Traveling overseas can definitely broaden your horizons, not to mention make you appreciate your home even more: [Spc. Christopher] Bean, 20, of Port Gibson, finished up a year-long stint in Baghdad as a truck driver with the 594th Transportation Co., a 101st Airborne division. His time in the military has given him a different perspective on the Fourth of July. “In Iraq, we’re not fighting for ourselves,” said Bean, from his home base in Fort Campbell, Ky. “We’re over there fighting so the Iraqis can have their own Fourth of July.” One of the things that struck Bean most about his time in Iraq was the people themselves. Most of the Iraqis he met were proud to have the Americans there, he said, and watching them go through their daily lives made him appreciate the historic significance of our Independence Day. “Being there really opens your eyes to what our forefathers went through to get the freedom we have today,” he said. Nation-building is never quick and never easy; hard-work and heartache are today, and the results often only years if not decades ahead. But the Iraqi people, with the assistance of the Coalition, have commenced their journey, and despite all the hardships, every day is another step forward. Below, some of these often much under-reported and unappreciated steps from the past three weeks. SOCIETY: According to the latest survey conducted by the Euphrates Development and Strategic Studies Center in provinces of Karbala, Najaf, Babel and Baghdad, while the opinion is almost evenly split on the question whether the constitution drafting process will finish on time, 53% of those polled thought the performance of the presidency council acceptable, 20% considered it as very acceptable, and only 26% thought it unacceptable. 51% of respondents trust the government to some extent, 21% have very strong trust in it, while 27% of surveyed do not trust it at all. The constitution drafting process is progressing well: Although Iraqi lawmakers acknowledge that drafting a permanent constitution is one of the biggest challenges facing the country, the team charged with producing the document are cautiously optimistic that they will complete the job on time. Lawmakers are up against an August 15 deadline to finish writing the constitution, a daunting task considering the disputes that have taken place so far even over who should sit on then 55-member drafting committee. The drafting team now has to grapple with the controversial issues of federalism, the role of Islam in governance and the status of oil-rich Kirkuk. “We hope that, God willing, things will go well and we’ll finish our work on time, particularly if we deal with the thorny issues in a way that satisfies all parties,” said Humam Hammoodi, head of the Constitutional Drafting Committee and a member of the ruling United Iraqi Alliance. The committee, which was formed in mid-May, now meets every week and has divided into five groups each dealing with a different topic: the basic principles of the constitution, rights and liberties, laws and the formation of the state, federalism, and final principles. “There are differing viewpoints among committee members, but this doesn’t mean there is no agreement at all among them,” said Sadi al-Barzinji, a committee member from the Kurdish Alliance. “Whatever the differences, they can be solved through democratic dialogue.” As another story reports, "Humam Hamoudi, head of the committee to draft the constitution, said rapid and intensive meetings are underway with Sunni Arabs regarding possible disagreements. The meetings are meant to prevent a delay in the drafting of the constitution. He added the draft will be done with by August 1, as was decided earlier. He said they have agreed on many issues but there are still some contentious points, like federalism and the authority granted to the region's rulers." The Shia establishment is onboard too: "Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), has arrived in Najaf to meet top clerics to discuss the status quo of Iraq and the drafting of the constitution. The clerics agreed upon having all the different Iraqi spectrums participating in the drafting of the constitution and the political process with out marginalizing any of them." But the constitution drafting process will soon involve consultation that goes well beyond the committee or even the National Assembly: Baha' Al-'Araji, a member of the constitution drafting committee told Al-Mada paper yesterday that there are going to be 5 spots in each Iraqi province where citizens can find designated boxes where they can put their opinions and suggestion as to the process of writing the constitution. Only Baghdad will be an exception due to its high population so there will be 5 spots in each main quarter in the capital. One million "suggestion forms" are planned to be distributed nationwide soon and there will be specialized teams to read, sort the received forms and prepare summaries that will eventually be submitted periodically to the main committee. He also mentioned-according to the paper-that the committee has already purchased air time on satellite channels and columns space on papers (ten in total) to publish/broadcast materials of value to constitutional education to help people get a better understanding of the process. You can also read this short vox populi from the Iraqi street about the new constitution. And there are other favorable signs for bigger future Sunni engagement in politics: Several Sunni Muslim clerics have prepared a decree calling on members of Iraq's disaffected Sunni Arab minority to vote in coming elections and participate in the writing of a new constitution, a prominent Sunni leader said... Adnan Dulaimi, who heads the Sunni Endowment, the government agency responsible for Sunni religious affairs, said the framers of the decree, or fatwa, would seek the support of other groups in the fractious Sunni community. If broadly embraced, Dulaimi and other Sunni leaders said,... the decree could pave the way to full political participation by a segment of Iraqi society that boycotted elections in January and has scant representation in the current government. The push for the fatwa, together with formal approval by Iraq's National Assembly on Monday of the addition of 15 Sunnis to the committee writing the new constitution, suggested that slow and often contentious efforts to bring Sunni Arabs into the political sphere were beginning to bear fruit. In another report: "Sunni clerics in Iraq are preparing to hold a general conference by the end of this week. The conference will include edicts to allow participations in the political process, the referendum on the constitution, and the coming elections. There will also be edicts that prohibit targeting the supreme election commission members in Baghdad and other provinces. The conference will ask all Iraqis to reject sectarianism and ethnicity and to stop targeting the clerics and men of thought, especially the Shia clerics." Meanwhile, in the National Assembly, free-ranging debates make it the first for the Middle East: Death or torture awaited members of the former rubber stamp parliament if they ever had the courage to criticize the former regime. Today the country’s elected deputies openly pour their wrath on government officials in open sessions which many Iraqis hail as harbinger of a new era. It was not surprising therefore to see the deputies adding the presence of U.S. troops in the country to their agenda this week as well as corruption in government ministries and terror attacks. “Iraq’s sovereignty is an issue of paramount importance … It is the responsibility of this assembly to take a decision whether to approve or reject the extension of the multinational forces in the country,” declared Abdulrahman al-Nuaimi. While the deputies freely discussed the pros and cons of the presence of U.S.-led troops in Iraq, there were no calls for their immediate withdrawal under current circumstances. More important for other deputies were issues related to the reports of massive corruption in government ranks and the escalating terror and insurgent activities in the country. As the new habits of debate and openness grow, Iraqi democracy also continues to benefit from increasing ties with overseas. For example, another two cities are becoming twinned: The IVC of Philadelphia announced today that it is participating in the U.S. Department of State's "Partners for Peace" project with Mosul, Iraq. Through IVC, officials from Iraq's third largest city will visit Philadelphia to learn about democratic governance. Committees in both countries will work to improve humanitarian conditions in Mosul. "The IVC of Philadelphia is eager to partner with Mosul's leaders and citizens to support their transition to a democratic society," said Nancy Gilboy, President of the IVC of Philadelphia. "We've spent 51 years administering democracy-building programs and the past eleven years working with the former Soviet Union. That experience means we can hit the ground running with Mosul. We have humanitarian aid waiting to be shipped and a committee of Iraqi-Americans and generous citizen diplomats ready to help. For years, citizens in the Philadelphia area have shared their professional expertise and opened their offices and homes to guests from emerging democracies. We now look forward to engaging them with this important Mosul partnership." The United Nations, meanwhile, is supporting Iraqi civil society: With 4,000 new non-governmental and civil society organizations (NGOs) mushrooming in Iraq after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s one-party rule, the United Nations is holding a three-day workshop for some 30 Iraqi human rights defenders in Amman, capital of neighbouring Jordan. The workshop, from 27 to 29 June, seeks to strengthen the capacity of NGOs for advocacy work and human rights promotion at the national, regional and international levels, help to develop strategies for past, current and future human rights violations, and build a network for sharing information and developing collaboration. USAID is meanwhile supporting the development of better financial practices throughout Iraqi bureaucracy: To assist the Government of Iraq (GoI) to meet generally accepted standards in budget execution, USAID is working through partners under the Economic Governance II program to implement a state-of-the-art Financial Management Information System (FMIS) that will provide tools for federal financial management. Under Phase I of the project, 57 FMIS sites will be established at Ministries, spending agencies, and governorate treasuries by the end of June 2005. Under Phase II, a further 128 FMIS sites will be put in place. FMIS orientation and computer skills training courses have been completed at 55 out of 57 of the Phase I sites while hardware has been installed at 44 out of 57 sites. By June 30, it is anticipated that all equipment will be installed and tested at Phase I sites. And the Japan International Cooperation Agency has commenced statistics and economics training in Amman, Jordan, of employees of various ministries and government agencies. Jordanians themselves are conducting environmental awareness training for employees of several Iraqi ministries. Out in society, after decades of censorship, Iraqis re-discover the escape of books: In a narrow alley off Mutanabi Street, Baghdad's main book market, the Dar al-Bayan bookshop is full of dust and classics. Old men sip tea in the back and talk of times past, before dictatorship, when poets and intellectuals made life here bright. On the street outside, the new Iraq presses in. Card tables covered with computer manuals, cell phone booklets and how-to guides compete for space on the sidewalk. A vast array of religious books, banned under Saddam Hussein, pack the stalls. As Iraqis struggle to make sense of the chaos and violence that has consumed their lives over the past two years, books offer some solace. "Reality now is very strange," said Mufeed Jazaery, who was Iraq's culture minister in the recently departed interim government. "People are trying to put their feet on the ground, but they find themselves still hanging in the air. Is it quiet, or will there be another storm? Is it black or is it white? Is it moving, and if so, in which direction?" But as well as showing a changing Iraq, books also reveal a dividing line between those who grew up before the years of dictatorship - who reach for history texts to understand what has happened to their country - and younger Iraqis straining to find answers to more immediate questions about their lives in self-help and how-to books, romance and religious titles. "Chaos and violence" might have indeed "consumed" Iraqis' lives over the past two years, but prior to that their lives were hardly examples of normalcy. The difference is that back then they didn't even have books for consolation. In dealing with the legacy of the past and returning back to the Iraqi people some of their stolen national wealth: The 170 palaces of former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein are to be turned into cultural centres, research institutes and libraries, Iraqi Culture Minister Nuri Farhan al-Rawi said... "We have already put an appropriate request to the American cultural attache," al-Rawi told delegates to a UNESCO conference on stolen and illegally exported cultural objects. At the present, most of Saddam's palaces are occupied by American and British soldiers of the occupation force in Iraq, al-Rawi said. And in another aspect of dealing with the past, "the Human Rights Committee in Baghdad province council of has established a Social Liability Fund to support the families of martyrs through designating a sum of 50,000 dinars for each family and 10,000 dinars for each child of the martyr families, who were executed during the former regime, in addition to the terror martyrs." In media news, "the first independent broadcast station in southern Iraq is on the air. Al Mirbad Radio hit the air waves on June 20, the BBC reported. “Welcome and Good morning, this is Al Mirbad Radio, a new voice for Southern Iraq,” were the first words broadcast by the station. The BBC World Service Trust, the British network’s charitable arm, built and established the station in Basra with funding from the U.K. government. In its efforts to develop more independent and skilled media, the trust also conducted training courses for 80 journalists earlier this year in Amman. The trust also trained a group of Iraqi engineers on installing and operating the station’s equipment. Meanwhile, BBC is gaining considerable audience throughout the country: BBC World Service is the biggest speech radio station in Iraq, according to new audience figures released. Weekly audiences in the country have increased to 3.3 million (22%) from 1.8 million weekly listeners (13% of the radio audience) last year - an increase of 1.5 million. The independent surveys also show that 43 per cent of opinion formers in Iraq listen every week. The increase follows the rapid establishment of BBC FM relays in key parts of the country, including of Baghdad, Mosul & Irbil, Kirkuk, Al-Nasirya, Basra, Al-Kut, Salahuddin and Al-Amara. And yes - reality TV finally made it to Iraq. And also yes - "May You See Prosperity and Deserve It", the show that follows a young couple in the run-up to their wedding is a huge hit. On a more serious level, read about the Italian contribution to restoring Iraq's cultural heritage. Lastly, improving security situation is having one unusual side-effect - it's getting easier to buy alcohol: Faisal Faris’ cart on al-Haifa Street looks like any other boiled beans stall, but it is actually a cover for a far more serious trading operation. A secret drawer hides Faris’ real commodity – alcohol... But even though they still cannot openly peddle their goods, alcohol sellers say business has been improving in the last few months. Faris said that Iraqis were buying more alcohol because the security situation in his area has improved, since Iraqi forces cracked down on the insurgents. Now that militant activity has died down, people are less afraid of being attacked if they are found to be drinking. ECONOMY: America and Iraq are formalizing their economic ties with a view to even closer relations in the future: The United States and the U.S.-backed government in Iraq have signed a formal agreement aimed at boosting economic ties between the two countries, the U.S. Trade Representative's office said on Monday. The pact, which could lead to a free trade agreement between Washington and Baghdad, was signed during a meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Joint Commission on Reconstruction and Economic Development in Amman, Jordan. The trade and investment framework agreement, or TIFA, establishes a joint council to work on a wide range of commercial issues, USTR said. To help reform the economy, and to increase the flow of international aid, which has stalled in part because of the lack of such progress, the Iraqi government will be instituting a far reaching program of restructuring: War-torn Iraq is working to reduce state hand-outs that consume more than 80 per cent of its gross domestic product in its drive to qualify for debt relief and IMF support, the central bank's chief economist said. Mudhir Salih Kasim said in an interview Iraq is committed to phasing out subsidies built-up over decades as the oil-based economy became more centralised, especially under the rule of former president Saddam Hussein. "These levels are unheard of in the rest of the world. The government realises the issue is very sensitive and could spark uprisings," Kasim said yesterday, referring to the potential for popular unrest as subsidies especially on food, fuel and electricity, were reformed... "Iraq has agreed to restructure the subsidies system, not scrap it altogether, in meetings with donors and creditors. The reform will move the economy, even if there is no fall in the level of violence," he said... Iraq expanded hand-outs and subsidies to help people cope with crushing sanctions imposed by the United Nations from 1990-2003, which contributed to the economic collapse of the country with the world's second largest world reserves. This came on top of $120bn of debt mostly accumulated in the 1980s to finance an eight-year war with Iran. Part of any economic reform effort will be a program of privatization of state-owned enterprises. USAID is there to help, laying groundwork: "Officials are working on improving Iraq's private sector through legislation. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Private Sector Development (PSD) program staff recently met with six members of Iraq’s Legislative Committee on Privatization to discuss privatization experiences in other countries that might have relevance for Iraq and ways of moving forward in order to strengthen the private sector. As a result of the meeting, PSD project staff will continue to provide the Legislative Committee with support in developing model legislation that can serve as the basis of privatization in Iraq." Some privatization is already on the cards, as the government wants to reactivate government-owned factories, which constitute the bulk of Iraq's industry, but are currently laying idle: The Ministry of Industry and Minerals plans to privatize 10 major industries, according to Usama al-Najafi, the minister. “The ministry is prepared to turn 10 of the public sector companies over to mixed or private ownership,” he said. He said the companies’ Initial Public Offering will be announced soon through the Baghdad Stock Exchange. The public-owned companies include “two cement factories and pharmaceutical and iron and steel firms,” the minister said. If the privatization goes through it will be the first time for the pharmaceutical and cement industries to be transferred to private ownership. Meanwhile, the government will be spending $1 billion for the support of Iraq's reviving private sector. On a smaller, local scene: "The Karbala provincial council has decided to allow foreign companies to invest in Karbala according to special conditions or partnerships. Council spokesman Ghalib al-Dumi said approval has been granted for investment in the fields of oil, electricity, and the sewage system. The council has already made agreements with some companies." In banking news, 29 June saw the official launch of credit card in Iraq: "For the first time, we will have an Iraqi credit card, which is certain to increase trust between shopowners, creditors and customers, and to contribute to the development of banking in Iraq," said the director of the Central Bank of Iraq in the southern city of Basra, Zuhayr Ali Akbar." In other banking news, Al Rasheed bank is also now providing an option to customers of opening bank account in foreign currency. And two new private banks have been established recently: Al Mansur Investment Bank, with a capital 55billion dinars (about 38 million dollars), and Tigris and Euphrates Bank for Development and Investment, with a capital of 25 billion dinars (about 17 million dollars)... The announcement for the establishment of the two new banks comes a few days after the end of underwriting in two other private banks: Ashur International Bank and the Islamic National Bank, in which Iraqi investors and Arabs residing in the UAE have participated in establishing them, which gave them strength and increased the demand for underwriting in their shares. To further help along the reform of Iraqi banking sector, USAID is conducting workshops for the industry workers. USAID is supporting the development of Iraqi micro-finance industry through training of its professionals: The PSD program recently provided financial analysis training in Amman, Jordan to 26 middle- and senior-level managers from two organizations in Iraq’s emerging non-bank microfinance industry. By the end of the one-week course, attendees improved their skills in conducting financial analyses, preparing financial performance reports, and making recommendations to improve the financial performance of their organizations. The course was one of a series of training modules designed to move the organizations toward becoming sustainable non-bank credit, or microfinance, institutions that lend money to small businesses and farmers. A stronger, non-bank microfinance industry in Iraq will help empower thousands of poor families to better realize their potential through savings and credit programs for small enterprises. USAID is also assisting small businesses throughout Iraq in an effort to boost the country's private sector: The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) recently supported training events for Iraqi small and medium-sized enterprises and approved 14 small business grants... Recent training activities included sessions for 31 small businesses in the non-permissible areas of Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk; and trainings for 13 consultants in Baghdad who will provide business planning services to Iraqi companies for the purpose of accessing credit under the Iraqi Middle Market Development Fund (IMMDF) and other credit programs. And here are two success stories of Iraqi Stock Exchange: Warka Investment Bank, whose shares have increased in value by 287 percent in less than a couple of months, and Pepsi Baghdad. Speaking of soft drinks, that old symbol of American imperialism is coming to Iraq: after absence of 25 years, Coca Cola is opening a bottling factory in Iraq to supply the local market. In Baghdad, an old institution revives: After years of absence, Al Nahr Street in Baghdad is back to life and to the women, who never left it all their lives until the end of the 80s of the last century. This street has turned into wholesale markets, after the Iraqi families found it hard to visit it, due to the bad economic conditions. For those who do not know the street well, Al Nahr Street is also known as Al Nisa Street, or the street of beautiful girls, as the majority of its visitors are women for the fact that its stores are specialized in selling women's clothes and for its fame for having jewelry stores, gold and silver and other jewelry. Even if we have seen some men walking in this street, they are there to buy a gift or something for their wives or sisters. German journalist reports that the northern Iraq is thriving: Rashid Tahir Hassan’s office in the Kurdish Ministry of Finance resembles a small Kurdish memorial. On the wall behind his gigantic black desk hang two pictures of the legendary Kurdish fighter Mullah Mustafa Barzani in heavy gold frames; on the console underneath is a plate with his likeness. The room is adorned with photographs of Kurdish villages and the city of Erbil, the seat of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. Hassan himself seems to embody the Kurdish mentality. When he has something positive to say, he looks melancholy. "Since the Fall of Saddam Hussein the Kurds have been born again," said Rashid Tahir Hassan, lowering his eyelids and pausing. He takes a sip from his glass of tea and glances out the window. Then he adds, "We no longer live from one day to the next; for the first time in our history we are planning for the future." A glance out of the window of the Director General for Finance of the Kurdish regional government shows how far the future of Kurdistan has already flourished: around the Ministry of Finance, as in many places in the city, buildings are shooting up. Apartment buildings, offices, warehouses, it looks as if everywhere in Erbil is under construction... Travelling by car from Erbil to Suleimaniyah, it’s difficult to believe that this part of Iraq has anything to do with the country known from the TV news. While car bombs explode daily in Baghdad and new mass graves are discovered around the so-called Sunni Triangle, the Kurds are experiencing a regular boom. Not only is Erbil under construction, but also in Dukan new roads are springing up, and in many villages vacation homes are being built. The demand for home ownership and the wish for improvement in the infrastructure are so great that the cement factory in front of the gates of Suleimaniyah has been put back in operation. The clearest sign of the new boom in Kurdistan is the increase in salaries. Before the fall of Saddam Hussein a white collar worker earned 22,000 Iraqi dinar per month (around $148)--today 158,000, according to the Ministry of Finance. A clear sign of the upswing is the fact that Kurds have meanwhile become too expensive for some jobs. On the side of the road between Erbil and Suleimaniyah you discover tents with Iraqi and Chinese flags in honour of guest workers from China. Thirty-eight men from Beijing who speak neither English nor Kurdish nor Arabic are widening Kurdistan’s highway network. They sleep at night on cots in tents on the edge of the construction site. In Suleimaniyah you find more guest workers from their own country... In the streets of Suleimaniyah, not only is there more security than in Baghdad but also more freedom than in the southern part of the country. You see women with and without headscarves, you see them in black garments or in jeans with tight t-shirts, you see them openly drinking beer in the afternoons. In restaurants and on the streets you hear cell phones ringing, whose rings sound like pop versions of eastern music. Perhaps the most delicious irony comes from Nazar Kahailany, Kurdish dissident who was tortured under Saddam Hussein and fled to Germany 20 years ago: "We always believed that only communism would free us from Saddam Hussein. Now we’ve learned that we needed the Americans for that." Here's another report from the booming Suleymaniyah, this time from an Iraqi blogger Omar: "I have to admit that this is the highest rate of construction one can find in the whole country and the streets and market places were so busy and crowded especially in the late afternoon and early evening." A recent trade delegation to Great Britain from southern Iraq was also at pains to remind the world that the situation there is very different to what the news coverage suggests: The delegation included senior southern members of the Iraqi transitional government, politicians, lawyers and the editor of a newspaper in Basra. All wanted to stress that the image of Iraq as a place of almost daily atrocities was based around events in Baghdad. "People need to understand that Baghdad is hundreds of kilometres away and in the south there is peace, " said 'Abd al-Karim Mahmud Al-Muhammadawi. One of Iraq's leading freedom fighters, he battled against Saddam's Ba'athist regime from the southern marsh region for 17 years earning him the title of "lord of the marshes". Now he is a leading figure in the movement to re-establish southern Iraq as a commercial centre which capitalises on the region's wealth of oil reserves and a vast workforce. "We are ready to do business and we want people to come to Basra, see that it is a safe and stable place with huge resources," he said. The authorities have signed a contract with an American car company to produce 90 thousand sedans, 130 thousand pickups and 10 thousand 4-wheel-drive cars a year. Meanwhile the number of old used cars is steadily decreasing throughout Iraq in favor of new models. A new program is trying to bring back Iraqi expats and utilize their skills in new Iraq: The third Iraqis Rebuilding Iraq (IRI) candidate recently traveled to Baghdad to start his 12-month assignment as Director General for Government Communications at the Council of Ministers Secretariat. Al Asaadi came across the IRI program while he was searching the internet for possible job vacancies in Iraq through the different well-known recruitment agencies and channels, for he was an Iraqi expert interested in supporting his country by applying his expertise and skills to serve his fellow people. Al Asaadi said that the IRI program was the only program that looked for Iraqi experts to take assignments in Iraq, and it was the only program that stressed having expert Iraqi citizens living abroad to take up assignments through the support of the IRI program. More here. In oil news, despite constant sabotage, oil exports in June have increased slightly over the May figure. In the south, "workers in South Oil Company are continuing in erecting and operating modern technological equipments, which were contracted to be supplied by Italian and French companies, in the very significant Majnoun oil well. This participates in doubling the current production to 100 thousand barrels a day, within the first stage of the local investment of the well." A major expo in a few months' time will link Iraq's oil and gas sector with expertise and investment from major international industry players: A projected $ 35-40 billion (Dhs 128.55-146.92 billion) is up for grabs as contractors vie to participate in rebuilding the Iraqi oil sector. OGS 2005, the premier Arab Oil and Gas Show which is to be held from November 7 to 9, 2005, at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre, is expected to be an important link between cutting-edge technology providers and investors in Iraq's resurgent Oil & Gas sector. In the 12th edition of its showing, OGS will provide companies with a platform to network and discuss business prospects, innovation and issues related to exploration, extraction, processing, storage, transportation and security in the oil and gas industry. "With investment in Oil & Gas infrastructure growing exponentially all across the GCC region, investors are increasingly on the look-out for technologies and services that provide the optimum combination of high return on investment and competitive edge in a dynamic global market-place. Iraqi authorities have also awarded their first tenders in a year to oil fields in Kirkuk, to ExxonMobil Corp., Total SA, Repsol YPF SA, and Tupras. Meanwhile, "eleven oil fields in southern Iraq, capable of boosting the country's production to three million barrels a day will soon be tendered to international investors." Says the oil ministry's spokesman, Asim Jihad, "We will seek foreign investments, that will allow us to develop our industry but without paving the way for foreign monopolies to take over." There is also increasing oil cooperation with foreign countries, for example Iran. And with Kuwait: "Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) intends to renew its contract with Iraqi authorities... The contract which includes supplying Iraq with oil products is expected to be renewed by Aug. 1." The U.S.-Iraq Joint Commission on Reconstruction and Economic Development has recently announced the development of the Iraq Oil Training Program, a $2 million training scheme for the Iraqi oil and gas sector. Says the Regional Director Carl Kress: "The IOTP is a significant step forward in supporting the modernization of Iraq’s oil industry, bringing together the U.S. public and private sectors to deliver the best available training in the oil and gas sector – for the benefit of the Iraqi people in the rebuilding of this vital sector... We expect USTDA’s investment in this project will be supplemented by substantial U.S. private sector and university resources, resulting in immediate and medium term training and capacity building benefits for the Ministry of Oil.” You can also read this story about the high-level debates about the future equitable management of Iraq's oil wealth. In comunication news, Iraq has announced that it will launch a bidding process for new mobile phone licences in July in London, five months before the licenses held by three main regional firms are set to expire. 'We will announce the opening of the process of bidding for the new mobile licences for Iraq... by holding a conference in London July 21-22,' Iraqi National Communications and Media Commission chief Siyamend Othman said. Egypt's telecom giant Orascom controls Iraq's central region, while mobile phone operations for the south are managed by Atheer, a branch of the Kuwaiti firm MTC, and the north is in the hands of Asiacell, a consortium of Iraqi and Gulf firms. As the report says, "communication experts predict there will be 5 mln mobile phone users in Iraq within three years and 8 mln within 10 years." "Iraqna's staff members have been taken captive and harassed, its infrastructure sabotaged and its network constantly jammed during US military operations," says this report on Orascom's operation, yet the Egyptian-owned company has proven to be a success story: Iraqna's subscription fees are now as low as $17 compared with $70 a year ago, but service in certain areas goes down for days sometimes... The company, which started in the Baghdad area and expanded to central and western Iraq and the southern port city of Basra, reported revenues of $63 million in the first quarter of 2005, up 200% from the same period one year ago. Despite its problems, Iraqna's service has been popular in a country where mobile phones were virtually non-existent under ousted president Saddam Hussein... As it seeks to hold on to its Iraq franchise, Orascom has sponsored the national football team, supported universities, helped people rebuild homes destroyed in the violence and funded a charity started by Kadhim al-Sahir, Iraq's best known pop star. Orascom intends to invest $2.5 billion in the Iraqi telecommunications market. In other communications news, Iraq's state-owned telecommunications company is launching a new and improved long-distance and international call system. And Iraq is also regaining its rightful place in cyberspace: Iraq hopes to bolster its sovereignty by putting the country's official domain name on the Internet within weeks. "We hope to announce very soon the return of Iraq's domain name '.iq' back on the Internet," Iraqi National Communications and Media Commission chief Siyamend Othman said on the sidelines of a forum in Jordan on developing his war-scarred country. "We are at the final stages of negotiations for the return of '.iq' and we are quite optimistic that we can do so in the coming weeks," Othman added Tuesday. Iraq is negotiating to get its place in cyberspace with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an international, non-profit organisation that is responsible for Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. The former head of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, Paul Bremer, asked ICANN in 2004 to take ownership of '.iq', which was initially registered several years ago. Business leaders in Iraq say the ability to create a presence on the Internet with websites ending in '.iq' will be a boost to commerce. In transport news, the Baghdad-Basra service commences successfully: Aboard Flight 15, over southern Iraq - The smiling flight attendants strode down the aisle of the Boeing 727 in crisp green uniforms, handing out cold cans of soda and pieces of cake. But it was more than just the food service, a throwback to another age of aviation, that brought a sense of relief to the passengers. Just minutes earlier, the plane had leveled off after a steep corkscrew ascent from Baghdad International Airport. It was cruising now at 23,000 feet. In one piece. No smoke trails from surface-to-air missiles, no rocket attacks, no mortar hits. "The flight will be good, God willing," Awadees Razoiam, 55, an oil geologist, said as he bit into his cake. Such is the scene aboard the Iraqi equivalent of the New York-to-Washington shuttle - a 55-minute hop between Baghdad and the southern oil city of Basra that costs $75 for a one-way coach ticket. The flight, begun this month, is the first domestic service operated by state-owned Iraqi Airways since the American-led invasion. There are no frequent-flier benefits and no free newspapers at the gate. But the flight allows quick and safe passage (relatively speaking) between the capital and the city at the heart of Iraq's economy, making it perhaps the most significant in-country transportation development since the war. And up north: "The Sulaimanyah International Airport, SIA, is ready to open, according to Kamaran Ahmed, supervisor of the SIA. Ahmed said that this week, the airport will receive the first experimental flight, which will be a plane flying in from Baghdad. After that flight, the airport will officially open. The first official flight will come from Jordan, carrying Planning Minister Barham Salih and Transportation Minister Salam al-Maliki." Meanwhile, on the ground: "On June 19, Iraqi workers finished construction on railroad stations in Balad and Baiji. These facilities will connect Salah al-Din with destinations throughout the provinces, bringing goods to customers and citizens in distant cities. Two important rail projects have already been completed in Kirkuk: the Kirkuk and al-Maraej stations have been rehabilitated. Throughout the rest of the nation, the Ministry of Transportation has more than 100 rail projects scheduled; 28 are currently being built, while 45 have been completed and are serving the people." USAID is assisting the growth of Iraqi agriculture through a variety of small scale projects around the country: - The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and USAID’s Agriculture Reconstruction and Development for Iraq (ARDI) program will repair two culverts in Babil Governorate that carry water underneath roadways to irrigate farmland. The efficient use of water and functioning irrigation systems are especially important in southern and central Iraq, where there is less rainfall... - Two media centers in northern Iraq are producing agricultural publications with funding from MOA and ARDI. Support for this activity is intended to increase the government’s capacity to produce high-quality publications that keep farmers apprised of best practices and issues in farming... - At a workshop in central Iraq, the MOA and ARDI recently launched a summer rice demonstration activity which could benefit thousand of farmers. During the event, specialists outlined challenges faced by Iraq’s rice farmers and explained how the new project will address these needs... - MOA/ARDI staff are also working to support apple farmers. An apple demonstration program, similar to the rice program, has designated several orchards around the country to demonstrate improved cultivation techniques. RECONSTRUCTION: After suspending loans to Iraq in 1985, the Japanese authorities will be resuming the initiative, with a $3.5 billion for the reconstruction work, chiefly in water and electricity. Saudi Arabia will be extending soft loans worth $1 billion for reconstruction. The United Nations is transferring $200 million from the "oil-for-food"-financed weapons inspections account to the Development Fund for Iraq to help finance the reconstruction effort. The Ministry of Municipalities and Works has assigned 51 billion and 490 million dinars ($35 million) for administration and construction projects during the current year: "one billion and 750 thousand dinars [$1.16 million] were designated for tiling roads, 5 billions [$3.4 million] for asphalting in the provinces, a 1 billion and 600 million dinars [$1 million] for rehabilitating municipality buildings and departments and 850 million dinars [$0.5 million] for fulfilling the needs of the municipality departments of cleaning machinery... [and] 16.5 billion dinars [$11 million] to execute new commitments and finish former commitments." Japanese authorities, meanwhile, are building and rebuilding roads in Al-Muthanna province: $862,000 to repair roads in Samawah ("The aid will enable the Department to carry out long-term repair of the damaged roads and to accelerate repair work. In Samawah, reconstruction activities are proceeding in various fields such as roads and electricity. Speeding up road repair in Samawah is expected to improve the traffic situation including alleviating congestion and activating even further the social and economic activities of the Samawah citizens."), $842,837 for Ar-Rumaitha ("With this aid, which will repair roads in the most severely damaged areas in central Rumaitha (a total of 10.57 km), it is expected to contribute to improving the lives of Rumaitha citizens and the welfare and stability of the community."), and $706,000 for Mutawag Al-Chibashi Road ("The aid, which will conduct emergency repairs (asphalt paving) of a part of the road (about 6.7km), is expected to improve the lives of the people in areas surrounding the road and to contribute to building and stabilizing the local community."). Here's more on Japanese road projects in southern Iraq. In Baghdad, the authorities are completing another housing project: A state-run construction firm has completed 70% of a major housing project in Baghdad, the Ministry of Housing and Reconstruction said. The project in Sabaa Abkar consists of 48 buildings and is expected to cost $5 million. The project covers an area of 72,500 square meters and includes a school, car parks and paved roads in addition to a 240-square meter market place. The project is one of several currently being implemented in Baghdad and other Iraqi provinces. USAID's Community Action Program, meanwhile, is helping small communities around the country help improve their local infrastructure. Currently (link in PDF), the CAP is assisting in installing water pipe, a water pump and a generator, as well as repairing the electricity network to provide potable water for a community of 1,100, 100 km outside Baghdad; in building a sports and recreation center in Wasit governorate; and in repairing 3 km of road in a community outside Mosul. In new water and sanitation projects, good news for residents of one Baghdad district: "Reconstruction gained momentum in the Nissan district of eastern Baghdad, where major sewer and water projects broke ground in Kamaliya and Oubaidi. After completing a site survey, workers began on the project that ultimately will create a sewer network serving 8,870 homes in Kamaliya. The area has never had underground sewage lines and relies on slit trenches, which leads to sewage pooling in the streets. The project will cost about $27 million and will employ 600 local workers at peak construction times. As the sewer project takes shape, an existing water distribution system will be rehabilitated. About 5,435 homes are slated to receive connections to the water main." In the district of Abu Ghraib, a new water project costing $450,000 will provide reliable drinking water to 40,000 residents. Baghdad's municipal authorities are currently conducting talks in Jordan with the representatives of the World Bank regarding the allocation of a $65 million grant for eight major water infrastructure projects in the capital. And north of the capital: "On June 27, a water treatment project was finished in Kirkuk, which will provide 5,000 people from four villages with clean, potable water, while another began in the northwestern Ninewah province. Eight water projects are programmed for construction in Mosul, and 34 water projects are programmed nationwide. Seven of those are under way, and 18 are complete." In Diyala province, one USAID project has just been finished (link in PDF): "USAID’s work at water and waste water treatment plants in Ad Dujayl (Diyala Governorate) is complete and the facilities are now servicing the city’s 60,000 residents . Work at the water treatment plant was completed on May 26 and on February 27 at the waste water treatment plant. The new water treatment plant will ensure delivery of a safe dependable water supply to the city. Prior to the work, the water treatment plant operated well below capacity, providing only 33 percent of the potable water needed for the region." And this joint effort is aiming to improve personal and agricultural access to water in rural areas of Iraq: As part of efforts to improve the hydraulic infrastructure in Iraq's rural areas, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Agriculture Reconstruction and Development for Iraq (ARDI) program are set to begin repairs of some discharge regulators – devices that help to limit and direct the flow of water through irrigation canals. Improving the hydraulic system in Iraq is central to the MOA/ARDI mission of increasing agricultural production throughout the country. In the center and south of Iraq, agriculture relies heavily on irrigation. But unfortunately most canals, drainage and hydraulic structures have not been properly maintained or replaced since they were installed in the 1980s. As part of a new project recently approved by USAID, MOA/ARDI will commence repairs on a discharge regulator that provides water to 10,000 donums (2,500 hectares) of land in central Iraq’s Qadissiyah Governorate. The increased ability to control water amounts will positively affect the livelihoods of 1,050 farm families who rely on the agricultural production from the adjacent land as their major source of income. In total, more than 7,000 Iraqis will benefit. In electricity news, there will be more fuel for the power stations: "The ministry of oil is going to increase daily fuel supplies delivered to the ministry of electricity by 2 million liters to reach 4.5 million liters instead of the current 2.5 million liters of daily supplies. Officials from the ministry of electricity welcomed this step that will 'allow the ministry to operate some idle units and enable the production of an additional 1000 mega watts of electricity' and this will reflect positively on the amount of power available from the national grid." As Iraqi blogger Omar comments: "It's worth mentioning that the peak power production has reached the 5000 mega watts milestone earlier this month and it is planned to increase that amount to 6000 mega watts by the end of this months. I hope their plans are good enough to provide the electricity we need; we've tolerated 15 years of electricity shortages so far and I really don't mind waiting for another year or two if I'm sure that the guys in charge are really doing all they can to improve the situation." Meanwhile, work at USAID projects around the country continues: Work continues on the installation of the V-94 combustion gas turbine at the Taza Substation in Kirkuk... The project’s Scope of Work includes the design, manufacture, delivery, installation, testing, and commissioning of one V-64 Combustion Gas Turbine (65MW nominal rating) and one V-94 Combustion Gas Turbine (260MW). Combined, these will supply 325MW to the national grid. The plant’s gas pipeline has also been extended by 15 kilometers to connect to a fuel source. Finally, plant operation and maintenance staff will receive training... Work is continuing on the rehabilitation of two units at the Doura power plant in southern Baghdad. Although its four steam boilers and turbines are each rated at 160MW, all have been poorly maintained for many years, largely due to spare parts shortages. Its cooling systems are now severely damaged so its turbines can no longer be operated at full-load without risk of further damage from overheating. As a result, the plant has operated far below its full-load rating of 640MW. Another USAID project is now starting to benefit southern Baghdad: "The new expansion of a power plant in south Baghdad is now producing electricity. The first firing of one of the expansion’s two combustion turbines — Unit 1B — took place a day ahead of schedule. On June 16, engineers synchronized Unit 1B with the grid and established a base load of 95 megawatts (MW). This plant expansion is producing megawatts for the Iraqi power grid before the critical summer peak." Baghdad airport will, meanwhile, soon benefit from another project: "Work is nearing completion on a project that will allow Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) to achieve 100 percent electrical self-sufficiency. The BIAP electrical system has an generation output design range of 18 to 22.3 MW and consists of three 33kV power transformers, 11kV and 400 V distribution systems, five diesel generators, and numerous smaller emergency generators." The authorities are also launching a crackdown to restore the integrity of the electricity network, as many Iraqis are illegally connected to the grid and do not pay for the access. In the education sector, USAID continues to assist Iraqi schools (link in PDF): A total of 504,458 Secondary School Student Kits have been distributed to students in 2,244 secondary schools in Iraq. This initiative is being coordinated through Iraq’s Ministry of Education (MOE) which will coordinate distribution of the remaining 20,542 kits. Each kit contains 10 Arabic exercise books, one English exercise book, one drawing set, one lab notebook, 12 pencils, four pencil sharpeners, four erasers, a ruler, and a calculator... Ten thousand out of school Iraqi youth aged 12-18 will attend Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) schools beginning in the fall that will allow them to make up for two missed years of primary school in one year. ALP schools will be identified by each Department of Education and will receive special kits for classrooms, teachers and students. The program is being implemented by UNICEF with USAID support. Fifteen ALP resource persons are being trained this month in Amman; each will go on to train 17 trainers in each of the participating governorates. A total of 2,000 teachers country-wide will be trained to teach in the ALP schools, and 1,000 students will be enrolled in each participating governorate. Meanwhile, on the local level, "the ministry of education has designated a sum of 30 billion dinars [$20 million] to establish 40 new schools in Nainawa province... the current period would witness establishing 42 rural schools and demolishing 136 schools, built of clay, and replacing them with new schools. In addition, 72 suites would be added to a number of the schools of the villages and countryside in the province." In higher education, USAID's Higher Education and Development (HEAD) program, is linking American and Iraqi universities to provide Western resources and expertise in rebuilding Iraqi higher education system. In most recent initiatives (link in PDF): Health faculty members at Jackson State University (JSU) are developing curriculum and course materials that will be shared with two major Iraqi universities... The materials include a Comparative Health Systems course and comparative analyses of health systems in the U.S., UK, Canada, Iraq, Oman, and Egypt. Lectures, suggested reading lists, assignments and sample examinations are also included with course materials. Also under the JSU and the Mississippi Consortium for International Development partnership, seven faculty members - primarily doctors and engineers - from several major Iraqi medical education institutes received minigrants for Several laboratories and libraries are being refurbished and reequipped under the HEAD partnership with the University of Oklahoma (UO). Biology laboratory equipment was recently delivered to a Basrah university. A UO staff member will set up the equipment and train Iraqis on its use in June. Soil science, veterinary medicine and global mapping laboratories will be established at the five universities participating in the HEAD/UO partnership. UO recently established an advanced geography lab at a major Iraqi technical university which is being utilized by over 400 students, 100 of whom are women. At the new lab, students use modern GIS/GPS technologies to process satellite imagery to analyze changes in Iraq’s environment, climate and infrastructure. UO staff will be conducting workshops and instructing lab staff in the maintenance and use of the equipment and labolatories. UO has also refurbished university libraries including the internet computer center and library at the University of Babil which officially opened in May. The Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) and the Harvard University libraries will train Iraqi librarians, archivists and information professionals "in the current practices of archives and preservation, automation, collection development, curriculum development, digital libraries, management, reference and organization of knowledge." Meanwhile, the authorities have assigned additional 63 billion dinars ($43 million) for increased salaries for Iraqi academics. More here: The salary raise is good news for the university faculty whose members had to make ends meet with an average of 15,000 dinars a month (less than 10 dollars) under the former leader Saddam Hussein. The new raise will see salaries of faculty with the title of professor rising up to $1,000. It brings salaries at Iraqi universities close to those in neighboring Jordan, so far a magnet for the country’s brain drain. Iraq has the highest percentage of people with higher degrees in the Middle East. According to official statistics the proportion of people with Ph.D.s in Iraq is higher even than in advanced countries. Iraqi universities run their own post-graduate programs and 390 doctoral candidates are expected to join the University of Baghdad alone this year. There are 12 universities in the country running their own Ph.D. studies. In health news, Iraqi doctors are about to be offered greater incentives and rewards: The Iraqi Ministry of Health (MoH) announced this week that they are going to respond to a request from doctors to increase their salaries. "Doctors in Iraq are still receiving insufficient salaries and their work should be respected. We expect that in the coming month their salaries will be raised according to their positions," Jalil al-Shummary, deputy ministry of health, said. Under Saddam Hussein's regime, doctors in Iraq received less than US $ 20 per month. After the war that ousted him in 2003, salary increases of up to $ 200 per month were awarded to doctors. The health ministry now hopes to offer further increments of up to 200 percent. The World Health Organisation is providing supplies and equipment for various areas of Iraqi health system: As of mid-June 2005, laboratory equipment, reagents/kits and consumables valued at US$1.87 million have been received in Amman, out of which US$1.5 million have delivered to the Ministry of Health Nutrition Research Institute Food Control Laboratory in Baghdad... Three truck loads of diagnostic kits, monitors and ophthalmology supplies and equipment were delivered into Baghdad this week by WHO. This delivery forms part of the integral support given by WHO to the Ministry of Health under the UNDG ITF Mental Health and Non-Communicable Disease Programme to strengthen health facilities with regards to the reduction and prevention and blindness.The WHO is also training Iraqi specialists: Nine Iraqi technicians arrived in Cairo on the 25th June 2005 to start a period of intensive training courses at the Drug Control, Analysis and Research Centre in Egypt, which are due to last between two -- four weeks each... 37 participants from the Iraqi Ministry of Health the Ministry of Higher Education this week completed the first National Training Course on Management of Public Health Risks in Disasters and Complex Emergencies, being conducted by WHO in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre. In other WHO contribution: "The World Health Organisation has pledged a sum of six million dollars to support a polio vaccination campaign in Iraq, which the Iraqi health ministry has been bringing to all the provinces of the country... [According to ministry spokesman], 'the initial results demonstrate that the first four days of the campaign, had achieved success in 90 percent of the cases, but we hope that in the fifth and sixth day to cover 95 percent of the cases predicted for the first phase, regardless of the difficulties that the medical team has been facing in certain regions because of the ongoing fighting and high temperatures'." In other recent health news: "On June 22, one of 167 medical clinic projects planned for the country got under way. A $656,000 clinic in the Khanaqin district of Diyala province, in which Baghdad is located, is one of two programmed for construction in the district. Both are now under construction." Lastly, the southern marshes destroyed by Saddam are strongly coming back to life: Water now inundates 3,350 square kilometers of Iraqi marshes which the former regime had drained and turned into desert, according to the Minister of Water Resources Abdulatif al-Rashid. In a statement faxed to the newspaper, Rashid said his ministry has completed what he described as “two strategic projects” in the area which made the inundation possible. Rashid said flooding the area with water was not the only goal of his ministry. “The ministry is pressing ahead with efforts to reclaim the land, provide water for irrigation and boost agriculture,” he said in the statement. “The ministry has succeeded in expanding the flooded areas which now form 40% of the southern marshes,” he said. The news is a major success story for a government embroiled in corruption and a bloody war against mounting insurgent attacks. Water now flows into scores of small rivers and streams the former regime had either blocked or filled with earth. HUMANITARIAN AID: USAID is working with the disabled in one province (link in PDF): USAID’s Community Action Program (CAP) partner working in As Sulaymaniyah conducted a ten day workshop for people with disabilities. The training covered two key areas: training of trainers, and advocacy and fundraising for associations of disabled people. Participants included representatives of the disabled community and staff from the CAP partner in the region. Participants returned to their governorates planning to conduct presentations that would promote the rights of the disabled and demonstrate techniques to include persons with disabilities in the community. These presentations will raise awareness among community leaders and members about the issues disabled people in their community face. Commenting on the benefits of the training, one participant said, “The end of the ten-day training marks the beginning of a lifelong journey.” Italians are making a valuable contribution to health system in Baghdad: As insurgents continue the upsurge in attacks in Baghdad, the Italian hospital there is one of the few foreign hospitals continuing to treat Iraqi citizens, despite the deteriorating security situation and the incidents of foreigners being kidnapped. The hospital director, Dr Donato D'Agostino, of the Italian Red Cross, told Adnkronos International (AKI) that "the organisation was set up in Baghdad in April 2003 with Italian Red Cross employees as well as Iraqi support staff." Since then it has treated 21,000 gravely ill people and 11,000 emergency cases. The hospital's work is spread over two main sections, one for burn wounds and one for children's illnesses, and also includes an emergency burns unit and a day clinic. "There are beds for 150 patients a day and another 40-50 burn victims. We have twelve Italian staff and 95 Iraqis, including 60 doctors and nurses," said D'Agostino. "The hospital, which is completely free, is run along European lines and we have trained Iraqis who will carry on our work when we leave Iraq," he told AKI. Here's more of Italian medical assistance: A flight carrying a group of 50 Iraqis, including 13 people requiring bone-marrow transplants, their relatives and donors, on Friday left Baghdad for Rome, Italy where they will receive free medical treatment as part of an Italian government-sponsored programme... During the programme's first phase, Iraqi patients will be treated by the Italy-based Mediterranean Institute of Haematology, while in subsequent phases, Iraqi doctors and other medical workers will receive training in Italy. In term of the agreement, the Italy will support the creation of bone-marrow transplant facilites at hospitals in Baghdad, Mosul and Nassiriya. A 14-year old girl continues to receive medical attention in the United States: Still healing from her second major facial surgery, Eman Hashim will stay in the United States this summer, rather than return to her native Iraq this month, as planned. The 14-year-old girl, born with a severe facial deformity, will live with a host family in Virginia Beach and will likely have a third surgery in September. Her father, Khalid, plans to leave for Iraq on July 19 but will come back to Hampton Roads before the next operation, said Lisa Jones, a spokeswoman for Operation Smile. The Norfolk-based nonprofit group has paid for Eman to have surgery here two years in a row. Every little bit helps as local communities become motivated to help: Graham Leonard, an East Tennessee native and former Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, was asked by the Sevier County Democratic Club to share his experiences as an embedded journalist for the Beirut Star for five weeks this past spring. About 100 residents attended the town meeting held at Sevierville Civic Center... While Leonard was "praising the positive work in Iraq of Tennessee's 278th National Guard," he mentioned in particular the great work the soldiers are doing to help the children of Iraq and their schools. "Leonard asked if we were sending things to Iraq and said, 'Don't send them candy. Send school supplies - the schools are desperate for basic school supplies,'" said Anderson. That statement became a call to action for the Democratic Club and its Young Democrats, and within three weeks, a yard sale had been organized to raise funds for the project in a nonpartisan, nonpolitical way... The money raised bought 11 boxes of notepads, pens, pencils, crayons, markers, modeling clay, scissors, paper, construction paper, dry erase boards, tape and other items. In addition, Donna and Joey Strickland, local business owners and members of the Democratic Club, personally donated three boxes of inflatable Frisbees, yo-yos and plastic rulers to send. So you too can make the difference. US troops in Iraq are overwhelmed by public support for one of their programs: Task Force Baghdad Soldiers said they have been overwhelmed and overjoyed by donations Americans have been sending to a program designed to provide school supplies, clothes and toys to Iraqi children. The Iraqi Schools Program, founded by Maj. Greg Softy in August 2003, is currently being managed by the Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd infantry Division. Softy was the squadron operations officer with 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division. Iraqi Schools is a widely-successful program that links the American people at home with an actual neighborhood of Iraqis who need help. The enormous generosity of Americans has allowed 3rd Bn., 7th Inf. Reg., known as the Cottonbalers, to distribute vital school supplies, medical supplies and clothing to local Iraqis in need. As of May 25, 42,682 packages had been received with 1,013,274 pounds of school supplies, clothing, and toys distributed in the West Rashid area of Baghdad. There is also help from the neighbor: Syria has been supplying Iraq with water since mid-June in a show of solidarity with the Iraqi people "who are passing through very delicate circumstances", the state-run al-Thawra newspaper reported Tuesday, quoting Syrian Irrigation Minister Nader al-Buni. Al-Buni told al-Thawra that Syria has supplied Iraq with 670 million cubic metres of water per second from the Euphrates River over the past two weeks, adding that the supply will continue for the next three months. THE COALITION TROOPS: The troops continue to collaborate with local authorities to improve the conditions of local residents: In the midst of rebuilding a nation, local leaders here also want to rebuild their image with their citizens and their potential voters. Much like U.S. military leaders and supporters of the coalition forces here, Iraqi governors want their residents to read about more than suicide car bombings and watch news coverage that includes more than insurgent terror. They want them to know they are working to stem the violence while fixing leaking sewer systems, collecting trash and figuring out ways to get more electrical power into cities throughout north-central Iraq. “We know that terrorism targets everybody,” the governor of Kirkuk province, Abdel Rahman Mostafa, said at a press conference in Baqubah, in neighboring Diyala province. “It concerns a lot of people.” The governors from Kirkuk, Diyala, Salah Ad Din and Sulimaniyah gathered Saturday for a bi-monthly meeting with U.S. generals whose troops patrol the same provinces. The governors condemned the violence and said they are working together to come up with strategies to beat the insurgents. But they also said they are working hard to collaborate on improvement projects, such as sewage, utility and school renovations. As the report notes, "in Diyala alone, $207 million has been earmarked for 260 improvement projects ranging from building a hydroelectric dam to buying medical equipment for hospitals to repaving roads, according to Capt. Myers Smith, a project coordinator for the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, which is working with the New York guard in Iraq. A map in Smith’s office shows the hundreds of ongoing projects. Right now, the process of prioritizing, writing specifications, bidding and approving projects is a joint effort by the Americans and the Iraqis, Smith said." The troops around Balad are trying to make a difference in every small way they can, while at the same time preparing the local authorities to take over more responsibilities: Soldiers from Task Force Liberty are working to improve the way of life for Iraqis while also teaching them to develop reconstruction projects on their own. Task Force 1-128 is helping local villages to facilitate projects that will aid them in getting clean drinking water, renovating their schools, improving their agriculture and receiving supplies for their medical clinics. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment, Wisconsin Army National Guard and Troop K, 3rd Squadron, 278th Armored Calvary Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard, make up TF 1-128 and are actively working to train and prepare the local Iraqi security forces and government officials to take control of everyday operations in Iraq... [Capt. Paul] Shannon said his Soldiers are not conducting large reconstruction projects; they are just trying to improve the villages a little bit at a time. "It is not much," he said. "I am not building entire schools at this point. I am just fixing roofs that leak, providing fresh water tanks for the children, small things of that nature." The Soldiers have been helping improve a water treatment plant, the roofs of a school and local clinic, but soon they will be turning these types of missions over to the city council and local security forces, Shannon said. The troops are also engaged in an ambitious program of health infrastructure construction: With its infant mortality rate for children under 5 a staggering 14.2 percent and 12.8 percent for children under 12 months old, Iraq needs much more than a temporary solution to its crippling dilemma. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, these figures have risen sharply since 1991. Now, with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region South District (GRS) and the Project and Contracting Office (PCO), 150 new primary health care facilities, of three different types, are being built, with 60 scheduled to be constructed in the southern Iraq, according to Juan Vargas, PCO health program manager. “This project was coordinated at the Ministry of Health in Baghdad,” said Vargas. “Project sites were based on demographics and needs. The ministry decided which type of clinic they wanted at each location.” The $80 million program for the 60 southern clinics does not include administrative costs, according to Dr. Shah Alam, GRS program manager. The figure does include program and medical equipment costs. “The nice thing about it is there is a real need for the clinic program and it feels good to know that something good is coming to the people.” He said that each clinic would cost about $800 thousand to build, and another $500 thousand in medical equipment costs, bringing the total package for each clinic to $1.4 to $1.5 million. Again around Balad, troops are working to improve the quality of drinking water for the locals: Turning on the kitchen sink to get a glass of clean water is not an option for Iraqis here, but Task Force Liberty soldiers are helping to change that by bringing fresh water close to their front doors. The area has palm trees, green grass, fresh crops and a variety of water sources to include canals, lakes and streams, but the villagers still don’t have fresh drinking water. That is why the soldiers from Task Force 1-128 are installing water treatment facilities to turn these non-purified water sources into drinkable water... [U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jean] Briggs said they began the project by purchasing four water purification systems for the area and have been working with local Iraqis to run water lines to their homes. “Task force commanders have been paying locals to lay down pipe from the water tanks and run it along the roads,” Briggs said. “We install spigots in front of each house.” Providing clean water for the Iraqis is important Briggs said, but they hope someday the Iraqis will get purified running water in their homes. “It is the best we can do right now,” he said. “It is a quick fix until we get to a point in this whole operation where we can install plumbing directly into the homes, but for them, it is a big step just to have it at the front door.” Water is also on the mind around Yusifiyah: The Tigris River is the lifeblood of the Arab J'Bour village and other rural farming communities in Yusufiyah , Iraq . With that in mind, 48th Brigade Combat Team civil affairs Soldiers paid a visit to the Yusufiyah water pumping Station on July 4 to follow up on the progress of military engineering efforts there. Thousands of families rely on the water supplied by the pumping station. A predominantly farming region, the need for water factors greatly into the community's ability to flourish. Servicing a vital irrigation reservoir, the pumping station feeds from the only abundant water source, the Tigris River . Maintaining functionality of the pumping station has been challenging... Initial surveys indicate 12 pumps are needed to supply the region, but current power availability levels only allow eight to operate. The plant has its own generators, but they are old and require constant repairs. Wiring problems are also an issue. A new generator was recently delivered to the site and the 48th BCT has arranged for two more to be delivered by mid-July. This will benefit farming efforts enormously. As local apricot farmer Hamid says: "I thank you for everything... My dream is to one day visit your country and repay you for all of your kindness, God willing." In Babil province, soldiers from Task Force 2-11 are helping the locals with a variety of projects to improve local areas: Six Iraqi flags stand in a room where U.S. Army Lt. Andrew Browne meets with Hadi Bardi Khadum, an Iraqi contractor. For 45 minutes, Lt. Browne and Khadum discuss a project to clean irrigation canals in the North Babil province. North Babil is a predominantly agricultural province located 30 miles south of Baghdad. Due to a buildup of sediment, vegetation, and pollution, many of North Babil's canals are unsuitable for irrigation. Browne and Khadum plan to clean nine kilometers of the canals within ten days. Within 30 days, the projects Browne has assisted with will have cleaned over seven times that amount. Over the course of the conversation, the two men look over a map of North Babil, they review a contract, and they discuss long-term effects of the project for the people of the province. With the assistance of an Iraqi translator, Browne and Khadum agree to a start date. The meeting marks business as usual for Browne, who serves as Task Force 2-11 Armored Cavalry Regiment's Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer. The CMO officer ensures projects in Task Force 2-11's area of operations are properly funded. Project funding is supported in-theater as a part of the Commander's Emergency Response Program. Humanitarian missions continue, like this one: On June 24, 2005, soldiers from Headquarters, Charlie Battery and Headquarters Colt Team of the 2nd Battalion 114th Field Artillery, headquartered in Starkville, Miss., commanded by Lt. Col. Gary Huffman, in cooperation with the Iraqi Army, conducted a Medical/Humanitarian Assistance Mission at the Al Talia School near Forward Operating Base Lima in Karbala. Their mission, designed to provide basic medical and humanitarian assistance to the local population, resulted in the screening, treatment, and referral of approximately 250 people by a medical team that included doctors, nurses, and medics from Iraq and the United States in Karbala. Soldiers distributed 300 bags filled with food, water, and other supplies useful to a family household. During the operation the soldiers cooperated with the Iraqi Army in providing security and quick reaction forces. Prior to the mission they assisted with key planning and coordination that resulted in successful support for the Coalition and Iraqi Army Personnel involved in the effort. Sometimes humanitarian missions combine health support with other humanitarian elements: Soldiers from A Company, 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry; C Company, 199th Forward Support Battalion; and 1st Battalion, 141st Field Artillery, all of the 256th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division held a medical clinic and distributed supplies at a school in the Hateen area of Baghdad July 5. Maj. Kathy Champion, from Olympia, Wash., commander of A Co., 448th Civil Affairs Battalion, attached to 256th BCT, is also a physician. "As long as I’m helping the Iraqi people I’m doing my job, whether I’m serving as a doctor, or as a civil affairs officer," she said... The event was coordinated by leadership of A Co. 3-156th, and 1st Lt. Jeremy Falanga from Baton Rouge, La., executive officer for the company, said the collaboration of many elements, beginning with the Iraqi population, is what made the day a success. "We set everything up through the local officials, and they spread the word to the community that we were going to provide medicine and health care today," he said. He added that another group of Soldiers gave the citizens something to go home with. "We also had the 1-141st doing Kids for Kids, passing out school supplies, school bags, and toys," said Falanga. Kids for Kids is a program started in February 2005 by Soldiers from 1-141st FA. It began as a tasking from their higher command which they developed into the website, www.childrenofbaghdad.com, asking for clothing, toiletries, and everyday necessities for Iraqi children. The site resulted in thousands of donations from the United States over the past several months, and it will soon expand even more. This Indiana serviceman is on a mission to help Iraqi children: The children had no shoes. They were running and playing in glass, trash and even sewage, hoping the soldiers in the convoy would toss them a treat. The sight of their small, bare feet deeply affected U.S. Army Capt. Doug Hedrick, Indianapolis, who was riding from Baqouba to Baghdad in Iraq. "I sat in silence feeling overwhelmed with how many different ways these children need help," Hedrick said in an e-mail to fellow members of Grace Community Church in Noblesville. Then it hit him -- what he calls God's intention for his tour of duty. Hedrick, 36, knew he wanted to take part in a humanitarian project. And there it was, as plain as -- shoes. He was going to help supply new shoes for Iraq's kids. The soldier is a chaplain with a medic team. "Live a Life Worth Living!" is his motto on his e-mails. Too often, the worthy life and attendant acts of kindness in Iraq are eclipsed by suicide bombers and other horrors. Too often we get only the stories and images that leave us discouraged or terrified. Not today. Hedrick's project is "Noah's Shoes." He is fascinated with the biblical story of Noah -- a time when "God decided to give the human race a future hope." The people of Iraq, he said, are in that same place, in a season of new beginnings. Soldiers continue supporting Iraqi education system. In a southern province, the Army engineers have completed a school reconstruction program: Headmasters at three mud schools took charge of their new brick and concrete replacement schools as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Southern District signed the schools over to the education minister in the Babil Province after local laborers completed the three projects May 15. All three mud school replacement schools boast 12 classrooms instead of the usual six, according to Valerie Schaffner, Buildings, Health and Education project manager for the mud school replacement projects. The usual six-classroom design was geared to smaller rural areas, servicing about 100 students, and the schools in Babil - Yaum Al Huria; Al Masoodi and Al Ma’rij - serve 275, 370 and 590 students respectively. “The cost was about $160,000 per school,” said Schaffner. “That includes storage space, student and teachers’ bathrooms, electricity for fans, a partially paved playground area and a security fence around the school.” She added that, because of security risks in the area, no opening day ceremonies were be held. These schools will be getting some new furniture for the teachers and the headmasters’ offices. Schaffner said that originally, 38 schools mud schools were to be replaced throughout southern Iraq, but that the number has increased to 40. “We saved enough in negotiations to build two more, which we are now writing contracts for but are not yet advertised,” said Schaffner. “The $4 million program, funded by the Iraq Restoration and Reconstruction Funds, now is paying for 40 new schools, 36 of which are the standard six-classroom design and four – these three in Babil and one more in the Karbala Province – are of the larger, 12-classroom design.” Meanwhile, Utah National Guardsmen are trying to help Iraqi schoolchildren and in the process win some young hearts and minds: The children run along the edge of the road as the trucks rumble by. Hands outstretched, hoping for candy and small toys, they bend their fingers into awkward "thumbs up," "OK" and "V for victory" signs. Many of Iraq's adults may long ago have grown tired of seeing American troops on their streets, but soldiers in the area of Najaf, about 80 miles south of Baghdad, say the country's children are different. "Amerikee," the children yell, again and again, whenever they see passing GIs... "They seem to love the Americans and we need to work with that," said Jolleen Larson, whose husband is a member of the 115th Maintenance Company of the Utah National Guard. "We want them to have more experiences of seeing Americans really trying to help them." To that end, Larson and other Utah Guard family members have begun to collect supplies for two Najaf-area schools adopted by American soldiers, including many from the 115th. The schools are small and simple. Built by the British in the 1930s, one was crumbling when the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit came upon it last year. The unit built a new building and furnished it with new desks and blackboards. In their off hours, soldiers like Rusty Larson are now building school furniture - desks for teachers, bookcases and other items specifically requested by the headmaster. In other similar recent action: "U.S. soldiers from Task Force 1-128 and the Iraqi army took a day off from their normal security patrols June 28 and handed out school supplies, clothes and shoes in a few small villages during a combat patrol. The soldiers distributed more than 60 boxes of goods containing more than 100 pairs of shoes, assorted clothes and hundreds of pounds of school supplies such as pens, pencils, notebooks and paper to children and families in the villages of Albouhaswa, Ahmed Hajam and Jaafaral Jalaby." The troops also try to supplement the work of the over-stretched and under-resourced Iraqi health system: As the story goes, a good Samaritan helped an injured stranger along a well-traveled road in the Middle East more than 2,000 years ago. Today, hundreds of miles farther east, reservists of the 433rd Medical Squadron are working with about 140 Airmen of the 59th Medical Wing at Wilford Hall Medical Center here, Army medics and Australians to help those who need medical care -- friends and strangers alike. "We see everybody, Iraqi army, coalition soldiers and bad guys," said Col. (Dr.) Russ Turner, the 59th Aeromedical Dental Group commander deployed as commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group at Balad Air Base, Iraq. "We don't turn anybody away, because there is nowhere to go." And in public health, the troops are also introducing programs to keep the streets cleaner: Along with human waste and other sewage, solid waste has inundated Baghdad’s streets for decades, contributing to sewer backups, disease, and a tainted water supply. With the establishment of all-Iraqi contracted neighborhood dumpsters, trash collection and removal teams, and trash transfer points, the practice of littering the streets is slowly starting to change. "We are working with the Iraqi communities to train them on proper trash removal plans," said Lt Col. Jamie Gayton, commander of 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. Trash removal was the focal point of essential service support for 1st Cavalry Division when they arrived in Baghdad in 2003, and has continued to be a priority for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team since early this year, Gayton said. USAID provides grants for cleaning projects. As the report notes, "currently, there are 96 surface cleaning projects ongoing in the 2nd BCT area of operations, employing 6,800 Iraqis. In the second week of June, 946,000 pounds of trash were collected in east Baghdad – 418,000 pounds more than were collected six weeks ago." The troops are also training Iraqi fire-fighters: Actions speak louder than words - particularly in Iraq. Such is absolutely the case, every morning, when Baghdad Fire Chief, Laith Abbas, gets out of bed and heads to work. Each day, he faces the reality that there is a significant “price on his head” by those who would destroy efforts to build a democracy in Iraq. However, for the good of the country, there are those - like this intense, wiry professional - who strive each day, one difficult step at a time, to build their part of what they hope will soon become an active, viable democracy... Recently, he took a moment from his hectic schedule to view fire fighting training by the teams from seven of Baghdad’s fire stations, representing slightly less than 10% of Baghdad’s total firefighter force. On this sweltering 120 degree afternoon, these activities were being conducted by Staff Sgt. Michael DiDonato, of the 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion in the Government Support Team, of the 3rd Infantry Division. Chief Abbas paused briefly from his “active observation” to note that “before the war, we had only empty fire trucks that did not work and no equipment.” And training in those days? “None,” conveys his rueful expression. But such is no longer the case. “Sgt. D,” as the Iraqis he teaches fondly call him, cites that over the last nine months nearly 500 of Baghdad’s fire fighters have undergone various aspects of training. Some of the training that he has overseen includes first aid, drivers training, engine driven water pumping, drafting from a water source, advancing a hose line into a blaze, application of fire foam and thermo imaging camera work. It's not just the American troops. Here's the latest Italian contribution: An inauguration ceremony has been held to open a bridge built by the Italian contingent in the Dhi Qar governorate in the south of Iraq where the force is based. The iron bridge - which is around 60 metres long and four and a half metres high - crosses a stretch of public water known as 'Saddam's river'. Ahmad al-Shaykh, the vice governor of Dhi Qar, told Adnkronos International (AKI) at the inauguration ceremony, which was also attended by the commander of the Italian force in Iraq, that "the bridge, built in a remote agricultural area, responds to the needs of farmers, by making it easier for them to sell their produce." "This project is part of a series of civil initiatives the Italian forces have offered the city in all sectors," he explained. The Italian troops also defused two bombs that had been planted close to where the inauguration ceremony was being held. The Italian contingent in Iraq has also offered to pay for a green belt of trees which will be planted around the new Dhi Qar University, which is to be built in the western part of Nassiriya. The rector of the university, Riyad Shantah, told AKI: "the green belt will be ten kilometres long and will surround the university buildings to protect them from the dust of the city, which is a particular problem during the summer." He went on to add: "next year the university has decided to open a department for the teaching of the Italian language in the arts faculty and another faculty in the Jabaysh area in the lake district, which will be completely funded and equipped by Italy." Lastly, not forgetting that the Iraqis themselves contribute in various ways to the Coalition effort, read the story of this Iraqi refugee who has now returned to his country and works as a translator for the American troops in Fallujah. SECURITY: Despite the perception of spiralling violence, the official Iraqi count of civilian and security casualties indicates that violence has actually decreased in June. While the numbers are still high, "in June, data provided by the Iraqi ministries of defence, health and the interior showed that 430 people had died in attacks and 933 were wounded, a drop of more than one-third from May's death toll of 672 dead. The number of wounded was down by 20%." There is also some cautious optimism from military commanders in Iraq: U.S. and Iraqi forces have "mostly eliminated" the ability of insurgents to conduct sustained, high-intensity attacks in Baghdad, the top U.S. commander in the Iraqi capital said Friday. Maj. Gen. William G. Webster Jr. said in a video-teleconference interview from Baghdad with reporters at the Pentagon that offensive operations by U.S. and Iraqi troops in recent weeks had sharply reduced the number of insurgent bombings. But he cautioned against concluding that the insurgency has been broken. "It's very difficult to know it's over," Webster said. There were 14 to 21 car bombings per week in Baghdad before the May 22 start of the U.S. portion of the latest offensive, dubbed Operation Lightning, he said. That has dropped to about seven or eight a week now, Webster said, attributing the improvement to the disruption of insurgent cells and the availability of more and better intelligence. There are also indications that terrorists are starting to lose the propaganda war in the Arab media. While the US is still being blamed for the violence, Iraq's suicide bombers are getting increasingly bad press: Al Jazeera - often accused by the Americans of stirring anti-US feeling - has adopted less of an "Us and Them" approach. The militants are no longer referred to as the "resistance" but as gunmen or suicide bombers. Eyewitnesses are shown denouncing them as "terrorists" - condemnations that are echoed by a parade of Iraqi officials and religious authorities. One recent attack drew this comment from the al-Jazeera reporter: "Most of the time it's civilians who pay the price for the violence that has cost thousands of their lives". Al-Jazeera's main rival, the Dubai-based al-Arabiya, has also shown little sympathy for the bombers - a recent report, instead, painted a favourable picture of British soldiers patrolling Basra... In Iraq itself, two of the most widely available channels, al-Iraqiya and al-Sharqiya, have consistently portrayed the suicide bombers as trying to destroy the country rather than liberate it... Iraqi papers have also increasingly expressed anguish and anger over the civilian toll, with one paper, al-Bayan, recently commenting that " terrorism had exceeded all moral limits". Another Iraqi paper, al-Dustur, has called on Iraqis to wake up to the fact that they are the targets of terrorism and to unite to fight back against it. In the wider Arab world, several newspapers have condemned the killings in Iraq - for example, the Saudi al-Jazeera - unconnected to the television channel - said that they were a "black mark on the whole Islamic world". There are reports of conflict between Iraqis and Al Qaeda fighters - the so-called "red on red" fighting: American troops on the Syrian border are enjoying a battle they have long waited to see - a clash between foreign al-Qa'eda fighters and Iraqi insurgents. Tribal leaders in Husaybah are attacking followers of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born terrorist who established the town as an entry point for al-Qa'eda jihadists being smuggled into the country. The reason, the US military believes, is frustration at the heavy-handed approach of the foreigners, who have kidnapped and assassinated local leaders and imposed a strict Islamic code. There are also reports that approaches by people connected with the insurgency to American authorities have doubled since the January election. Meanwhile up north, "for the first time, hundreds of Qayara citizens of Mosul have demonstrated to protest the insurgency. More than 1,500 civilians and military personnel from different villages south of Mosul gathered in Qayara city to denounce the insurgency that is overwhelming Iraq. The demonstration comes at the initiative of clerics, Imams, and government officials who feel the necessity to announce their stance against terrorism. They want to prove that most Iraqis oppose terrorism, which will be defeated by the will of Iraqis." Staff Sergeant Geoff Wagner is part of the 155th Armored Brigade of the Mississippi Army National Guard also sees positive trends: He says thanks to the combined efforts of the American troops and Iraqi military and law enforcement personnel, the number of car bombings and other incidents involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are decreasing, and the terrorists are having a hard time finding recruits. "Over the last two months," Wagner notes, "I can count probably ten terrorists who have blown themselves up trying to set IEDs. They're just not trained, and they're taking quick money, and there are just not enough people to actually perform the job." Although the terrorist insurgents have been very active in the area where the 155th is deployed, Wagner says because of the activity of the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police as well as the U.S. soldiers, much of that movement has dissipated since the U.S. troops got there. "Actually, we were taking anywhere from 15 to 20 bombing attacks in a week's time," he notes, "and now it's less than five. So the terrorists are moving out of our area, and they're having a lot of difficulty recruiting." You can also visit this safest town in Iraq: The raging violence and mounting insurgent activities in Baghdad and many other areas make it hard to believe that there is a violence-free spot in Iraq. But thank God there is at least one place with low crime incidence and almost no bombs. That place is the city of Kut, 100 kilometers south of Baghdad and home to about 500,000 people. In this city the nascent police forces have almost full authority. It is the place where the rule of law and not the gun prevails. “We have a high degree of cooperation between the security forces and the citizens,” declared Latif al-Tarfa, the governor of the Province of Wasit of which Kut is the capital. “I do not say there are no attempts to sow sedition and incite violence in the province but with the help of our residents we have managed to foil all of them,” he added. “We are proud of our social coexistence which we have enjoyed for decades and would not let that be undermined,” he said. In Baghdad, paradoxes of security situation: During a week when insurgents killed at least 15 U.S. soldiers across Iraq, four American soldiers on a foot patrol through the middle-class Karada district of the capital felt secure enough to stop at a kebab stand for shawarma sandwiches, greasy slices of chicken wrapped in pita bread. "I'm encouraging soldiers to perform more dismounted patrols and to have more face-to-face interactions with Iraqis," said U.S. Army Col. Edward Cardon, commander of a 3rd Infantry Division brigade that covers much of Baghdad. College student Degha Abdul Hamid drove a girlfriend to the lively Zayona commercial strip to shop for shoes and handbags, a previously unheard-of foray for the two single women since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq more than two years ago. "It's better now, much better," Hamid, 28, said. "I feel safer and I stay out later." Life these days in Baghdad is paradoxical. On one hand, the level of bloodshed caused by the insurgency continues to increase. At the same time, with Iraqi police and soldiers maintaining an increased presence on the streets, controlling traffic and fighting everyday crime, many residents say they feel secure enough to attempt to lead more normal lives. Read the rest of the article; there's plenty interesting anecdotal evidence there. Speaking of Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers from the 6th Battalion of the 5th Division have now officially taken over from the American forces the control over security in the so-called "Green Zone", which houses most of the government and administration buildings. And in Mosul, Army Maj. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander of the Multinational Force Northwest, reports that the Iraqi troops are also making progress, with more troops coming onboard from training every month and insurgent attacks decreasing slightly. Meanwhile, "on June 1, in the first move of its kind, coalition forces officially transferred full responsibility for security at a base in Dibbis to the Iraqi army." Training of Iraqi security forces continues. NATO is finally coming onboard to help with this task: The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has announced the opening of a new training centre in the capital, Baghdad, for Iraqi security forces… "We have reached a consensus that it will be a better way to serve the Iraqi forces with a better equipped and specialised centre inside the country," NATO spokesman Robert Pszczel said from the Belgian capital, Brussels. The centre will be located in the Rustmiyah district, southeast of the capital. NATO advisers will be offering training and education on human rights law to Iraqi officer "We expect that the centre will be fully equipped and ready for work at the end of September and as soon as it starts, it will be training more than 1,000 Iraqi officers annually," Pszczel added… Sami added that more than 4,000 officers had already been trained by NATO in Iraq or in courses conducted outside the country. Read this threepartseries about the long and arduous task of building Iraqi security forces from scratch, including the construction of physical infrastructure: Sonny Sebastian is running ahead of schedule, and he wants to keep it that way. Sporting an orange hardhat, the 50-year-old Texan ambles from one building to the next to check the progress on the construction of a $16 million academy for the Iraqi Border Police. He talks with a foreman, points here and points there, and then moves on to another supervisor. Originally scheduled for completion in August, the academy may open next month. Located in Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq, the 22-building academy will include barracks, a dining hall, classrooms and an armory. “The key to building in Iraq,” said Sebastian, a project manager for ECC International, a civilian contractor, “is to let them work the way they know how to work, with an emphasis on quality.” There are hundreds of other major projects for Iraqi security forces that are either completed, in progress or on the drawing board. Of the $5.2 billion already allocated to Iraqi security forces, $1.7 billion has gone toward constructing or improving facilities, said Lt. Col. David Youngberg, an Army comptroller based in Baghdad. At Forward Operating Base O'Ryan near Balad, "Coalition soldiers are working around the clock to make sure their Iraqi counterparts are ready and capable of protecting Iraq and its citizens": U.S. soldiers from 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry are helping the country’s soldiers transition into overseeing the missions being conducted in their area of operations. At the Iraqi army training facility here the soldiers are taught how to set up traffic control points, identify improvised explosive devices and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, conduct personnel searches, distinguish between insurgents and civilians and how to react to enemy contact. Task Force 1-128 soldiers from 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment, Wisconsin Army National Guard and Troop K, 3rd Squadron, 278th Armored Calvary Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard are conducting the training. The Iraqi army soldiers are doing well with their training said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John Macullouch, an instructor with Troop K. “I don’t feel that they will have any problems taking over the area,” Macullouch said. “We have spent a lot of hours with these guys.” The latest to join in the force: The Iraqi Army activated its 5th Brigade, 6th Division during a ceremony at Muthana Airfield June 29. Iraqi soldiers in the eight-week long program received tactical and strategic training to allow them to defend their country against enemy threats... The brigade, made up of more than 2,500 Iraqi Soldiers, began training April 18 at Muthana Airfield. Soldiers from 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment worked with the fledgling Iraqi Soldiers. On the police front, most recently, "the Iraqi Police Service graduated 172 police officers from advanced and specialty courses at the Adnan Training Facility July 7... The courses consist of Basic Criminal Investigations with 66 graduates, Critical Incident Management with 30 graduates, First Line Supervision with 25 graduates, Violent Crime Investigation with 31 graduates, and Interview and Interrogation with 20 graduates." Under the new agreement between the US Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales and Iraqi authorities, FBI and other American law enforcement agencies will help Iraqi police investigate high-level crimes such as murders and kidnappings, where the local police is lacking sufficient forensic expertise. There is also training of Iraqi officers: Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 1st Iraqi Army Brigade graduated from the first organized Iraqi Army Leadership Training Course at Forward Operating Base Justice. “This is just another important step forward and another first for this outstanding Iraqi Brigade,” said Brig. Gen. John Basilica, Jr., commander of the 256th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. “The development of a professional noncommissioned officer (NCO) corps is critical to the combat readiness of the unit. “This is the first of many courses that will be conducted to train the NCOs of the 1st Iraqi Army Brigade,” Basilica added. “What is especially important is the cadre duties were also shared by the Iraqis and thus their ownership of this program is established from the beginning.” Benefits of close interaction can go both ways: "An interesting experiment is going on in the northeast corner of this city. Members of the Iraqi Army and the U.S. Marine Corps are sharing living quarters on a small base. The intent of the experiment is to help the Iraqi soldiers learn more. But it has had an unanticipated side effect: Some marines are picking up new skills. Pfc. Mark Britton has learned Arabic." US Navy will be becoming more involved in the training effort in order to speed it up: U.S. Navy leaders are ready to pluck more sailors off ships and deploy them to Iraq to bolster U.S. efforts in training Iraqi forces, the chief of the U.S. Navy Reserve said Wednesday. “Are we going to take some sailors from the sea and put them ashore to answer this call?” Vice Adm. John Cotton said during an interview in Naples on Wednesday. “The answer to that is a resounding yes.” Last week, Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, urged Pentagon leaders to add Navy and Air Force members to ground elements in Iraq to speed up training of Iraqi security forces. “Our NATO partners have promised to lend their efforts to training Iraqi security forces,” Skelton said. “They must get more engaged and soon. We have embedded trainers in transition teams with the Iraqis. We must commit even more trainers to this effort. “If that means moving more Air Force and Navy personnel to Army billets to free them up for this mission, we need to do this,” Skelton said. “We need to accomplish this mission as quickly as possible because time is not on our side.” Cotton did not elaborate on when more sailors may be sent to Iraq, but he pointed out that the Navy Reserve already has added cargo handlers to ground missions in Kuwait. And reservists recently trained 450 customs inspectors who are operating in Kuwait and Iraq, Cotton said. Speaking of navy, the Sector Guardian exercises have recently tested the readiness of Iraqi Navy to protect oil installations. The exercises were part of qualifications for patrol boat officers. Iraqi coast guard is also playing an increasing role on Shatt Al Arab: The Shatt, as it is commonly called, is also the latest front in the Iraqi government's efforts to police the country's borders. The Iraqi coast guard has been newly reconstituted, with 400 men and 34 boats, most of them donated by the British government. The coast guard's most pressing mission is to fend off pirates and to clamp down on the smuggling of gasoline and scrap metal from Iraq; they also have more banal concerns, such as stemming the flow of Iranian pilgrims trying to cross into Iraq illegally by boat.Lastly, in an overview, you can read the reflections of Gen. Babakir Shawkat Zebari, chief of staff of the Iraqi Joint Forces, on how much the Iraqi forces have progressed over the course of the past year, and on a more personal note, the profile of one Iraqi soldier, Corporal Arkan Fawaz Mahmood, stationed outside Fallujah. Security infrastructure also continues to be built for the Iraqi security forces. The Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence has recently announced the completion of construction of a new $770,000 recruiting center for Iraqi military, police and border patrol officers. "The recruiting center is located in northeast Iraq, near the Kurdish town of Sulaymaniyah. The station will support the U.S.-led Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq, which is working to train Iraqis as security forces." Overall, the Center "has awarded $175.9 million in task orders for work in rebuilding Iraq since January of this year. AFCEE has been working to rebuild security and justice facilities in Iraq as well as airports, water systems, military barracks, schools and municipal facilities. The U.S. Air Force and its contractors have made it a point to employ Iraqi workers, including engineers, architects and skilled laborers. Together, they employ between 3,000 and 4,000 Iraqis." The enormous task of equipping Iraqi army also continues - as this report says, "everything from computers to clean underwear": Capt. Julius Boyd is a supply officer for an impatient and under-equipped army. Boyd, 36, of War, W.Va., is tasked with handing out the uniforms, guns, computers, night-vision goggles, trucks and the dozens of other pieces the Iraqi army needs. He’s trying to outfit an entire brigade, more than 3,500 soldiers, with enough gear to fight their own war. “Come on! Come on! Come on!” he yelled Monday morning at a group of Iraqi soldiers who had come into Forward Operating Base Gabe for their daily pickup. “Move! Move! Move!” The Iraqis responded, though few spoke English. They’ve learned the routine. Almost daily, a group of Iraqi soldiers comes with three or four trucks to pick up supplies at Gabe. The soldiers are from the 2nd Brigade of the 5th Division of the Iraqi army, and they live on an adjacent Iraqi base. Each day, Boyd has his inventory list of serial numbers and quantities to track just how much is going next door. It’s a test to make sure the equipment — all paid for with U.S. money — goes to the right soldiers within the designated units, Boyd said. As a part of an advisory team helping the Iraqis train their army, Boyd tracks the shipments by paperwork, makes the Iraqi officers do the same, then compares the lists. Here’s a sampling of what Boyd has given out in the past 90 days: 4,430 uniforms, 2,016 helmets, 870 flak jackets, 123 handguns, 26,000 pairs of underwear, four copiers, three ambulances, 141 pairs of binoculars and 451 pairs of running shoes. “We’re dressing them from top to bottom,” he said. In all, $5.2 billion has been allotted for training and equipping Iraqi security forces. The United Arab Emirates are purchasing from Switzerland 180 surplus M113 armored personnel carriers and will be donating them to the Iraqi armed forces. In stories of increasing security cooperation from Iraqi civilians: "An Iraqi army unit captured five suspected terrorists June 28 after an Iraqi citizen told the soldiers about a terrorist safe house in northern Baghdad's Rabi district. The Iraqi soldiers found two rocket-propelled grenade launchers and two RPG rounds in addition to the five suspects." As Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, a Task Force Baghdad spokesman says: "The Iraqi people are tiring of the insurgency. Both hotline and in-person tips have increased greatly... A big reason for the increase in tips is because of the Iraqi soldiers taking the lead during raids and operations. The Iraqis will talk to their own soldiers much more readily than to coalition forces." Thanks to a tip from a local who led the soldiers to the location, the 116th Armor Regiment has secured the biggest weapons cache in the Kirkuk province on June 29. Says U.S. Army 1st Lt. John Thew, B Company, 3rd Battalion 116th Brigade Armor Regiment: "We have found in one day, what usually takes four months"; In two separate incidents on June 29 and 30, Iraqi locals have helped the American troops find more than 4,000 pounds of high explosives located near Kirkuk Air Base; "An Iraqi citizen’s tip helped Task Force Baghdad Soldiers find and disarm a roadside bomb in east Baghdad before terrorists could use it. The civilian told the Soldier he’d seen a five-gallon gas can lying in the median of a major highway at 9:30 a.m. July 2... The team investigated, found a 122-millimeter mortar round wired to a radio, and safely detonated the bomb"; another tip on the same day led soldiers to a suspicious vehicle which turned out to be a car bomb; "On July 5, an Iraqi citizen told U.S. Task Force Baghdad soldiers he'd seen three men digging holes in the area of a subsequent roadside bomb attack against coalition forces. The man offered to lead the patrol to the attackers' houses and identify the men. Just before midnight, the soldiers searched two houses in the Risalah district of southern Baghdad and captured three men the Iraqi citizen identified as the men he had seen placing the bombs"; On July 7, a local resident in east Baghdad informed the troops about a roadside bomb. A day later, in two separate incidents also in east Baghdad, Iraqi citizens having observed terrorists placing a roadside bomb tipped off Iraqi police, and provided information leading to an arrest of an illegal weapons dealer; A civilian walked to the gate on a US base in Baghdad on July 9, and informed and the led the personnel to four unexploded rounds; "Task Force Liberty soldiers detained 13 people suspected of making and emplacing improvised explosive devices during a pair of raids in north-central Iraq July 10 and 11. Nine people were detained near Tikrit after soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team received a tip from a civilian. Three of the people tested positive for contact with explosives, and the group was in possession of weapons, ammunition and IED-making materials". Many security successes don't make the news at all. Iraq the Model blog has performed an invaluable service of scouring the Iraqi media over a two-day period (25-26 June) to report these: - 1st regiment/2nd commandoes brigade arrested 43 suspects in Al-Doura district while the 2nd regiment/1st brigade arrested 2 terrorists in Shu'la district. - The interior ministry announced the beginning of operation lightning-1 in Babil province which is going to be a joint effort between the Army and the local police forces. The 1st wave of raids resulted in arresting 43 suspects and confiscating 10 vehicles used in terror attacks against Iraqi civilians and security forces. - A force from the Iraqi army backed by Polish troops raided terrorists hides in the areas of Jibla and Rashad in the same province and arrested 8 terrorists and confiscated their Ak-47's. - Police forces in Kerbala arrested 20 terrorists and confiscated 6 suspicious vehicles and disarmed 2 vehicle-born bombs. - In Zangora area near Ramadi, Iraqi and American troops arrested a terror cell leader named 'Jbair Grayen Al-Jiblawi who's one of Zarqawi's aides in Anbar province. - In the north, 3 members of the Ansar Al-Sunna army were captured in Mosul; one of the 3 terrorists carried a Saudi ID. - In Tikrit, multinational forces arrested 3 roadside bombs-makers and in Kirkuk 10 suspects were arrested. The men are supposed to be responsible for some missile attacks in the city. Explosives' ingredients and blast capsules were found during the search of the arrest scene. - In Abu Ghraib, Al-Muthana brigade arrested 19 terrorists and found amounts of weapons and detonation devices as well as vehicles that were prepared for performing terror attacks. - In Al-Kasra neighborhood in Baghdad, IP men and American explosives experts failed an attack with a car bomb that was parked in the heavily crowded main commercial street in the district. A shop keeper was suspicious of a car that was left in front of his shop, the driver claimed that the car broke and that he's going to find a mechanic but the shop keeper didn't believe the story and called the police and it was found later that the car contained a large bomb that was a mix of artillery shells, TNT rods and gas containers. By 1 am, the area was evacuated and people were told to keep a distance from the car. The explosives experts detonated the car in its place as it was impossible to move it away. No casualties happened but there was some inevitable material loss in adjacent shops. - In Tal-afar near Mosul, Iraqi and American troops killed 15 terrorists in clashes that took place yesterday. - Police patrols in Dibis town arrested two terrorists while they were trying to plant a roadside bomb on the main street in the town. - One of the most important successes was arresting one of Izzat Al-Douri's relatives along with 3 of his bodyguards. - Iraqi TV announced Khalid Sulaiman Darwis (aka Abu Al-Ghadia Al-Soori) was killed during a raid as part of Operation Spear in Anbar province. In other security successes: "On June 17, Multi-National Forces in the Baghdad area conducted operations to capture a reported bomber who worked for the Zarqawi, Al-Qaida terrorist network in Iraq. Though the individual in question fled prior to the forces raiding the home, they did seize a substantial weapons cache. Weapons and extremist items found at the home included: two S5K launchers; two S5K modified rounds; five rocket propelled grenades and seven RPG launchers; five PG-7 rounds; four PG-7m rounds; 16 PG-7 propellant charges; 11 AK-47s; more than 50 ammunition magazines; 5,000 rounds of AK-47 ammunition; three RPK machine guns and 5,500 rounds of RPK ammunition; six RGD-5 grenades, and nine AK magazine vests. Most of the weapons were found packed into four large bags. Twelve terrorist 'masks' and various extremist materials were also found at the home. Additionally, Multi-National Forces found a variety of bomb making materials and explosives in the home"; The death in an airstrike outside Qaim of Abdullah al-Rashud, one of the only three out of Saudi Arabia's top 26 most wanted terrorists still at large; Iraqi and Coalition Forces captured 16 terror suspects, seized weapons and foiled bomb attacks against a police station and four other targets in and around Baghdad June Tuesday [21 June]. In northern Iraq. Task Force Freedom troops killed one terrorist and injured another after the two detonated an explosive device that struck a Coalition convoy. Iraqi and Coalition forces also detained five suspects and seized a weapons cache near Mosul; The capture on June 21 of Muhsin Abu Sayf, a doctor and interprter attached to an Al Qaeda kidnap cell; The shootout on June 22 in Baghdad's al-Jamaa neighborhood, which left dead five suspected members of Al Qaeda "apparently waiting to carry out suicide bomb attacks"; On 23 June, the total of 91 terrorists and insurgents were arrested throughout the country, including "4 wanted terrorists were captured in Tikrit and other 18 suspects in the north western sector... two IEDs makers were arrested also as well as 7 men suspected of being responsible for assassinating a member of Baghdad's city council. In Mosul, two significant arrests were made when the security forces captured 2 of [previously captured Al Qaeda leader] Abu Talha's senior aides namely Abu Sarhan and Abu Nabhan who surrendered without any resistance... In Baghdad, 28 suspects were captured by Iraqi soldiers with support from American troops. In Baquba, 2 terrorists attempting to perform an attack with a vehicle loaded with explosives were arrested at an Iraqi army checkpoint south of the city. In Adhamiya, A'amil, Saydiya and Yarmouk neighborhoods in Baghdad, 20 terrorists and suspects were arrested during raids carried out by special forces teams of the interior ministry. In Al-Risala district south of Baghdad, a tip came from an Iraqi civilian lead to the arrest of 8 suspects who fled a spot from which the interior ministry complex was attacked. This arrest was done by task force Baghdad"; A concerted assault against a police station in Bagdad, involving 100 insurgents, beaten back by the Iraqi police on June 24, with 10 insurgents killed and 40 captured. "By 6.30am a police machine-gunner on the roof at Baya'a helped turn the tide, firing volleys which forced attackers to take cover and enabled his comrades to take better positions. Residents of the mixed Shia and Sunni neighbourhood made at least 55 phone calls informing the police of insurgent movements. Some fired on the attackers"; Six suspected members of a rocket cell arrested by Iraqi police in Kirku on June 25; The arrest outside of Mosul on June 26 of Hilal Hussein al-Badrani, the Saudi-born leader of the major Al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, Ansar al-Sunna; The arrest on 27 June of one of the senior Al Qaeda figures, Sami Ammar Hamid Mahmud, also known as Abu Aqil, thought to be responsible for kidnapping foreigners and Iraqis; On June 28, soldiers in Baghdad followed 200 meters of a detonation cord from the site of an explosion to a nearby house and arrested seven men inside who were acting suspiciously. On the same day, near another blast site, another man was caught with $1,000 in sequential bills; "Iraqi security forces detained eight suspected terrorists June 29 in eastern Baghdad during combined operations... Seven of the suspects were found with material used for the production and emplacement of roadside bombs. One had false Palestinian documents"; "Task Force Baghdad Soldiers captured nine terror suspects, seized a weapons cache and disabled terrorist bombs before they could be set off during operations in and around Baghdad June 29"; "Task Force Liberty soldiers found and destroyed eight different caches in Kirkuk province June 29 and 30. Several hundred artillery and mortar rounds of various sizes were destroyed in the operation. Unexploded ordnance was found at several different locations around Kirkuk, including 162 130 mm rounds, 141 122 mm rounds, 100 152 mm rounds, 91 120 mm rounds and 26 82 mm rounds": In the last few days of June, "US-led forces detained more than a dozen suspected militants in a counterinsurgency sweep through the western Anbar province as part of a sustained effort to disrupt the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq... The raids have also netted several hundred mortar and artillery rounds along with explosives, rifles and two roadside bombs"; overall, 45 suspects were arrested (including forigners) and thousands of pounds of explosives seized; "Multinational forces from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), detained 12 suspected terrorists and seized weapons in Mosul, Iraq, June 30"; nine more suspects captured over the next two days; The lockdown in late June of Buhriz, a town of 57,000, northwest of Baghdad, to ferret out the insurgents; more than two dozen suspects were detained and enough explosives confiscated to construct 160 car bombs; "Iraqi Security Forces captured seven terror suspects June 30, all of whom are thought to be involved in plotting or carrying out attacks against Iraqi Police stations in central and south Baghdad"; "Iraqi Security Forces from the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Division and Coalition forces from the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, uncovered seven weapons caches, a car-bomb factory and a roadside bomb making factory late afternoon on June 30 in the Industrial area, northeast of the Saddam Mosque during a patrol to disrupt terrorist activity... The Iraqi Soldiers discovered the car-bomb factory with a vehicle rigged with explosives at an automotive repair shop in Ramadi. A bomb-making factory was located at a second location with 45 fully prepared roadside bombs inside"; On 1 July, American troops operating outside the town in Hit in western Anbar province defused 9 roadside bombs and arrested 10 suspects; "Some Marines took some time out to e-mail family and friends from an Internet room at the school where the trigger wires for the roadside bombs were found"; Three weapons caches discovered by Task Force Baghdad soldiers on an island along the Tigris River near the city's Al Rashid district on July 1; another two caches uncovered the same day in Al Rashid itself and in Abu Ghraib; On 2 July, "soldiers of 1st Battalion, 155th Infantry, 155th Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), caught and detained three people suspected of emplacing improvised explosive devices northeast of Musayyib today. A patrol spotted a cordless phone with wires protruding from it in a hole in the road, military officials said. Explosive ordnance disposal team members discovered two 130 mm artillery rounds wired to a long-range cordless phone. The soldiers saw three people lying in a field nearby and detained them for questioning"; The capture on 2 July of one of Al Zarqawi's top aides, Abdul Hamid Mustafa al-Douri, the head of Al Qaeda in Salahudin province; "Douri, a relative to Saddam Hussein's top aide Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and a former engineer in Tikrit municipality, was suspected to be behind several car bombings on the Iraqi police and army"; "Iraqi Soldiers from Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 1st Iraqi Army Brigade foiled a terrorist car bomb attack while patrolling in the Ameriyah district of west Baghdad at around 6:00 p.m. July 3"; on the same day, Iraqi police successfully fought off an attack on a police station, capturing a quantity of weapons and munitions in the process; Forty suspects detained in a joint raid by Task Force Baghdad and Iraqi Army soldiers on July 3 in a area south of Yusufiyah; "U.S. and Iraqi troops swept through a western Baghdad neighborhood on Monday, arresting about 100 suspected insurgents in a fresh crackdown near the city's airport" over the Fourth of July weekend; "Task Force Baghdad Soldiers detained a suspected terrorist caught red-handed trying to detonate a roadside bomb, and captured two terror suspects trying to avoid a traffic control point in early morning operations July 4"; On July 4, a weapons cache was seized by the US troops in a house west of Risalah; stupidly for the insurgents, the find was a result of a random knock-and-search operation and the house in question attracted attention because of the anti-Coalition writing on its walls; One insurgent killed while attempting to place a road-side bomb in Tal Afar and five suspects arrest in Mosul on 4 July; "Iraqi army soldiers detained 152 suspected terrorists July 4 during search operations in Baghdad. Coalition soldiers assisted the 3rd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, in the early morning operation. Six Egyptians were among foreign fighters detained, officials said. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, detained two people suspected of terrorist activity July 4at a checkpoint in eastern Mosul. Iraqi police discovered an anti-aircraft missile system near Diwaniyah on July 4. An Iraqi explosive ordnance disposal team and a coalition quick-reaction force removed the device, described as a portable, shoulder-launched, low-altitude SA-7A missile system"; Two weapons caches uncovers in western Abu Ghraib district on July 1 and 4; "Terrorists fired upon Iraqi soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, patrolling in Abu Ghraib around 7:30 p.m. July 5. The Iraqi unit fought back and detained 12 of the attackers. The soldiers positively identified one of the men as a known bomb manufacturer"; "U.S. and Iraqi soldiers conducted a cordon-and-search mission in the early-morning hours of July 6 to search for terrorist cells in western Baghdad... The result was the capture of seven detainees, five AK-47 assault rifles, two pistols, up to 20 fully loaded magazines, and assorted weaponry and documents, including material for making identification badges for U.S. contractor Kellogg Brown & Root, and possible imagery maps of the area. Not long after the first detainee was positively identified, he provided intelligence of a nearby meeting site. Upon searching the specified location, forces arrested a man and a woman who were making false KBR badges"; On July 7, Iraqi and Task Force Freedom soldiers killed one terrorist and detained 24 suspects during operations in Mosul; they also killed another one and detained further 16 suspects around Tal Afar; "On July 7, Iraqi police patrolling in Baghdad's Ghazaliyah area stopped a suspected vehicle-borne IED carrying three suspected terrorists"; before the car could detonate, all three terrorist were killed in gunfire. "One compound guard reported he'd seen one terrorist trying to trigger a detonation device before being shot. Upon closer inspection of the vehicle, police discovered four 55-gallon drums connected to the car battery. The drums contained 600 pounds of homemade explosives"; "U.S. Marines said on Saturday [9 July] they had launched a new counter-insurgency operation, the latest in a series of sweeps designed to root out militant bases in Iraq's Euphrates valley. Operation Scimitar involved about 500 U.S. troops and 100 Iraqis, making it about half the scale of Operation Sword and Operation Spear in the past three weeks. The military said the Marines had detained 22 suspected militants since the raid was launched in secret in the village of Zaidon 30 km (20 miles) southeast of Falluja on Thursday"; On July 9 in Baghdad, American and Iraqi security forces defused explosives outside the Kuwaiti embassy, arrested five suspects in Abu Ghraib district and one wanted terrorist in the business district, and disabled four roadside bombs; "Kurdish security officials said Sunday [10 July] they had arrested suspects from six different terrorist groups that they believe help form wide insurgent training and support networks inside Iraq and have links with international terrorist organizations"; Two suspects arrested in a terrorist safe house in Abu Ghraib district of Baghdad on July 10; more suspects arrested while staking out and photographing a checkpoint; and a major bomb defused in central Baghdad; Fourteen insurgents killed by the US Army in two separate incidents in northern Iraq on July 10 and 11; Thirteen individuals suspected of involvement in making and placing roadside bombs arrested in and around Tikrit on July 10 and 11; The capture of Abu Abd Al-Aziz, Al Zarqawi's number one man in Baghdad, on July 11. Psychiatrist Graham W. Hoffman joined the Army Reserve after September 11 and has completed his second tour in Iraq, “treating mostly 20-something First Infantry Division soldiers (and some Iraqis, too) for post traumatic stress disorder." Says Hoffman: "The Iraqi civilians were very nice to us again, even though Samarra had a lot of insurgents for much of my time there. And the kids love us, especially the little girls, who seem to feel all this democratic change will be good for them in particular. The whole ‘mission’ is starting to feel like Peace Corps work, albeit you still have to be well armed. I am a political left-winger on most things, but on the Middle East business I think we are doing the right thing, mainly because that’s what all these Iraqi civilians kept telling me. Not sure why you don’t hear that kind of stuff on the media, except that most civilians there would consider it suicide to say good things about Americans on-camera.” Iraqi people are slowly regaining their freedom - and their voice. It's their Fourth of July, too.