Ray of hope

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

Iraq’s only hope for sta­bil­ity may be its fledg­ling army. While the po­lice force ap­pears hope­lessly in­fil­trated by sec­tar­ian killers, the army shows prom­ise. Some of its units stand and fight. Some of its lead­ers talk of de­fend­ing Iraq’s strug­gling democ­racy.

A fire­fight in De­cem­ber in the city of Baqouba re­in­forces that hope. We hear that Iraqi sol­diers fought well in a night­time bat­tle against al Qaeda ter­ror­ists. Diyala prov­ince is one of Iraq’s most vi­o­lent, as Shi’ites and Sun­nis try to top each other in tor­ture and slaugh­ter, as al Qaeda con­ducts sui­cide bomb­ings.

What is ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing in the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal is the sub­ject of de­bate. The U.S. mil­i­tary says the city and prov­ince are func­tion­ing. Re­porters say their Iraqi sources in Diyala tell of ram­pant vi­o­lence and cit­i­zens too afraid to leave their homes.

The Mary­land-size Diyala is home to the 3rd Brigade Com­bat Team, 1st Cavalry Di­vi­sion, which ar­rived from Fort Hood seven weeks ago. It pa­trols with Iraq’s 5th Army Di­vi­sion.

Col. Dave Suther­land, the brigade’s com­man­der, talked to the Pen­tagon press corps in De­cem­ber.

“Many re­cent re­ports have made it seem that Diyala is a haven for ter­ror­ism, one so vi­o­lent that peo­ple are afraid to go out of their homes. The re­al­ity is some­thing dif­fer­ent,” he said.

Then he pro­vided a sober as­sess­ment: “Some po­lit­i­cal groups and tribal lead­ers are turn­ing to ter­ror­ists and in­sur­gent or­ga­ni­za­tions for pro­tec­tion. This sort of unity only wors­ens the sec­tar­ian di­vide and en­cour­ages fur­ther vi- olence. The key to se­cu­rity is sep­a­rat­ing the in­sur­gents from the ter­ror­ists, and bring­ing the in­sur­gents into the po­lit­i­cal process while de­feat­ing the ter­ror­ists with intelligence-driven op­er­a­tions.”

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