Forces resistant to revival of Iraqi oil exports took three major casualties during the week of July 21.
Although tanker loadings resumed from storage at the end of June, continuous sabotage of oil pipelines and security threats in central Iraq have dashed hopes for a quick return of exports to anywhere near prewar levels.
Damage to oil equipment represents more than random looting. Cost to the Iraqi oil industry of deliberate destruction is more than twice that of war damage (OGJ Online, July 10, 2003).
While workers have restored oil production to rates sufficient to feed Iraq's unsophisticated and damaged refineries, therefore, the challenging work needed to sustain exports awaits a true end of hostilities.
The deaths of former President Saddam Hussein's two vicious sons, Uday and Qusay, will help. The capture or killing of Saddam himself would help even more.
Fear of the vile family obviously remains strong in Iraq. It surely motivates the hit-and-run attackers still wrecking pipelines and killing coalition soldiers. It also suppresses intelligence that would be useful to quelling the assaults and finding Saddam.
Progress, though, is progress. Iraqis have two fewer brutes to fear.
The other casualty is obsession over intelligence about Iraqi attempts to acquire nuclear material from Niger.
Because intelligence like this is always questionable, questions inevitably arose about whether Saddam really sought uranium in Africa. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush both included the ambiguously suspected overture among reasons to depose Saddam.
The UK's BBC led a frenzy over the question, amid which the media giant's chief source of information, a weapons scientist it erroneously identified as an intelligence official, committed suicide.
The uranium story has never made sense but stirred up a political furor anyway. Now it looks increasingly like drama manufactured out of political ambition, journalistic excess, and runaway cynicism at a time when real, life-and-death drama remains on stage in Iraq.
Photographs of two dead monsters do more than ease fears in Iraq, therefore. They also snap outside attention back to the realities of all that remains in that beleaguered country to do.
(Author's e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)