NEWS, OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Time to get out, not dig in

Iraqi insurgents regrouping, says Sunni resistance leader

Iraq’s main Sunni-led resistance groups have scaled back their attacks on US forces in Baghdad and parts of Anbar province in a deliberate strategy aimed at regrouping, retraining, and waiting out George Bush’s “surge”, a key insurgent leader has told the Guardian.

US officials recently reported a 55% drop in attacks across Iraq. One explanation they give is the presence of 30,000 extra US troops deployed this summer. The other is the decision by dozens of Sunni tribal leaders to accept money and weapons from the Americans in return for confronting al-Qaida militants who attack civilians. They call their movement al-Sahwa (the Awakening).

The resistance groups are another factor in the complex equation in Iraq’s Sunni areas. “We oppose al-Qaida as well as al-Sahwa,” the director of the political department of the 1920 Revolution Brigades told the Guardian in Damascus in a rare interview with a western reporter. [complete article]

U.S. No. 2 general in Iraq cites 25-30 percent reduction in foreign fighters entering Iraq

The U.S. second-in-command in Iraq said Sunday there has been a 25 percent to 30 percent reduction in foreign fighters entering Iraq, and he credited Syria with taking steps to limit the flow.

The Americans and Iraqi officials have demanded that Syria do more to stop foreign fighters from crossing its borders to fight in Iraq, where they threaten U.S. forces as well as Iraqi civilians.

Damascus says it has taken all necessary measures but that it is impossible to fully control the sprawling desert along the porous 570-kilometer (354-mile) border. Syrian authorities say they have increased the number of outposts to one every 400 meters (yards) in some zones along the frontier. [complete article]

Iraq as a Pentagon construction site

The title of the agreement, signed by President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki in a “video conference” last week, and carefully labeled as a “non-binding” set of principles for further negotiations, was a mouthful: a “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America.” Whew!

Words matter, of course. They seldom turn up by accident in official documents or statements. Last week, in the first reports on this “declaration,” one of those words that matter caught my attention. Actually, it wasn’t in the declaration itself, where the key phrase was “long-term relationship” (something in the lives of private individuals that falls just short of a marriage), but in a “fact-sheet” issued by the White House. Here’s the relevant line: “Iraq’s leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America, and we seek an enduring relationship with a democratic Iraq.” Of course, “enduring” there bears the same relationship to permanency as “long-term relationship” does to marriage.

In a number of the early news reports, that word “enduring,” part of the “enduring relationship” that the Iraqi leadership supposedly “asked for,” was put into (or near) the mouths of “Iraqi leaders” or of the Iraqi prime minister himself. It also achieved a certain prominence in the post-declaration “press gaggle” conducted by the man coordinating this process out of the Oval Office, the President’s so-called War Tsar, Gen. Douglas Lute. He said of the document: “It signals a commitment of both their government and the United States to an enduring relationship based on mutual interests.” [complete article]

See also, Big Media blackout on Iraq (Jeffrey Feldman).

Editor’s Comment — The fact that the U.S. military is now offering some qualified credit to both Syria and Iran for the reduction of violence in Iraq is a tacit acknowledgment that even while it claims “success” in the surge, the current respite is as much a gift — it can easily be taken away. This is the time to get out — not dig in.

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