Dems and Press
Just Obstructionist?

It was if America was listening to a different speech than the press and the Democratic Party. This morning’s headlines were certainly depressing. The headlines were all about a troop build-up. There were Democrats that had their “this plan sucks” speeches ready before they heard what Bush said.

I wonder what part of the new plan they didn’t like. Was it the simplifying the rules of engagement so our heroes will no longer have to go through a seven-step checklist before they can fire? Was it the part that said we will attack the supply lines coming in from Syria or Iran, so our soldiers will not have to deal with as many sophisticated weaponry being shipped from other nations? (There was a successful raid this morning in Kurdish territory on an Iranian base). Maybe it was the patriot missiles sent to the boarders, so that our allies who are not involved in the battle are protected from Syrian or Iranian supplied missiles fired by terrorists? Of course it couldn’t be supporting the Iraqi Prime Minister in his declaration that all groups must be disarmed, or holding on to positions after our forces retake them. Maybe they are just control freaks…and they don’t like the fact that the new plan gives ground commanders more flexibility to make their own decisions based on the situation on hand.

Folks this is not going to be pretty nor is it going to be over in a few weeks, but it is a major change for the better. Until these naysayers come up with their own plan, they should shut up and support our troops —because they are just being obstructionist for obstructionist sake.

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A big part of the new plan is cleaning up Baghdad, which is where most of the terrorist activity is concentrated. Debka has a report from this battlefield:

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report and Military Analysis
Sunni-al Qaeda stronghold of Haifa Street, Baghdad, under US-Iraqi attack

Joint US-Iraqi forces were deep into their biggest operation ever to subdue the Iraqi capital forty-eight hours before US president George W. Bush formally unveiled his new Iraq plan on Wednesday Jan. 10. The operation started out against “terrorist hideouts” in and around the Sunni stronghold of Haifa Street. Some 50 insurgents and jihadists were reported killed while fighting back with mortar and rocket-propelled grenade fire. “A great number of Arab nationals,” many of them Syrians, were detained, according to the Iraqi government.

The second battle in four years for Baghdad, a city of nine million inhabitants, places American armed forces in active combat on three anti-al Qaeda fronts: Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that in Baghdad, one US brigade is fighting alongside two Iraqi brigades, supported by tanks, warplanes and helicopters. Their mission is to purge and control Haifa Street, which is situated near the Green Zone government-US command center along the southern bank of the Tigris River which cuts through the town center. The street has been a major source of Sunni and al Qaeda terrorist violence since its former inhabitants, mostly Palestinians, were driven out.

The US-Iraqi mission includes taking over two important Tigris bridges, Tamuz and Jumhuriya, and three smaller ones in between.

These bridges, which link the northern and southern Baghdad districts, have been under Sunni-al Qaeda guns, and US and Iraqi military vehicles have drive across at their peril.

Despite heavy losses, the Baathist Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda are putting up heavy resistance; the battle is still at its outset. Large groups of buildings are occupied by fresh, heavily armed fighters and will have to be flushed out one by one. After this is done, the US-Iraq military force must proceed to three further missions in the operation to cleanse, hold and stabilize Baghdad.

DEBKAfile’s exclusive military sources describe those missions:

1. Once Haifa Street is purged, large-scale US and Iraqi forces will throw a steel ring around Baghdad in an effort to seal it off from the rest of Iraq, block its roads and entrances to incoming insurgent reinforcements and cut off their routes of escape.

2. Another force will head into the Shiite districts of Sadr City and Azamiyah, strongholds of the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia, whose loyalists are riding high after taking charge of the Saddam Hussein execution on Dec. 30.

3. A third force will head south to Sunni insurgent bastions in the Baghdad district of Dura.

The Iraqi-US campaign to cleanse the Iraqi capital of militias, death squads, terrorists and insurgents and provide a measure of stability will in the process reduce much of Baghdad to a war zone for the foreseeable future.

A big question mark hangs over Moqtada Sadr’s intentions. There is no knowing yet whether he will order his militiamen to forcibly block US-Iraqi force’s ingress to the Shiite suburbs or pull them back to avoid a frontal clash. The Americans hope the fiery cleric will recall his disastrous experiences three years ago, when the Medhi Army’s first encounter with US forces backed by Kurdish commandos ended in the rogue Shiite force being uprooted from the Shiite shrine cities south of Baghdad and Sadr being sent packing with his army to desperately seek refuge.

Today, the Mehdi Army militia is much bigger than the one which was routed three years ago, and is also better organized and equipped.

Its commander is expected by US commanders to be swayed in his decision on whether to stand up or stand aside by two main factors.

First, Sadr will be influenced by the outcome of the Haifa Street battle and how long it takes. He will want to see if the combined US-Iraqi force achieves control over the Tigris bridges. This would enable them to move troops and reinforcements rapidly and safely back and forth between southern Baghdad and the north, and free up the bulk of their military strength for operations against his militia.

Second, before taking on the combined Iraqi-US strength, the radical Shiite leader will want clear guarantees from Tehran for a steady supply of military assistance should the engagement be protracted. He will tax the officers of the Revolutionary Guards al Quds battalion attached to the Medhi Army’s command in Baghdad with this errand. Such guarantees would be bad news for the US-Iraq campaign to stabilize Baghdad because it could lengthen hostilities.

Given these imponderables, DEBKAfile’s military sources estimate that the second battle for Baghdad will take at least two or three months, if not longer.