Morning Report: March 20, 2007

Iraq's navy moves forward despite problems, Iranians unite against the regime, an American general feels safer, and more.

Iraqi Navy moves toward independence. An article by Carmen Gleason, appearing at both CENTCOM and MNF-Iraq, reports on the status of the Iraqi Navy.
The Iraqi Navy will soon add 21 vessels to its fleet, putting it another step closer to being operationally independent, officials said during a Baghdad news conference Sunday.
With a contract on the verge of completion, the Iraqi Navy is the first of the Iraq’s forces to use the Ministry of Defense’s procurement process with Iraqi money in purchasing major capital programs from foreign governments and commercial ventures.

“The Iraqi Navy has come a long way since the end of the hostilities,” United States Navy Capt. Michael Zamesnik, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command liaison officer to Multi-National Force-Iraq, said “They were an organization that had been ravaged by the effects of the war, and they are making great strides to rebuild themselves.” ...

Read the rest at either of the links. However, Strategy Page cautions that corruption remains a serious problem: 'Corruption, however, has seen to it that most of the larger boats arrived in poor condition, and attempts to obtain spare parts, and needed maintenance, have not gone well. Money keeps disappearing, as well as shipments of needed materials. Welcome to Iraq. ...' (MNFI, CENTCOM, Strategy Page)

Calling Iranian expats: Your people need you. The Spirit of Man: 'I am hearing that Iranians living in Sweden are collecting money for those workers who have not been paid by the Iranian gov't and are currently on strike across the country. So I was wondering if this could spread to all Iranian expat communities worldwide. Iranians in Canada, America, Western Europe, Australia and Japan are instrumental in helping these people who are struggling to stay alive. Moreover, if we can maintain a good flow of cash to Iran through any possible way, then we might also be able to initiate strikes and ask the rest of the country to go on strike too. I know it is a huge task and a bit hard to do, but it is not impossible. That's where the support of western governments, especially the United States, is going to play a major role. Their financial backing would be a major step towards the removing of mullahs.' (TSOM)

IRI stopped weapons inspectors from visiting underground bunker. Via Shiro-Khorshid-Forever: 'Iran stopped UN inspectors from visiting an underground bunker where it is building an industrial-scale plant to make enriched uranium but the inspectors will try again, diplomats told AFP Monday. Iran had however promised "frequent inspector access" to the site in Natanz, the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in February.' Read the full AFP article here. (SKF)

Mohammed Fadhil: Somebody finally bothered to ask Iraqis. ITM's Mohammed Fadhil at Pajamas Media:
With the constant force buildup many streets now host multiple checkpoints, both fixed and mobile. All are positioned in a manner that allows soldiers in one to have visual contact with those in the next one.

As the operations continue, the interior ministry is introducing new identification measures for vehicles used by its personnel. The new armored vehicles are unique and leave no room for confusion, while the SUV’s are getting new light-green paint with the words ‘National Police’ well visible on the sides.

From my personal experience I can tell that the men staffing the checkpoints do not take their job lightly. One can feel that a long month of hard work did not exhaust them, and I am awed by the courage of those soldiers and policemen. In a city which has absorbed more suicide bombings than all other cities in the world combined every passing vehicle or motorcycle is a threat. ...

You look around in Baghdad now and see hundreds of men working in the streets to pick up garbage; to plant flowers and paint the blast walls in joyful colors. Many of Baghdad’s squares are becoming green and clean. The picture isn’t perfect, but it’s a clear attempt to beat violence and ease pain through giving the spring a chance to shine.

Nights in Baghdad now are far from quiet, but the sounds cause less anxiety for me than they did before. I recognize the rumble of armor and thump of guns and they assure me that the gangs and militias do not dominate the night as they once did.

When Arabs or westerners ask me about the situation and I answer that hope remains and that we’re looking forward to a better future most would say ‘Are you living in this world?’ I answer, ‘Yes, it’s you who live in the parallel world the media built for you with images of only death and destruction’.

If it surprised some of them that a poll found Iraqis optimistic, then I’m surprised that someone finally bothered to ask Iraqis how they feel.

Please go read the full post at the link. (PJM)

Petraeus: "Nobody shot at us." Gordon Cucullu at Benador Associates:
'I WALKED down the streets of Ramadi a few days ago, in a soft cap eating an ice cream with the mayor on one side of me and the police chief on the other, having a conversation." This simple act, Gen. David Petraeus told me, would have been "unthinkable" just a few months ago. "And nobody shot at us," he added.

Petraeus, the new commander managing the "surge" of troops in Iraq, will be the first to caution realism. "Sure we see improvements - major improvements," he said in our interview, "but we still have a long way to go."

What tactics are working? "We got down at the people level and are staying," he said flatly. "Once the people know we are going to be around, then all kinds of things start to happen."

More intelligence, for example. Where once tactical units were "scraping" for intelligence information, they now have "information overload," the general said. "After our guys are in the neighborhood for four or five days, the people realize they're not going to just leave them like we did in the past. Then they begin to come in with so much information on the enemy that we can't process it fast enough."

Read the rest to find out what we're doing to make Iraq's gathering place safer, and what other major figure recently took a stroll in the Sunni streets of Ramadi. (Benador)

Azadegan for a free Iran. The Free Iran - ActivistChat message board links to Azadegan's report (PDF) detailing a strategy for change and a vision for a new Iran. Go to the link for excerpts and important related news. (Free Iran)

Commentary. Politicians like Oregon's Senator Gordon Smith ("R"), who opposed the troop surge, are going to be in a tough spot soon. I was cautious at first about making predictions for the surge's success, but every indication - from the sources who actually know what they're talking about - is that it is working.