New Iraq Strategy: Early Indicators Encouraging

President Bush announced several weeks ago that, in a vigorous attempt to right the listing ship in Iraq, he was making four fundamental adjustments to the “strategy” currently being carried out there: appointing a new commander, Gen. David Petraeus, an influx of new troops, modifying the rules of engagement (complete with pressure being put on the Iraqi government to crack down on insurgents and sectarian militants), all designed to secure Baghdad.

Were the media as aggressive in reporting the good news from Iraq as it is in reporting the bad, the immediate effect of the new strategy would be better-known to the American public by now. This news shows that — by these early indications — the “surge” may be working.

If the media were being fair, the American public would know that the operation to secure Baghdad has been wildly successful thus far, with “attacks and killings” in the city having “dropped by 80 percent” since the implementation of the security plan, according to the Iraqi military. Traffic moving through the city is being controlled in areas where security checkpoints have long been nonexistent. People are learning to live with more restrictive security measures because of the noticeable result.

“Omar” and “Mohammed,” two Iraqi bloggers who have done yeomen’s work in getting the truth out from the region via their website Iraq the Model (ITM), have posted several updates since the Baghdad operation began, and have provided eyewitness accounts of both the good and the bad. “We are hearing fewer explosions and less gunfire now than two weeks ago,” wrote Mohammed last week, “and that, in Baghdad, qualifies as quiet.”

Muqtada al-Sadr, murderous leader of the Iranian-funded Mahdi Army and thorn in the side of the coalition since shortly after the conclusion of major combat operations, saw the writing on the wall and fled Iraq for Tehran shortly after President Bush announced the new strategy. The stated change in ROEs, geared toward more aggressive pursuit of insurgents and sectarian fighters, has had more success than forcing a preemptive cutting-and-running of a major militant figure, though — in implementation, it has also given the insurgents fewer places to hide. As ITM’s Omar wrote two weeks ago:

The most significant raid was the one on Buratha mosque, one of the most important Shia mosques in Baghdad which is also considered SCIRI (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) territory.

The raid ended without blood but the preacher of the mosque… expressed his dismay about the raid “because it was American soldiers who searched the mosque” — one of the changes in rules of engagement. [In the past] there was a rule that only Iraqi soldiers or police were allowed to walk into places of worship while American troops had to stay outside.

Omar concluded by saying that the raid had “political significance” as well, as it “proves that the operation is impartial and not directed against one sect [and not] the other.”

Apparently gone are the days when American soldiers were forced to halt their pursuit of insurgents — and to cease returning fire — when the latter fled into mosques which doubled as safe houses and arms caches. This change in ROE could not have come soon enough.

The difference is already being seen and felt by the people of Baghdad. As Mohammed wrote only days ago, “The best part…remains the return of displaced families to their homes; the latest count for this shows that more than 600 families have returned so far. More occupied mosques are also being returned to their original keepers, and earlier today Sunni and Shia worshippers gathered to hold joint prayers in several places in Baghdad.”

The President’s strategy has thus far produced results which can only be viewed as positive by all who seek anything but our failure and defeat in Iraq. It only makes sense to allow the plan to proceed with the full support of the American people and our government. Unfortunately, though, the anti-war left and their allies in Congress, all of whom have invested so much energy in their pursuit of an American failure in the Middle East, are anything but willing to give the President and our troops a chance to make his new strategy work. As the blogger known as “California Yankee” so aptly noted at conservative weblog, “Al-Sadr has fled or is in hiding, arrests of bad guys are up, and attacks are down. No wonder [the Democratic] party is so opposed to the so-called surge” and the rest of the President’s newly-enacted plan. “It seems to be working.”

The plan does, in fact, seem to be working.. However, as Omar so clearly put it only days ago:

The progress made so far invites hope and optimism, but it’s still too early to celebrate. Terrorists will keep trying to carry out attacks… They want sow as much death and destruction as they can in order to shake the people’s confidence in the security plan. Such criminal attacks are still quite possible in Baghdad, but even if they happen we must not let that stop us from pursuing the objectives of our efforts to stop the death and deterioration, and to turn the tide and make progress.

The success seen thus far is no guarantee of long-term victory. However, if America can only hold together her fractured populace, and hold at bay those in government who seem to be working as hard as they can to ensure what they see as a Bush failure in Iraq (never minding that it would be an American failure, and one which would come at a terrible price in terms of our national security), long enough for a strong, unified push, then success in Iraq will not only be possible, but may even be within our grasp. Our soldiers and our military leaders have the desire, the drive, and the know-how to win in Iraq. All that we have to do is pull together enough to let them do it.