A few more stories of hope for Iraq hit the major news outlets. The first is from USA Today
The number of extremist attacks in Baghdad has declined over the last two weeks since a new security plan took hold, although the relative lull may be short-lived, the U.S. military said Monday.
Bombings on Monday that killed more than 40 Iraqis demonstrated that extremists were still staging attacks aimed at grabbing headlines, but the overall number of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops has fallen, said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a spokesman for the U.S. military.
Reinforcements began arriving last month as part of President Bush's plan to expand the U.S. force by 21,500. They have joined with Iraqi forces to provide a 24-hour presence in some violent neighborhoods where troops previously had patrolled only by daylight. New roadblocks and house-to-house sweeps have targeted sectarian militias.
Garver said there had been fewer attacks in the past few days. He declined to provide statistics.
"We also look for the enemy to look for opportunities to attack back," Garver said. "They still want to launch spectacular attacks to embarrass the government."
Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, warned last month that it could be late summer before it becomes clear whether the new security plan is working.
Garver said there has been a decline in reported sectarian kidnappings and apparent murder victims in the Baghdad morgue. The average number of bodies brought to the morgue a day has dropped in the past week to 10 from 50 to 60 a month ago, the Associated Press reported.
Mohamed Al Daiyni, a member of Al Tawafek, the largest Sunni coalition in the parliament, said violence was down because "all the fighting groups are hiding."
Good. Clearly they will remain in hiding so long as security remains.
The other story is from the Christian Science Monitor
many Iraqis say they have seen some positive steps in the days since the surge officially came into effect last Thursday. And not just because several hundred Iraqis are reported to have been able to return home, or that the daily average of 50 dead bodies on the streets has dropped to single digits in recent days.
"People are very, very happy," with the replacement of a commando unit that refused to go after Shiite militiamen by a regular Iraqi Army unit in the southeast district of Zafaraniyeh, says a resident who could not be named.
"When they came 10 days ago, there was chaos and killing. Since then, I have not heard of a single person being killed," says the resident. It is the new Iraqi commander who is making the difference.
"He came and took the Shiite and Sunni clerics to lunch and told them: 'I am not a sectarian man, and all should be under the law, Sunni and Shiite,' " says the resident, quoting the new commander. " 'If you help me, we will help you. If you don't cooperate with me, you will be breaking the law, and I will crush you.' "
That commander has "made many changes and tells people he will be responsible for supplying all families with cooking fuel," says the Zafaraniyeh resident. He has also marked each official checkpoint with a large number – so people can more easily spot fake checkpoints – and his Iraqi forces are searching every vehicle, including police convoys. On Friday, a joint US-Iraq checkpoint there snagged a "police" colonel who proved to be an imposter after calls were made to the Ministry of Interior to check his identity.
Let me speak slowly to the Democrats and Republicans who 1) have condemned the new security plan for Iraq before it even got started and 2) are working hard to make sure the new initiative is a failure:
Americans do not want to be defeated in Iraq.
The plan will work so long as security is maintained and rebuilding is allowed to occur.
The US military will be needed to help maintain security and can leave when Iraqi security elements are trained enough to do it on their own.
OK? Got that? Surrendering we expect from Democrats and we celebrate those who are not inclined to run away. That's why I pointed out those in the House to bucked the leadership on this issue: Representative Jim Marshall of Georgia and Representative Gene Taylor of Mississippi. And of course we can not forget Senator Lieberman of Connecticut.
But we do not expect, and will not tolerate it of Republicans. And the Victory Caucus is watching
House Republican leaders and conservative activists are targeting critics of President Bush's plan to send more combat forces into Iraq -- and some GOP lawmakers are on the hit list.
Amid a mounting campaign in Congress to limit Bush's military options, conservatives led by talk show host Hugh Hewitt have created an advocacy group designed to counter the anti-war MoveOn.org. And its first round of targets will be the 17 GOP lawmakers who voted for last week's Democratic resolution in the House opposing the troop increases.
First in the sights of the new Victory Caucus is Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., whose district includes Orlando.
While Hewitt carries considerable sway among conservatives, the fledgling Victory Caucus starts out with little of the money and prominence of MoveOn.org, now nationally entrenched as a liberal interest group.
At the same time, House Republicans are hitting Democrats who represent districts Bush won in hopes of preventing a congressional majority that would restrict money for Afghanistan and Iraq. The GOP is flooding those districts with news releases and e-mails warning that Democrats are undermining U.S. troops.
Let me repeat: Americans do not want to lose in Iraq. Whether we live in a Blue state or a Red state, we will attempt to punish at the polls all those who will not even allow the new security measures to work.
And that's the bottom line.