By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, November 16, 2007
BAGHDAD, Nov. 15 -- The number of roadside bombs and other explosive devices found in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level in two years, in part because of Iranian efforts to stop the weapons from flowing into the country, a top U.S. military official said Thursday.
Maj. Gen. James E. Simmons said 1,560 bombs were found last month across Iraq, a steep drop from the 3,239 found in March and about the same amount reported in September 2005.
"We have seized the initiative and placed the enemy on the defensive," Simmons said at a news conference inside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.
The disclosure was the latest in a string of announcements by American officials that have sought to portray the security situation in Iraq as vastly improved since a buildup of U.S. troops began in February. Many Iraqis and outside observers, however, are skeptical that the decrease in violence will be more than fleeting.
Simmons said that Iran, which U.S. officials have called the source of the deadliest bombs in Iraq, appears to now be controlling the flow of weapons across its borders, in keeping with a pledge Iranian leaders made this summer.
"We have not seen any recent evidence that weapons continue to come across the border into Iraq," said Simmons, deputy commanding general of Multinational Corps-Iraq. "We believe that the initiatives and the commitments that the Iranians have made appear to be holding up."
Most of the bomb attacks are now in northern Iraq, Simmons said, carried out by insurgents forced into that area after being driven out of Baghdad and the western province of Anbar.
The threat of explosives in northern Iraq was underscored by several deadly attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces that were announced Thursday.
The U.S. military said a soldier was killed Wednesday by an explosion while conducting operations in Diyala province. Four other soldiers were wounded.
In the northern city of Kirkuk, a roadside bomb hit an Iraqi army convoy, killing six soldiers and wounding four others, according to Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir.
The attack was among several incidents across the country Thursday in which at least 40 people were killed, according to an Interior Ministry official.
Other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.