Senate Democrats

Iraq: The Facts on the Ground

Today Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivered a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars where he gave an honest assessment of the reality on the ground in Iraq. While the President today continued to talk about the progress his escalation plan is bringing to Iraq, the facts on the ground tell a different story. April has become one of the deadliest months on record for coalition troops, with an average of almost four killed every day. Senator Reid and Democrats are calling for a change of course.

Despite the Escalation, Baghdad Remains Plagued by Violence

Baghdad is still rocked by bombings. “But they agreed that among the most troubling trends in Iraq has been the proliferation of suicide bomb attacks, because they risk reigniting sectarian revenge killings and undermining the government. Suicide bombings have increased 30 percent over the six weeks that ended in early April, according to military data. ‘When you have these big explosions, there is a very high risk of a major setback because it sends a message of instability and insecurity,’ said Fallon, head of U.S. Central Command.” (Washington Post, 4/22/07)

Last week saw one of the deadliest bombing since the President’s escalation began. “At least 173 people died in Baghdad on Wednesday in a series of major explosions, making the day the capital’s deadliest since the onset nine weeks ago of a much-touted U.S.-Iraqi security plan. The violence capped a dreadful seven days that began with a stunning suicide attack in the Iraqi parliament building in the heavily fortified Green Zone that killed a lawmaker. At least 363 people have died in Baghdad in the past week, including 118 whose bodies were found dumped in various parts of the city.” (McClatchy, 4/19/07)

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the United States Military are at odds over how to protect Baghdad’s residents. “Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said Sunday that he was ordering a halt to construction of a controversial wall that would block a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad from other areas, saying it reminded people of ‘other walls.’…’I oppose the building of the wall, and its construction will stop,” Mr. Maliki told reporters during a joint news conference with the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa. “There are other methods to protect neighborhoods.’ A spokesman for the American military, Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, said the military would remain “in a dialogue” with the Iraqi government about how best to protect citizens. The military did not say whether the wall’s construction would be halted.” (New York Times, 4/22/07)

Iraqi civilians have given up on the new security plan. “The marketplace, one of the oldest in Baghdad, is being rebuilt after a Feb. 3 truck bombing killed about 130 people and incinerated many of the shops. Residents described a chaotic scene at the blast site, where a crowd of people, some of them in tears, quickly gathered and began denouncing the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. ‘There is no more security plan,’ said Amir al-Bawi, 26. ‘The first days were really good, but not anymore.'” (McClatchy, 4/19/07)

Outside of Baghdad, Danger to U.S. Forces Grows

As President Bush escalates forces in Baghdad, insurgents have struck American forces with increasing frequency outside the city. “In Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, the American military is engaged in an intractable guerrilla fight against an elusive and sophisticated enemy more deadly than many battle-hardened soldiers have ever encountered in Iraq. The attacks on U.S. and Iraqi soldiers here have risen sharply in recent months, a problem compounded by an influx of fighters in search of safer havens outside Baghdad. Many of the insurgents are well-trained, highly mobile fighters who refuse to get dragged into open confrontations in which American forces can deploy their overpowering weaponry.” (Washington Post, 4/22/07)

Efforts to Train Iraqi Forces Have Stalled

The United States has given up on training Iraqi troops. “Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces. Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy since 2005, has dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said.” (McClatchy, 4/19/07)

The Pentagon is blocking mid-level officers from speaking to Congress about their experiences training Iraqi forces. “Pentagon lawyers abruptly blocked mid-level active-duty military officers from speaking Thursday during a closed-door House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee briefing about their personal experiences working with Iraqi security forces. The Pentagon’s last-minute refusal to allow the officers’ presentations surprised panel members and congressional aides, who are in the middle of an investigation into the effort to train and organize Iraqi forces. Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Martin Meehan, D-Mass., called the Pentagon’s move “outrageous” and left open the possibility of issuing subpoenas.” (National Journal Congress Daily AM, 4/23/07)