HH: I’m joined now by satellite phone from Baghdad by intrepid reporter Michael Yon. He’s actually in Baquba. Michael, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, always a pleasure to speak with you. How goes the fighting on the ground?Yon goes on to say that Baghdad is still problematic, but that al Qaeda is rapidly running out of places to operate from. It can't operate in the south because there aren't any Sunni there, and the Kurds in the north are even less receptive.
MY: Well, it’s really slowed down here in Baquba, Hugh. I was just in the TOC or the headquarters about fifteen minutes ago before I came on the show, and they were like the Maytag repairmen here. I mean, Baquba has just…you know, it was a very serious fight when it started, Operation Arrowhead Ripper on the 19th of June, I came in with them, but it quickly abated. The people have just turned against al Qaeda here. And so Baquba is really, the big fight now is to get the food distribution working again, which it already is. You know, they’ve got that going. And now, they’re working on fuel, because the fuel relates to electricity and water pumping. So really, they’re working on more civic things now. There’s still some combat to do, but not a lot, actually, because like I said, you know, the people just turned against al Qaeda.
HH: Now Michael Yon, a lot of people don’t know the significance of Baquba. And so can you explain what peace in Baquba means for the larger war effort?
MY: Well, it’s huge, because al Qaeda had claimed Baquba as their capitol, their worldwide capitol. And you might recall one of the things that kind of upsets people about my reporting is I said Iraq was in a civil war, and I said that way back in February of 2005, and I continue to do so. But when I first wrote that, I was in Baquba, in 2005, and I spent two or three months here. And it was just total…you could see it, and you could see al Qaeda was trying to foment that civil war, because that’s their underlying strategy, is to do that. And so getting, fracturing al Qaeda here, and al Qaeda alienating so many Iraqis, it’s helping us to put a damper on the civil war.
HH: Now yesterday, Harry Reid said on the floor of the Senate that the surge has failed. Do you think there’s any factual basis for making that assertion, Michael Yon, from what you’ve seen in Iraq over the last many months?
MY: He’s wrong, he’s wrong. It has absolutely not failed, and in fact, I’m finally willing to say it in public. I feel like it’s starting to succeed. And you know, I’m kind of stretching a little bit, because we haven’t gone too far into it, but I can see it from my travels around, for instance, in Anbar and out here in Diyala Province as well. Baghdad’s still very problematic. But there’s other areas where you can clearly see that there is a positive effect. And the first and foremost thing we have to do is knock down al Qaeda. And with them alienating so many Iraqis, I mean, they’re almost doing it for us. I mean, yeah, it takes military might to finally like wipe them out of Baquba, but it’s working. I mean, I sense that the surge is working. Reid is just wrong.
The big thing is that a lot of the Sunni Arabs have switched sides. Not so much because of the surge, though that is probably helping, but because of two primary things. First, al Qaeda has overstayed their welcome. Most of the Sunni Arabs that used to work with al Qaeda are not in favor of the strict Sharia law imposed by al Qaeda, esp. when imposed through brutality. And, secondly, they are beginning to realize that we are their best chance at surviving in Iraq, esp. given the ethnic cleansing that had been going on last fall and maybe winter, with them the target.