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The Democrats’ Resolution
The big news about Iraq today and this coming weekend isn’t happening in Iraq. It is happening in Washington DC. In a party-line vote in the House of Representatives, the Democrats passed a sweet piece of political grandstanding that resolves against changing course and using reinforcements in an attempt to win in Iraq. Senate Democrats are planning to run the same resolution for a vote on Saturday. Why a weekend vote? John McCain will not be in DC for Saturday’s vote. He will be in Iowa. Biden, who has resurrected his presidential run, will be in DC for the vote with his plan to partition Iraq. Metaphors and similes abounded, with Iraq being compared to a neighbor who won’t mow his lawn and shoots at you when you mow it for him, to a land mine, Davy Crockett at the Alamo, a high school football game with parents booing an unpopular coach irregardless of the morale effects on the players, a forest fire, and a doctor’s visit. On Saturday in the Senate, expect a showdown between Democrats and Republicans, with Republicans preventing the vote from coming to the floor and Democrats demanding an “up or down vote” and protesting the filibuster. In the meantime, an AP/Ipsos poll shows a 9-percent increase in support for the surge between January and February.
- The Army chief of staff and Marine commandant testified today regarding the proposed increase of 65,000 for the Army and 27,000 for the Marines, to be added by 2012. Both expressed concern about the difficulty of keeping equipment in good repair when it is constantly being used, and requested additional funding to allow the services to build a reserve of equipment. They also spoke about the Surge
- Meanwhile, in Iraq, the Pentagon will be accelerating the deployment of a division headquarters to Iraq, adding 1,000 support and intelligence troops for the Surge.
- More than 85 U.S. service members became U.S. citizens in a citizenship ceremony in Iraq.
- Coalition and Iraqi joint Operation Troy has begun in Basra. It will last for 72 hours.
- Civilian Scientific Officer helps keep Coalition troops one step ahead of the bomb-makers in the local “arms race” in Basra.
- The Daily Mirror reports that British Army 2nd Lt. Prince Harry will deploy to Iraq by the end of February. The paper says that Harry will see action. The official announcement will not be made until February 26.
- U.S. Marines watch Rutbah, a “smugglers town” in western Anbar, for weapons and terrorist infiltrators.
- In the last three days, joint Iraqi-Coalition forces moved against various targets. A munitions factory with large amounts of ammonium nitrate was destroyed in Salman Pak. Terrorists were arrested and weapons seized in Muqdadiya. Iraqi forces responded to car bombs that detonated south of Baghdad, treating the injured and securing unexploded ordnance. Several large weapons caches were found near Rushdi Mullah village after stands of tall reeds along the highway were burned to deny terrorists cover for attacks on motorists.
- Herschel Smith notes that the construction of sand berms around Haditha to enforce a single entrance and exit, combined with extreme traffic restrictions for the past six weeks, has reduced the number of attacks on locals and coalition forces from seven to ten every day to five attacks per week. Negotiations to expand participation in the local police force continue with local sheiks. This driving restriction strategy is currently being adapted to Baghdad to reduce the deadly impact of car bombs on the capital. The U.S. strategy continues to be run like a classical insurgency against the brutal counterinsurgency of the Baathist and Jihadist enemy.
- Multi-National Force Baghdad reports that 7,400 patrols were conducted last week, 14 weapons caches found, 140 suspects detained, and 34 company operations (or larger) were conducted in and around Baghdad. Areas of interest include Rusafa, Adhamiyah, Kadamiyah, the Baghdad International Airport, where a new business center opened, and in western Baghdad where 100 bags of seed were distributed to help local farmers reestablish the potato crops traditional to the area.
- The Wolfhounds are building productive relationships with the tribal sheiks around Hawija, south of Kirkuk.
- President Bush reported after meeting with Iraqi PM Maliki that the Iraqi government and security forces are meeting their benchmarks.
- The NYT has a useful and comprehensive FAQL about Iranian weapons in Iraq.
Is the Surge working so far?
As The Thunder Run points out, civilian deaths in Iraq have dropped overnight. Ten bodies were found in Baghdad this morning, as compared to the average of 40-50 bodies per day in the recent past.