BAGHDAD, IRAQ — We flew from Kuwait City to Baghdad International this morning on a C-130, and then helo’d to the Baghdad Embassy Annex (one of Saddam’s old palaces) to meet with Amb. Khalilzad, and several of the top military commanders. There’s a lot to report, and I can only do some tonight as we are up very early tomorrow to helo out to visit the troops in one or two hotspots. Can’t say where we’re going until we’ve been there. Security is very tight.
The Iraqi election is a week from today, and from all reports there will likely be a very high turnout in all but one or two places. The Sunni seem to have taken a more pragmatic view than in the leadup to the constitutional referendum in September. This election chooses a permanent government, and the Sunni will probably vote in substantial numbers to avoid being deprived of proportional representation in the new parliament.
Terrorist attacks are not as many or as horrific as in the past, though commanders here believe the pace will increase as the week of the election comes upon us. We have been mistaking the means of the terrorist insurgents to sustain themselves. There appears to be much less funding coming in from other nations. One reason is that the terrorists don’t need a lot of money to mount suicide bombing attacks. The biggest worry is still Improvised Explosive Devices which are adapted to our constantly-evolving defenses against them as fast — or faster — than the defenses can change. Everyone here expects more violence before the election. What form it will take, or how severe it will be, obviously, is unknown.
We heard a lot about the good-news developments on the Iraqi infrastructure. More details later, but the Coalition has accomplished some amazing things, including the construction or repair of thousands of schools and hospitals. Anyone who believes that life in Iraq was better under Saddam should come to see for themselves.
Amb. Khalilzad said a lot during our lunch with him. One of the most interesting things was that his efforts — which now include dealing with Iran — may bear fruit. His optimism may be that which his job requires. But he hinted that there have been other efforts with Iran — when Khalilzad was our ambassador to Afghanistan — that have already borne fruit. Perhaps a carrot and stick approach can work with Iran? I’m entirely skeptical. Especially when you factor in their nuclear weapons program. More tomorrow.
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