas separation stations and measures to stop water emerging from wells. Drilling will be done by the ministry's digging division."
You can read more about it here. Larger contracts involving major international oil players are expected to be awarded after the January election. ChevronTexaco, which is waiting for the stabilization of the political and security situation before commiting to projects in Iraq, is nevertheless already training and equipping Iraqi oil workers.

In transport infrastructure news, the second international airport in Iraq, in Basra, is expected to open for business in July 2005, after some necessary renovation work is completed: "The facility, in the southern part of the country not far from Kuwait, will be on the receiving end of a $5 million renovation... The airport largely escaped the ravages of looting -- it still contains art work and other amenities -- but it needs a complete upgrade to all of its systems before it can start supporting air travel and cargo. It will also receive state of the art passenger and baggage security screening equipment." Says Nolan Smith, assistant area engineer for the Basra office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region South: "The airport was never really functional. It was never formally opened to large commercial flights, primarily because of war. But now, it could open up to cargo flights in the very near future."

Meanwhile, the Iraqi authorities have announced their decision to build another international airport, in Najaf, which will considerably facilitate the traffic of Iraqi and foreign pilgrims as well as goods to the holy sites of Shiism.

Lastly, these encouraging words from Lt Keith Curran of the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion, who relates his experiences of working with Iraqis on the reconstruction of their country: "One thing that we have taken notice of is capitalism taking hold. The contractors that we deal with are figuring out that if they work hard and provide us with the service that we need, then they can make some good money" - the attitude that was in short supply in the economically oppressive climate of Saddam's Iraq.

RECONSTRUCTION: A major infrastructure reconstruction project of vital importance to Basra has been recently finished:

"The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) completed the $23 million rehabilitation of southern Iraq's Sweet Water Canal. The project was conducted on behalf of Iraq's Ministry of Water Resources with Bechtel Corporation serving as the prime contractor.

"The massive cleansing and repair of the 149 mile waterway also included the $12 million refurbishment of 13 water treatment plants and the repair of the RZero pumping station that sends water from the canal's reservoir through a network of pipelines leading to residential, commercial and agricultural users.

"The Sweet Water Canal has been a primary source of fresh water for the city of Basrah since 1996. Butlack of maintenance caused sediment to accumulate in sections of the canal and pumps to break because of the turbidity. When USAID undertook the rehabilitation, the canal's embankments were cracked and many mechanical and electrical components in the pumping stations were beyond repair.

"The completed USAID project improves the quality and nearly doubles the quantity of fresh, potable water produced for the 1.75 million of the Basrah region. The training of local plant managers insures proper maintenance in the future, according to USAID."
As the Basra project finishes, another ambitious one, in Erbil, is commencing:

"Work has begun on a $100 million water project that could bring 6,000 cubic meters of clean drinking water to the people of Erbil every hour starting the end of next year. The water project is designed for an ultimate capacity of 10,000 cubic meters per hour.

"The project, which will be built in multiple phases, includes a potable water treatment plant, an intermediate booster station, a storage tank and pipeline. The city has wanted a new plant for 20 years, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

"Since the summer, five Iraqi contractors have been laying the groundwork for the multi-million dollar project. So far workers have completed base camp construction, geological and topographical surveys and grading work for the new pipeline. Currently the project employees close to 140 Iraqis but the goal is to employ 1,000."
Speaking of water infrastructure, "the World Bank signed a $20 million grant agreement... with the interim government of Iraq to bring water to rural communities by improving water supply, sanitation, irrigation and drainage systems. The Emergency Community Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project (ECIRP) will repair essential water infrastructure networks in Iraq's low-income, rural areas through labor intensive, small-scale civil works programs. Approximately 25 water development programs to upgrade water supply, sanitation, irrigation and drainage infrastructure across the country will be financed under the project, generating much needed employment in poor communities, according to World Bank."

In other recent progress of the work to upgrade Iraq's water, sewage and irrigation systems (link in PDF):

"Work is moving forward on the expansion and rehabilitation of a water treatment plant in Baghdad. The plant is one of two main water treatment plants that serve 4.7 million Baghdad residents. Work is being conducted in two concurrent phases that will add about 100 MGD of capacity...

"A water system rehabilitation and modeling project is helping to reduce leakage and thereby improve the quantity of potable water delivered in Baghdad. The project scope includes data collection, numerical modeling of Baghdad's water distribution network, and replacement of damaged sections of the pipe in the distribution network...

"Work is continuing on the rehabilitation of a wastewater treatment plant in An Najaf that will treat sewage for approximately 141,000 of the city's 563,000 residents. The project is 85 percent complete and a Process and Plant Operation training module is in progress...

"USAID's rural water initiative will install approximately 150 wells in remote locations throughout Iraq. Since construction began in October, the project has drilled 25 wells in northeastern Iraq and workers are preparing to complete 15 more... Equipment including 52 generators, 600 fiberglass tanks, and 37 reverse osmosis units has been ordered. Design work is scheduled for completion in all 17 governorates by August 2005 and is expected to benefit a total of 750,000 individuals. The project is scheduled for completion in November 2005."
There is also more progress to be reported on the transport infrastructure front. On land, the reconstruction of a crucial rail link between Basra and the port of Uum Qasar is 78 per cent complete and in line to be finished in January this year. "In recent months the U.S. Agency for International Development(USAID) installed 29 planned culverts and repaired ten railway gatehouses along the track. Track reconstruction is being complemented with training for Iraqi Republican Railway (IIR) staff."

Speaking of Uum Qasar, the work continues on the upgrade of the port facilities. The projects currently underway include: developing an operations centre for the port, developing additional berth capacity for containers, electrical upgrade of the port facilities, and removing unexploded underwater ordinance from the harbor.

To assist with the development of Iraq's electricity sector (link in PDF), "USAID is designing a Power Plant Operations and Maintenance program to provide training, facility assessments, coaching, mentoring, maintenance and plant outage support for Iraq's power plants. The program will also furnish test equipment, special tools, permanent plant equipment, materials, and parts... Ultimately, the implementation of this program would raise the overall operating standards, safety standards, and the reliability of the plant output, thus enabling more megawatt hours to be produced. Training will be provided for 250 staff from the Ministry of Electricity and will be conducted outside of Iraq."

In Baghdad's Sadr City, despite a tense stand-off with those still loyal to Muqtada Al Sadr, there is increasing progress in reconstruction of this most neglected urban area in Iraq:

"Lakes of sewage-blotched stagnant water and piles of rotting garbage still dot the streets of Sadr City. But for residents of Baghdad's vast Shiite Muslim slum, it is the filth they don't see that gives them hope. 'Just a few days ago, you couldn't walk this street because the sewers were overflowing. Now they've taken care of it,' said a mattress merchant in his mid-50s, who identified himself only as Abu Mustafa. 'As long as there is security, the rest will follow.'

"Modest reconstruction and cleanup efforts are proceeding in the district, home to two million, thanks to seven weeks of relative tranquillity after months of violence. A tenuous peace agreement has held since mid-October, when firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr told his Mahdi militia to lay down its arms. Thousands of workers have cleared fetid trash from about half the streets of Sadr City as work on $134 million in projects finally forges ahead."
And from another report:

"Residents of Sadr City, long seen as the poorest and smelliest neighbourhood of Baghdad, woke up one recent morning to the sound of something they had never heard before - steamrollers and other street paving machines. Not only that, but much of the rubbish piled high around their suburb during fighting between the Mehdi Army and US forces just a few months ago has now been cleaned up. Residents can be seen walking with their children in the streets jammed with vehicles.

" 'We hope to have more services here now. We have always been neglected, but this street paving makes us feel hopeful,' [said] Ali Chakheawar, 28, a teacher who lives near the road construction... 'The most important thing is the sewers - they haven't started fixing them yet and they are broken.'

"So little maintenance had been done in Sadr City over the last 30 years that just a block away from the paving project cars negotiate what looks like a rutted dirt road. Open sewers line the street. 'It was usual not to have paving before,' [said]Yusuf Ali... watching with his friends as steam rose from the newly poured asphalt. 'Of course this makes us think that things will get better.'

"The US military and Sadr City government officials expect to spend more than US $100 million to fix broken sewers, mend water pipes, pave roads and keep things clean, [said] Mohammed Hamid, municipal engineer for in frastructure services."
In another Sadr City overview,

"the government has released a large portion of the funds allocated for the reconstruction of Sadr City in Baghdad, according to Labor Minister Leila Abdul-Latif... Abdul-Latif said Iraqi ministries now had access to 57 billion of the 90 billion dinars (approx. $60 million) and $200 million the government had earmarked for Sadr City.

"The ministries involved include electricity, education, health, interior and labor, she said. The remaining 33 billion dinars will be made available next year, she said. In addition to local currency allocations, the government had spent $200 million on projects in Sadr City. Upgrading the city's sewage network has so far cost $150 million, Abdul-Latif said. The remaining $50 million had gone to drinking water projects, she added...

"Abdul-Latif said the city has been divided into 'eight blocks for smooth implementation of the scores of reconstruction projects.' Each block, she said, will have its own police station, firefighting unit, schools and other amenities."
Other areas outside of the capital are also benefiting from foreign assistance: "General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defense Minister, has donated 40 service vehicles to the city of Basra. The fleet of 10 fire engines, 10 ambulances, 10 garbage trucks and 10 sewage trucks was presented to Wael Abdul Latif Hussain, Iraq's Minister for Governorate Affairs." And major reconstruction effort is set to begin in 2005 in the province of Wasit, a region centered around the town of Kut and bordering Iran. "We hope to implement scores of service projects and upgrade the infrastructure in the province in 2005. The state of security and stability the province enjoys has made the situation here different from that in other areas in the country," says Governor Mohammed Ridha.

More networking among those interested in reconstruction of Iraq will be soon taking place in Jordan:

"Following on from the major success of this year's events held in the UK and Jordan, Iraq Procurement is delighted to announce details of Iraq Procurement 2005 - Amman, which will continue the project's support for the economic development of Iraq and the realisation of the enormous trade and investment potential of the country...

"At the last event, held on 22-24 November 2004, corporate executives were able to meet with Iraqis to discuss the overarching needs of Iraq's key industry sectors, while the meetings between international and local companies saw much business conducted and many relationships formed, which should prove fruitful to all parties concerned."
Meanwhile, the US Army is also facilitating cooperation and information sharing between participants in the reconstruction program:

"Military members, U.S. civilians and Iraqi officials charged with improving public works in northeastern Iraq gathered Dec. 12 to discuss issues and offer solutions in the country's rebuilding process.

"The 1st Infantry Division's Engineer Brigade hosted the public works conference at the Hotel Ashur on Lake Dokan. Coalition and Iraqi officials involved with improving water, sewer and irrigation infrastructure within Salah Ad Din, Kirkuk, Diyala and As Sulaymaniyah presented updates. Concerns and viewpoints on public works projects and issues within the four provinces were shared.

"This was the second conference of this nature, hosted by the division's Engineer Brigade. The first was held at Lake Dokan in September and focused on electrical power."
And the Japanese government is providing another reconstruction grant of 10 billion yen ($96 million):

"Of the amount, 8.45 billion yen (81 million dollars) will go to health and home affairs ministries of the Iraqi interim governmentas funds to buy 700 ambulances, 150 police buses and 500 police motorcycles to improve the security situation all over Iraq...

"Japan will also allocate 866 million yen (8.3 million dollars) for the government of the southern Iraqi province of Muthana, where Japanese troops are stationed, to buy medical equipment for 32 local primary health centers.

"The remaining 658 million yen (6.3 million dollars) will be for the city of Samawah, the provincial capital, to buy garbage-collecting equipment such as vehicles and containers."
There is, of course, more to reconstruction than sewage system and power production; the efforts to rebuild country's education and health systems are just as important. In the former sector, USAID is providing reconstruction assistance to Iraqi schools through its Community Action Program. In some of the recent initiatives (link in PDF), "a secondary school serving 700 girls in Baghdad Governorate was rehabilitated by a $55,330 CAP project... Through this project, the aging facility underwent both renovations and modernizations, including a major overhaul of the school's plumbing, wiring and fixtures. Finally, the school received a new coat of paint, windows and doors... In Qadisiyah Governorate three school rehabilitation projects were recently approved by Community Action Groups in Qadisiyah Governorate. The projects will benefit a total of 900 families and 1,575 children."

Other foreign aid is also arriving to benefit Iraq's university sector:

"Four containers of laboratory equipment, along with supplies of up-to-date reference and textbooks, are on their way to Iraq as part of an international effort to revitalize the country's universities and its higher education system under a nearly $6 million programme jointly sponsored by the United Nations.

"The consignment, due to arrive in Baghdad before the end of the month, consists of $4.6 million of equipment and materials for medical and related disciplines as well as for engineering and $1 million in textbooks. It was organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Fund for Higher Education in Iraq initiated by Qatari First Lady Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Misnad."
This report provides the background the action:

"A Qatar-backed initiative to rebuild Iraq's decimated higher education system has been given fresh impetus following a recent meeting in Paris between the main funding body and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

"Discussion during the top level meeting revolved around the determination of HRH Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, to push through plans to accelerate the implementation process and restore Iraq's universities and technical colleges.

"In a major development there was commitment from several countries to provide money for the first time to support the work of the International Fund for Higher Education in Iraq, the body in charge of financing the initiative. This followed an earlier pledge from Qatar to provide scholarships for Iraqi students to pursue higher education, with particular emphasis given to studies in medicine and industry, areas critical to Iraq's recovery."
USAID, meanwhile, is continuing work to improve Iraq's tertiary sector through its Higher Education and Development (HEAD) program, which links American and Iraqi universities in cooperative ventures. Some of the recent highlights (link in PDF): "A third Iraqi research center now has access to an electronic library database, allowing the center to use a vast body of research and learning tools. The database, created by EBSCO Publishing, provides access to over 8,000 academic journals, magazines, and other publications... A partnership between the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook and Iraqi universities is helping modernize the fields of archaeology, Assyriology and environmental health and to reconnect academics in these disciplines to the international community... Through a partnership between the University of Hawaii's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, and two northern Iraqi universities, the Hawaii Institute for Educational Partnerships (HIEP) performed 31 searches for 22 researchers from three northern Iraqi universities and delivered 120 articles electronically in November... The same partnership involving the University of Hawaii's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources is providing training in computer and internet skills to 20 women agricultural staff from an Iraqi University."

Reconstruction of Iraq's health sector also continues apace. In one of the recent developments, "a software firm which grew out of Manchester Royal Infirmary is celebrating orders worth more than 33.5m pounds to supply hospitals in Iraq. The latest contract clinched by bosses at B-Plan Information Systems is worth 750,000 pounds. B-Plan, which is now based at Manchester Science Park, will work with Iraq's health ministry to instal network connections at 25 hospitals in and around Baghdad."

Iraq's agriculture is another previously much neglected area which is now receiving significantly more attention. The Iraqi authorities are launching an ambitious plan to boost the country's olive oil production:

"There should be 30 million more olive trees in the country in 2014, Minister of Agriculture Sawsan Sherif has announced.

"If the ministry's olive tree program succeeds, Iraq will turn into a major o
live oil producer in the Middle East. The program, once completed, will perhaps be the greatest success story for the post-Saddam agricultural development as it boosts the number of olive trees in the country from one million to 31.

"Currently, olive groves are mainly available in the northern parts of the country, particularly in Mosul. But Sherif said she wanted to see olive groves dotting the whole of Iraq in about 15 years. To lure farmers to plant more olive trees, the ministry is subsidizing the cost. The price of a sibling is 150 dinars in Baghdad (one U.S. dollar buys 1,500 dinars)."
In the animal husbandry sector, "Genus, the bovine genetics company, has won the first of a series of contracts to supply an Iraqi wholesale company with bull semen. Genus beat competition to re-open the supply of semen through the Iraqi wholesale company HMBS, which is one of the largest private sector companies in Iraq." As report notes, "the Iraqi market, although small by European standards is both fast growing and highly priced."

USAID (link in PDF), too, is progressing with several current programs to help mechanize Iraqi agriculture, improve the poultry industry and re-introduce beekeeping.

HUMANITARIAN AID: The humanitarian aid and assistance for Iraq's young and old continues to come in many different shapes and sizes and from many different directions.

Sometimes, it's businesses, which are lending a helping hand "SonoSite Inc. of Bothell has donated one of its hand-carried ultrasound units to a civilian hospital in Iraq. The device was included in a shipment of medical supplies delivered by the U.S. Army this week to a hospital in Haweja, about 30 miles west of Kirkuk, Iraq."

The other times, it's the whole communities. This from the Cincinnati area:

"When Gray Middle School announced it was having a one-week clothing drive for Iraqi citizens, three bags came in the first two days. 'I was about to cry,' said Sheila Levi, who organized it with fellow language arts teacher Anna Marie Tracy. 'After that, we went around and honestly begged.'

"It worked - and then some. Nearly 35,000 pounds of clothes - enough to fill a 40-foot-long semi-truck - were piled in the gym Monday morning as 350 eighth-graders sorted and stuffed them in bags to be shipped.

"The clothes also came from students at Gray, Erpenbeck and New Haven elementaries, and boxes set up at local banks. The bags will be shipped to Iraq in early January, where they will be unloaded into the arms of Iraqis."
Elsewhere, some 150 soccer balls donated by the students of Spring Hill High School in Texas will be making their way to Iraq shortly, to be distributed by the US troops to Iraqi children. "Longview City Councilman Jay Dean said he helped kick off the campaign after a request by Capt. Clinton Alexander, a 1992 Spring Hill High School graduate who is serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq."

Meanwhile, residents of a refugee settlement near Dahuk have recently received seven trucks-worth of food products purchased by the Islamic Supreme Council of America (ISCA) and delivered by Multi-National Forces Soldiers. "The residents of the village are all refugees who were forced to flee their homes when their villages were destroyed by the former regime. According to the mayor, Waheed Abdi, there are currently more than 1,000 people living in the village, including approximately 700 school-age children."

Other countries, too, are contributing to the effort, both on the government and non-government levels. The Russian government, for example, will be coming onboard with four plane-loads of blankets, tents and heaters as an emergency package. And a Japanese NGO Save Iraqi Children has been awarded the Human Rights Award of the Nagoya Bar Association for 2004 for their work in bringing medical support to Iraqis in need. "The NGO has sent medical and pharmaceutical products and medical equipment to Iraq, and has accepted doctors and medical technicians from Iraq for training sessions in Japan... From January to October, it sponsored an Iraqi boy, Abbas A-Ali Al-Malky, 6, who suffers from leukemia, so that he could receive medical treatment at Nagoya University Hospital.

THE COALITION TROOPS: Security is but one aspect of the mission of the Coalition forces in Iraq. Alongside military presence and combat role, significant effort goes on an ongoing basis into reconstruction work, to supplement the civilian effort, as well into more informal humanitarian work and relations building with people of Iraq.

The Coalition forces' commitment to helping Iraqi health system continues. In Hawija, "medics from Task Force 1-27 Infantry helped improve the healthcare of this city's main hospital by donating about $35,000 worth of medical supplies on December 6. The donations included a hand-carried SonoSite ultrasound system, orthopedic limb stabilizers, and also a number of pediatric and intravenous medications that will be used to provide inpatient and outpatient services to the city's more than 80,000 residents."

There is a great deal of cooperation and joint planning with local Iraqi health professionals to ensure that the assistance is well targeted. This initiative is indicative of the effort:

"More than 20 Iraqi doctors and medical personnel from across the Salah Ad Din Province gathered here with their U.S. military counterparts for a health advisory counsel conference.

"The Salah Ad Din Health Advisory Counsel has been in effect since the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team began operating in the province last February, said Capt. Vincent Mase, 2nd BCT's surgeon.

"The conference was the first official meeting for Iraqi doctors and Coalition Forces to discuss a range of issues as well as gain insight into problems faced by the health care system during the country's rebuilding process. During the daylong conference, everything from hospital organizational overview to the role of nurses in healthcare was discussed. Lectures on hospital logistics, personnel and sanitation were also given.

" 'Over $1 million dollars has been infused in infrastructure and equipment in support of Salah Din health care and extensive educational programs have been instituted for primary responders such as Iraqi firemen and police services,' Mase said."
The troops continue to provide supplies for Iraqi schools and schoolchildren. Students at Mulaeid Village School in the Diyala Province have recently received supplies donated as part of Operation Iraqi Children, distributed by soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. Elsewhere, "soldiers in A Company of the 141st Engineer Combat Battalion recently participated in one more leg of Operation Backpack Iraq. Soldiers from A Company distributed 140 backpacks to an Iraqi school just off of Highway 1 near Balad. The soldiers also distributed 20 boxes of donated school supplies they received throughout the year from various schools and individuals in North Dakota."

Douglas Hottle, of Lebanon, Pennysylvania, a judge advocate general serving with the 372nd Engineering Group, is involving his local community in collecting school supplies for Iraqi children. "Hottle was part of a group of soldiers who, in October, distributed $75,000 worth of school supplies to Iraqi children. Those supplies had been collected largely from Iowa by Maj. Chuck Larson, of Cedar Rapids, a fellow JAG who is an Iowa state senator. Larson founded the collection project under the name Operation Iraqi Hope. Through e-mail messages, Hottle said he moved to start his own collection after the October distributions wiped out the stockpile that Larson had collected."

In Baqubah, meanwhile, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division, upon receiving request from the local community, has engaged a contractor and 25 local workers to refurbish the co-ed Termathy Thubyani School, which was damaged in recent terrorist activity. "The contractor did an excellent job, not only by fulfilling all of the terms of the statement of work, but by carrying out additional repairs at no cost, including the installation of a new front gate and light fixtures in the classrooms."

Assistance provided by the troops to local Iraqi communities is quite wide-ranging; not surprisingly, any one mission can be quite multi-faceted, covering reconstruction, medical assistance, civic affairs, as this item shows:

"On Dec. 7, a TF 1-27 Inf. humanitarian mission, which included meetings and donations, was carried out in the Abassi region.

"Capt. Robert Bockholt, a fire support officer, attended a weekly city council meeting with Abassi sheiks to discuss projects and problems within the local populace. 'We talked about all the points that we had to discuss -- security issues, project funds, basically civil affairs issues,' Bockholt said.

"At the same time, Capt. Patrick Sherman, a physician assistant, walked over to the Abassi hospital to check if it was in need of medical supplies or had issues to be dealt with.

"About an hour later, the convoy made up mostly of Soldiers from the Mortar Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, TF 1-27 Inf., headed to a small village near the Tigris River called Shajarah. There, Sherman and Sgt. James Scaggs, a combat medic donated $500 worth of medical supplies to the newly revamped Shajarah hospital, while Bockholt inspected the construction of the building."
In addition to supporting local schools and hospitals, the troops also give their time and resources to implementing infrastructure projects. Near Balad, for example, "soldiers from the 1st Combat Support Command Troop Support Battalion joined local leaders in opening a new water filtration system in Al Anwar Village... The new system will provide fresh clean water for more than 500 villagers. The $70,000 project was funded by the Army and completed by local labor under the supervision of the Ad Dujail City Council."

Down south, meanwhile, "Navy Seabees attached to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Najaf completed their part in a major road expansion project in Kufa today. The work was done at the request of Najaf Province's governor, Adnan al-Zurufi, as part of a larger government road expansion project. The project consisted of widening 3 km of a major thoroughfare between Najaf and Kufa, turning the two lane road into a four lane road. Seabees leveled and grated the ground, laid a rock and sand mixture as the road's sub-base, and the rolled and compacted the sub-base. A local contractor will be hired to asphalt the additional two lanes."

In Tikrit, meanwhile, the troops are running an employment program, which boasts some positive community as well as security spin-offs:

"In it's second month, the Tikrit Job Corp is both helping to keep Tikrit clean and helping prevent many unemployed former soldiers from supporting the insurgents. More than 300 people are employed clearing the streets and vacant lots of Tikrit and neighboring towns of debris and trash. One local worker said 'everyone wants to be proud of their home. I do also and will do whatever I can to help.'

"Chronic un-employment in Tikrit of numerous discharged, former Iraqi military soldiers and officers, posed a significant security problem. Task Force 1-18 determined that jobless former soldiers were very likely to support or join the insurgency. Clearly this posed a more dangerous threat given their training on weapons and explosives. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Sinclair, the Task Force 1-18 commander challenged his staff to find a solution.

"The Vanguard Civil Military Operation team decided to create a Job Corp in Tikrit. The answer was inspired by the public' s works projects of the 1930s depression in the United States. Using the Commander's Emergency Relief Program, Task Force 1-18 hired a local contractor to implement the project. The plan called for more than 400 former military to be guaranteed a steady job for more than six months."
The troops are helping with rebuilding Iraqi agriculture:

"The 256th Brigade Combat Team, which includes about 3,000 Louisiana soldiers and 1,000 from other states, is helping the people of Iraq revitalize their agricultural system through 'Operation Amber Waves.'

"Soldiers in Iraq and local council members are distributing high-quality wheat seed in the predominantly rural sector just west of Baghdad...

"Maj. Carrie Acree of the 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion attached to 2nd Battalion, 156th Regiment, 256th Brigade Combat Team, has been building a relationship with the Agur Quf Najia council, whose area covers 99 percent of the sector in which the 2nd Battalion operates.

" 'Iraq's wheat seed has been degraded tremendously because the farmers harvest their grain and then use the same wheat to replant,' Acree said. 'What they have right now is fit for livestock,' Acree said.

"Operation Amber Waves is intended to bring that wheat grade back up to where it's good for human consumption."
There is also lighter side to the American-Iraqi relations:

"When Army Capt. Alex Fyfe arrived in Iraq, he saw a land of dust and rocks, but it conjured memories of plush green fields from his days playing soccer and lacrosse in Rocky Point...

"All it took was an idea, a few e-mails and many generous souls to fulfill Fyfe's vision. Fyfe, 26, served as a liaison between the U.S. Army and 10 village governments around Mosul in Northern Iraq during his one-year stint that ended Nov. 5. Fyfe, now home for the holidays, invited officials of each village to an early March meeting to see what services the Army could provide to improve their lifestyles.

"Most asked Fyfe for essentials - drinking water, electricity and medical supplies - but one asked about developing a youth soccer program. Fyfe later saw barefoot Iraqi children kicking a ball made of straw near some Army tanks and knew he had to reach out to them.

" 'I know I am only one person, but I wanted to make a difference in any way I could,' said Fyfe, a 1996 Rocky Point High School and 2000 West Point graduate. 'I really tried to make it a better place. It has been such a rewarding feeling.'

"After unsuccessfully attempting to obtain supplies from athletic-equipment companies, Fyfe e-mailed Rocky Point boys soccer coach Al Ellis on March 15. A week later, Ellis, the Suffolk County Soccer Coaches Association and Long Island Junior Soccer League members had shipped two boxes of supplies. The campaign continued. Word spread.

"Fyfe estimated he received about $30,000 worth of equipment - soccer balls, jerseys, socks, cleats, corner flags, and even a package from Japan."
Meanwhile, a Christmas treat is proving a big hit in Iraq:

"Bobs Candies, which bills itself as the world's largest candy-cane maker, gets regular feedback from customers who relish its candies at Christmas and the rest of the year. But company officials were surprised when they received a letter that said America's traditional holiday candy also is a big hit with U.S. soldiers and the children of Iraq.

"Mary Helen Dykes, secretary-treasurer of the company, said she did not know how the soldiers got their first batch of Bobs' candy canes, but after receiving the letter the company sent 3,000 more. 'He told us how they enjoyed them and said they were great to pass out to the kids,' she said.

"To show their appreciation, some of the children provided the soldiers with information on 'bad guys,' Dykes said."
Toys given out by the troops to Iraqi children bring cheer and joy - but sometimes they also bring something more - read this incredible story via an email from a Marine Sergeant in Iraq.

The Coalition's very presence is also providing a boon for some enterprising Iraqis:

"From his pavement perch at the Bab al-Sharki peddlers' market in Baghdad, Sabir Hassan is among a growing group of Iraqis who spend their days selling cast-off items from the United States-led Coalition military.

"Well-leafed fashion and sports magazines thrown out by Coalition soldiers make up most of his inventory, which he buys from people working in US army camps. At around 1,500 dinars, one US dollar, each, they aren't cheap, but business is booming.
" 'There is a big demand for these magazines. Even although they are long out of date, Iraqis have been so deprived of this kind of thing that they are happy with whatever they can get,' Hassan said. High school student Omar Adnan is one of his customers. Though Omar doesn't understand English, he buys the magazines to look at life in the US. 'It makes me laugh to see the kind of luxuries they have,' he said."
Literally anything that US troops no longer use is much in demand.

SECURITY: While violence continues to plague some areas of Iraq, while others which in the past used to be major hot-spot are getting a new lease of life. The 1st Infantry Division reports from Samarra:

"Until two months ago, this moribund city was being held hostage by insurgents. But 1st Infantry Division and Iraqi National Guard troops forced out the rebels.

"Now, Samarra, a once-thriving holy city of some 200,000 people, is in the early stages of a massive facelift. Thus far, Coalition Forces have spent millions of dollars repairing the infrastructure. Millions more will be spent on other major projects in the coming months in hopes of making Samarra a hub for tourism in the future, one officials said optimistically.

"There are plans to build or repair sewage systems, schools, government builds, streetlights, bridges and the like. Additionally, the 1st Infantry Division recently repaired the door at the main entrance of the famous Golden Mosque. Rebels damaged the door during the clash between the insurgents and Coalition Forces. While rebuilding the city, the coalition is simultaneously breathing life into Samarra's sour economy by employing locals to refurbish their own city.

"Samarra is not without its challenges. But driving through the heart of the city, which has an open market that stretches several miles, one gets the sense that life is passable and the citizens are working to return to normalcy."
Meanwhile, recruitment and training of the Iraqi security forces continues. In Hawijah, the new temporary Iraqi Armed Services Recruiting Center has recently opened with the aid of the American troops. The centre has been set up after complaints from local Sunni community leaders who felt left out from the process and pointed out that the nearest recruitment centre was located three hours away in a predominantly Kurdish area. "In addition to new computers, the U.S. Army provided concrete barriers and guard towers to help secure the site. Also, renovations to the inside of the abandoned building were supported by the Army's project that cost an estimated $60,000. Another $34,000 is expected to be spent on further improvements. Many of the local leaders, as well as Iraqi Army members, were on hand for the open house and thanked the Task Force 1-27 Soldiers."

Those recruited continue to receive training. In Tikrit, "the sixth Iraqi National Guard basic training class graduated December 18 from the Iraqi National Guard Training Academy... The class of 329 graduates was the first to participate in the newly modified four-week course. The ING soldiers were the first to use the new obstacle course as well as spend extra time on rifle marksmanship and first aid."

Germany, meanwhile, has committed itself to training additional 300 Iraqi soldiers early this year. The training will take place in the United Arab Emirates. In addition, "German Deputy Defence Minister Peter Eickenboom and his Iraqi counterpart Bruska Shawish agreed... to accept Iraqi officers at a German military academy in Hamburg, a German official said. Germany also offered to train Iraqis in bomb disposal and that offer was being examined... In November, Germany offered 100 trucks plus spare parts in conjunction with the training of Iraqi military truck drivers that is now coming to an end in the UAE. It also offered 20 Fuchs armoured personnel carriers."

In addition to army, the strength of Iraqi police force is growing too. In mid-December, the eleventh batch of Iraqi police officers graduated from training in Amman, Jordan. "The representative of the 1,421 Iraqi trainees thanked Jordan for its support for the Iraqi people as well as its contributions to achieving security and stability in Iraq and the region at large." Further 74 officers have graduated from two advanced instruction courses at the Adnan Training Facility, where they covered basic criminal investigation and civil disorder management. And another 101 policemen graduated into Iraqi Police Service's
"Emergency Response Unit": "The four-week training runs recruits through SWAT-type emergency response training focusing on terrorist incidents, kidnappings, hostage negotiations, explosive ordnance, high-risk searches, high-risk assets, weapons of mass destruction, and other national-level law enforcement emergencies."

The training is provided by hundreds of dedicated people like this FBI veteran from Colorado:

"Daniel Bradley talked about liberty in a palace once owned by Saddam Hussein's son, in a movie theater the dictator once used for private screenings, in front of an audience whose job it once was to enforce the Iraqi leader's brutal will.

"An FBI agent from Colorado Springs, Bradley was in Iraq to help train police officers who will be the nucleus of law enforcement in the new nation, to prepare them for the task of establishing order and protecting human rights in a country that has seen little of either in a long time.

" 'Their lives have changed drastically. They went from having absolute control to being high-risk targets,' Bradley said. 'Their decision to remain in their position as law enforcement officers spoke in great depth of their desire to see their country move to its next phase'...

"Bradley developed strong respect for those who risk their lives for the equivalent of $180 a month. 'That takes a tremendous amount of courage,' he said. 'I certainly think these individuals have a deep concern for their country.'

"Most of the 50 in the class had served under Saddam. They knew the fundamentals of law enforcement; Bradley taught them about organized crime, the role of police in fighting terrorism, and human rights under the law - a concept that hasn't been too big in Iraq since Hussein's Baath Party seized power in 1968.

"Basic U.S. legal practices, such as the requirement that a judge approve a search warrant, were alien to officers whose job it had been to preserve the regime first and serve the community second."
In recent security successes: "Iraqi Security Forces defeated two separate attacks in Mosul by anti-Iraqi insurgents as they attempted to ambush an Iraqi National Guard patrol and seize a police station in northern Iraq"; the capture of remote-controlled rockets smuggled in from outside Iraq for use against election infrastructure; the capture of two senior al Qaeda operatives active in Iraq; seizure of another significant arms cache near Ar Rutbath; and the defeat by Iraqi security forces of an attack on a police station in Mosul ("This is the sixth time since Nov. 10 where insurgents have tried but failed to overrun police stations"). In addition, 353 foreign terrorists are currently in custody in Iraq. This total includes "61 Egyptians, 59 Saudis, 56 Syrians, 40 Jordanians, 35 Sudanese, 22 Iranians, 10 Tunisians, 10 Yemenis, eight Palestinians and five Lebanese, among others."

And so Iraqis continue on their journey. The situation is difficult and dangerous, no doubt, but for the first time in a generation there is hope and there are real possibilities of a better future. As the election approaches and building of the new country continues, the shape of things to come in Iraq is not entirely new and certainly not an alien imposition. It is here, after all, on the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates more than four millennia ago that concepts such as rule by consent and the rule of law made their first appearance in the history our civilization. The new Iraq will hopefully be able to recapture and reincorporate into its fabric that lost legacy.


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