Directly contradicting recent news reports about increasing violence in Iraq, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters that most of the country is peaceful and stable. Speaking with reporters in Belgium, Rumsfeld minimized the impact that the insurgent guerilla campaign has had against the U.S. military.
"There's no question but that there are periodic incidents where people have been killed or wounded [in Iraq] -- we know that. We also know that the schools are open, the hospitals are open, the clinics are open, that people are engaged in economic activity throughout the country, and that the vast majority of the country is not in conflict. It is in a relatively stable circumstance," Rumsfeld is quoted as saying in the American Forces Press Service.
Rumsfeld's reassurances came two days after the Boston Globe reported that the guerilla war has spread into regions thought to be supportive of the U.S.-led occupation. The Globe cited classified Defense Department information that allegedly indicates a growing number of attacks against U.S. troops outside the so-called Sunni Triangle.
"Since the end of major combat operations on May 1, nearly 40 percent of attacks on US and coalition targets have been outside the Sunni Triangle, home to many remnants of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime," wrote Globe correspondent Bryan Bender.
The Sunni Triangle, named after its predominately Sunni Muslims population, has long been considered a hotbed of support for Hussein, but the southeastern city of Basra and the surrounding area was believed to be safe territory for U.S.-backed forces. Basra, under the control of British troops, is dominated by Shi'ite Muslims who have been more receptive to the invasion.
The British newspaper The Independent reported this week that British forces in southern Iraq are now facing a more volatile climate than in past months. Four to five bombs a month have been targeted at British forces in Basra. In addition, there appears to be growing a "systematic sabotage of power lines going to Baghdad," reported the Independent's Kim Sengupta.
Thaer Ibrahim, director general of an oil refinery in Basra, said, "It is a systematic effort, not random. In many of the cases, the [power] cables were not stolen."
U.S. forces are actively pursuing anyone challenging their stabilization efforts in Iraq. "Those people [attacking U.S.-backed troops] are ... being rounded up, captured, killed, wounded and interrogated," said Rumsfeld.
Complicating Rumsfeld's positive outlook is a survey of over 3,000 Iraqis showing that almost 80 percent have little or no trust in the U.S.-led troops. Conducted by the British consulting firm Oxford Research International the survey took place in October and early November and participants were interviewed in their homes. This is the most comprehensive survey of Iraqi public opinion since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government.
CÃ©sar CuauhtÃ©moc GarcÃa is the Spanish web content editor and research assistant at the Progressive Government Institute, a nonprofit that tracks the activities of presidential appointees.