Monday, August 20

Sea change in European opinion on Iraq?

Here are some signs: The French foreign minister's trip to Iraq. The UN's new willingness to help in Iraq, which I don't think could have happened without encouragement from Brussels. And an August 10 in-depth report from Germany's Der Spiegel on the situation in Iraq that breaks with Spiegel's previous estimates of the situation there.

From all that, West European governments strongly opposed to the US position in Iraq may be poised to support the US effort, although I don't see this translating into military support.

The Der Spiegel report is notable because the paper has always been a harsh critic of the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq and the war effort. The Spiegel report by Ullrich Fichtner (translated into English by Christopher Sultan) continues to chastise Bush, but finds notable progress in Iraq and finds the US effort worth pursuing. Fichtner writes:
[...] Research for this story took me on a three-week journey throughout the country, my fourth trip to Iraq in as many years. Under the protection of the US military, it led us to the northern city of Mosul and its suburbs, to Ramadi and to Baghdad. The military did not choose our destinations, SPIEGEL did. Apart from a few technical and strategic details, nothing was censored. [...]

In some parts of the country, especially Baghdad, the situation is even worse than was feared, and in others, it is much better than anyone could have hoped. [...] Earlier this year, thousands of attacks occurred every week, and hundreds died daily. It seemed that terror reigned supreme, that its resources were inexhaustible. But now the trend appears to be reversing itself. Terror is weakening, and its leaders, most recently al-Qaida's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are issuing dramatic appeals to radical communities not to give up the fight. This is a good sign. "They are no longer on schedule," Petraeus says. "They have a problem."

[...] Something is happening in Iraq that is consistently concealed behind images of bombings. The situation that the White House and its deceptive advisors had erroneously predicted before their invasion -- that the troops would be greeted with candy and flowers -- could in fact still come true. That's already the case in many places. It's as if the terrorists have lost popular support, as if their acts of violence have driven the Iraqi people into the arms of the enemy, the Americans.

But there is little talk of these developments outside of Iraq.
I think there is more talk of positive developments in Iraq in the 10 days since the Spiegel report. Yet the report deserves close attention from the public -- and from everyone in the media who is following the story.

In the Fog of War Dept.: The Spiegel account of the important Battle of Donkey Island has it that the attackers' plan "was foiled when Iraqis intent on preserving peace in Ramadi betrayed them to the Americans."

The Spiegel reporter had good sources in Iraq. But yesterday The Washington Post's version has it that a routine US patrol near Ramadi stumbled across the camp of insurgents preparing to retake the city.

The Post's blow-by-blow report was culled from " ... interviews with three dozen U.S. soldiers and Iraqis with direct involvement in or knowledge of the battle and its aftermath, as well as official U.S. military accounts and maps detailing the fighting, insurgents' videos later obtained by the U.S. military, and a Post reporter's survey of the battlefield."

And a hat tip to Zenpundit and Small Wars Council for bringing back the Spiegel story.

No comments: