Al Qaeda in Iraq "never closer to defeat": U.S. envoy
Here's some progress.
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq praisedPrime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Saturday for cracking down onShi'ite militias and Sunni Arab militants and said al Qaeda inIraq had never been closer to defeat.
"You are not going to hear me say that al Qaeda isdefeated, but they've never been closer to defeat than they arenow," Ryan Crocker told reporters during a visit to the Shi'iteholy cities of Najaf and Kerbala in southern Iraq.
Maliki, a Shi'ite, has led a crackdown on Sunni Arabmilitants in the northern city of Mosul, where the governmentsays al Qaeda fighters took refuge after being driven fromother areas.
Maliki has also confronted Shi'ite militias in Baghdad'sSadr City slum and in the southern city of Basra.
Crocker said it was important that Iraqi forces wereleading operations in Basra and Mosul -- where U.S.-ledcoalition forces played a supporting role -- and acting alonein Sadr City.
"That's a level of capability that simply wasn't possibleeven six months ago," he said.
"The government, the prime minister are showing a cleardetermination to take on extremist armed elements thatchallenge the authority of the government and they've made itclear that they will do that no matter who these elements are,"he said.
Iraqi security forces initially met strong resistance inBasra and Sadr City from the Mehdi Army militia ofanti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, but are now patrollingboth areas.
Crocker opened two new bases for U.S.-led reconstructionteams near Najaf and near Kerbala that will work with localofficials on developing infrastructure and the economy.
Should we cut and run from this? Phased withdrawals?
We are actually seeing the Iraqis fight for themselves on a large scale now. I don't like McCain but based on who will do the best with the War on Terror I have to concede that he is the best option available.
Could everything crumble in an instant? Absolutely. Are the Iraqis making enough political progress? How much can we really expect from a new country?
During this election season voters should seriously take these questions into consideration. Unfortunately, I don't think most voters even care about this. "Out of sight, out of mind."
Most are giving more consideration to the "recession" we're in right now. Never mind the fact that this sort of thing happens occassionally. Never mind that no economy no matter how well regulated can delay inevitable disruptions to the market.
(Actually, greater regulations lead to longer recessions because it limits the things economic players like businesses and individuals can do. It's like putting training wheels on a motorcycle. You think you're getting some extra stability but all those extra wheels are going to do is slow you down and make you fall more frequently.)
But this is going to be the main focus of voters this year. Our economy. The War on Terror is now a distant memory and only comes to the forefront for fleeting seconds whenever something unique or terrible happens. Ask anyone what happened in Iraq during the last month and they will probably come up with the sniper shooting the Koran.
When you go to the ballot box this November you are going to probably be considering the economy, the environment, healthcare, and other things like that. You should really give some serious thought as to whether you want your country to remain the world's hyperpower any longer. Losing Iraq, especially due to a lack of will, will result in our fall from grace. BigT