Morning Report: March 18, 2007

Morning Report returns after a month-long hiatus. Let's roll.

"Enforcing the Law" reduces violence in northwest Baghdad. MNF-Iraq:
Violence has reduced since moving Coalition forces out of big forward operating bases and into smaller community-based combat outposts as part of the Fardh Al-Qanoon, a senior Army officer serving there said Friday.

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division has seen a significant drop in violence over the past few months in the province of Shula and Kadtimiya, said Col. J.B. Burton, the unit’s commander.

Murders are down, from 141 in January to 63 in February to only 16 so far in March, he said. However the area has seen an increase in car bombs targeting Shiite gathering places, Burton said.

About one million people live in the area patrolled by Burton’s troops. It is principally Shiite-occupied in the northeast, Sunni in the west and southwest, and mixed in the southeast. Sectarian fault lines define the areas, and both Sunni and Shiia extremists fight for control over portions of the city and its citizens, said Burton.

CENTCOM explains: 'The Government of Iraq and the Coalition Force officially announced the name for the Baghdad security plan Feb. 17. The operation is named ‘Fardh Al-Qanoon,’ an Iraqi phrase that translates to ‘Enforcing the Law.’ This is the title agreed upon by Government of Iraq, with the support of the Coalition leaders, and reflects the Iraqi-led nature of the operation.' (MNFI, CENTCOM)

Admiral Fallon assumes command of CENTCOM. CENTCOM reports:
Adm. William J. Fallon took charge of United States Central Command here Friday replacing the retiring Gen. John P. Abizaid.

Fallon, the former chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, now leads more than 200,000 service members deployed in CENTCOM’s area of responsibility, which includes 27 nations throughout Southwest Asia, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

Fallon is the first naval officer to assume command of CENTCOM, which began as the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force in 1980.

Secretary of Defense, Robert M.Gates, presided during the ceremony, paying tribute to both Abizaid and Fallon during his keynote remarks.

He thanked Abizaid and his wife Kathy for the wonderful job they’ve both done for the United States and wished them well in their retirement. Abizaid wraps up 54 months at CENTCOM as both deputy commander and commander.

Read the rest at the link. (Note: Site may load slowly.) (CENTCOM)

Al-Qaeda does what it does best. Iraq the Model: 'Al-Qaeda's terrorists-whom AP insists on calling insurgents-expended three suicide bombers and precious resources against their supposedly sympathetic civilian Sunni hosts instead of American and Iraqi soldiers and Shia civilians; their usual enemies. If this indicates anything it indicates that al-Qaeda's is reprioritizing the targets on the hit list. The reason: al-Qaeda is sensing a serious threat in the change of attitude of the tribes toward them and perhaps the apparently successful meeting of the sheiks with Maliki and the agreements that were made then was the point at which open war had to be declared. The tribes in Anbar are stubborn and they have many ruthless warriors. That's a proven fact and it looks like Al-Qaeda had just made their gravest mistake—their once best friends are just about to become their worst enemy.' (ITM)

Battle of Diyala. The Fourth Rail: 'Baquba, the capital of the violence wracked province of Diyala, has emerged as the latest battlefield in Iraq. Earlier this week, Multinational Forces Iraq began to redeploy a battalion of Strykers - about 700 soldiers and 100 of their Stryker combat vehicles from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division - from Baghdad to Baquba to chase down the 2,000 plus estimated al Qaeda fighters who have fled the capital in anticipation of the Baghdad Security Plan. Upon the first day of their arrival in Baquba, the Strykers of the 5-20 have engaged in heavy combat in the streets of the city. Al Qaeda in Iraq was prepared for the arrival of the Strykers, and set up defensive and ambush positions throughout the city. The Strykers arriving in Baquba encountered mortars, snipers, RPGs, a host of Improvised Explosive Devices and possibly anti-tank weapons. ...' Roggio concludes: 'The recent tape released by Abu Omar al Baghdadi, the leader of al Qaeda's political front the Islamic State in Iraq, reflects concern within the terror group. Baghdadi implored tribal leaders and insurgent groups to fight under the banner of the Islamic State in Iraq, and threatened those who will not with death and damnation. Al Qaeda has seen its power decline in Anbar province the past few months and Baghdadi will want to stem this trend in Diyala, Salahadin and elsewhere.' (TFR)

Yemen: bombing closes school. Via Armies of Liberation: 'March 13 — Teachers have refrained from working at Al-Abous district’s Talb School for three months and classrooms remain closed because an identified group detonated a package of explosives in the school, damaging it and intimidating its students, who number as many as 550.' (Armies of Liberation)

Iran: Teachers, workers, veterans protest. The Spirit of Man reports on several protests brewing in Iran now. (TSOM)

Hossein Forohideh execution stopped. Shiro-Khorshid-Forever reports: 'I just got of the phone with one of my contacts and seems like as of yet the execution has not been carried out. I know so many people have worked really hard to try to save Mr. Forohideh's life and I would like to thank everyone. Ofcourse this does not mean that he is out of the woods yet, so please keep the pressure on, until we recieve news that the threat of execution has passed.' Background: 'The Revolutionary Court in the city of Oroumiey has sentenced Hossein Forohideh, a political activist to death and is planning to execute him today March 16, 2007. Four months ago Mr. Forohideh was arrested in the Kurdistan of Iran and was subjected to severe torture. For three months his family had no news about his whereabouts. They tried to find out his whereabouts by going to various Security and Judiciary Agencies but were not successful and slowly started losing hope in regards to him still being alive.' Full article at the link. An important reminder of the importance of grassroots activism. (SKF)

A new home for Amarji. Amarji announces: 'Well, it finally had to happen, I guess. I have just moved my blog to the Tharwa Community.' Sensibly enough, since he's the founder. Here's the new URL: http://www.tharwacommunity.org/amarji/ (Amarji)

Commentary. Amazingly enough, the approach of "Fardh Al-Qanoon" - an Arabic phrase meaning "let's win the war by actually fighting it" - seems to be working. Well, fancy that. We shall have plenty more to say on this subject in due time.