Iraq backlash

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Military officials in Baghdad say Iraqi insurgents have had limited success in stepped up attacks since the U.S.-led efforts to stabilize the Iraqi capital.

“The last week or so has seen significant activity in Iraq, possibly the start of the backlash we have been expecting, as extremists react to the surge,” one military officer said.

Recent attacks in Fallujah, Khalis and Tal Afar, were outside the surge area of Baghdad and surrounding areas and “don’t directly affect the Baghdad security operation,” said the official, who provided a situation report on the condition of anonymity.

However, the bombing of a Baghdad market March 29 was likely a terrorist reaction to “improvements in Baghdad,” the official said.

“The insurgents may be switching to easier operating areas outside the capital, and trying to discredit the feeling of security brought about by the surge,” the official said.

Is Baghdad safer?

“In general, yes. Four days ago I walked unarmed with a small group on Haifa Street, in broad daylight, talking to local people going about their business,” the official said.

By contrast, two months ago fighter jets were strafing targets, and major gunbattles were fought in the same location.

Where two months ago about 15 corpses would turn up on the streets of a U.S.-Iraqi controlled neighborhood almost daily, now groups of 20 children regularly play soccer. Bodies are still seen on the streets but in far fewer numbers.

“By getting in at the grass roots and competing for influence, securing the population, we threatened the extremists’ ability to dominate and intimidate the people,” the official said. “So they struck back initially in Tal Afar and Fallujah, later in Baghdad and Khalis.”

The attack in Fallujah was an utter failure, with two suicide car bombs stopped and detonated killing only the terrorists.

“Overall, it has been a tough 72 hours,” the official said. “We expected a backlash, and this may be the start of it. The pattern is one of extremists targeting ordinary people, trying to provoke sectarian violence, and intimidate them to regain influence. They succeeded initially in Tal Afar. But the government’s rapid action kept casualties much lower than in similar incidents last year. Fallujah showed how extremists will prey on their own people without compunction, but also showed their loss of skill and increasing marginalization.”

Pace in China

The U.S. Pacific Command has produced a special summary on the recent visit to China of Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The executive summary states that the key goal during the four-day visit was “playing down the China threat by saying that neither Beijing nor Washington has the intent to go to war with one another.”

Ignoring the China threat was part of Gen. Pace’s effort “to push forward the expanding Sino-U.S. cooperative relationship,” the report said.

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