RAY SUAREZ: Update number two comes from Baghdad. I spoke to New York Times correspondent Edward Wong there a short while ago.
And Ed Wong, welcome. Maybe we can begin with an overview of today's military action. What were American and their allied forces doing in the field, and are they achieving their objectives?
EDWARD WONG: Well, Ray, probably the most significant military action that took place today was the continuation of an operation that began on Tuesday, and that's taking place immediately south of Baghdad in an area known as the "triangle of death" because it is so rife with insurgents, and cars along the major highways there get ambushed all the time and people get killed frequently.
The American military, as well as Iraqi and British forces, recently started an offensive sweep through the region.
It's not an offensive similar to what happened in Fallujah because this area is the very poorest area. It's a place of farm fields and villages.
And so the military's basically trying to do very surgical and precise raids on villages and trying to break down these criminal gangs and guerrilla bands that have been operating there.
Today they said they detained more than 80 suspected insurgents, but it's unclear how many of those will actually turn out to be big catches for them.
RAY SUAREZ: Talk a little bit more about this offensive against criminal gangs. This isn't, then, strictly a military operation against the insurgency, but also trying to pacify an area?
EDWARD WONG: Right. Well, throughout the insurgency we've seen criminal gangs operating with those guerrillas who are working for political purposes.
So you can't really divorce the two. The military says it's cracking down on criminal gangs here, but they have been doing so in other military operations because the two elements are wedded together.
Oftentimes, insurgents who are operating based on politics will be working with criminal gangs, hiring out fighters who will then go attack Americans or perform kidnappings or plant roadside bombs or other actions.
And basically if the military wants to succeed at pacifying the insurgency, they'll have to be operating on the criminal gangs at the same time that they try and root out the politically motivated or religiously motivated fighters.
RAY SUAREZ: Is there a sense if you're in places controlled by American forces that today is a holiday, or is it really more like any other day with just a slight bit of the day taken out for a celebration?
EDWARD WONG: That's pretty much what it's like. The American forces are still going about doing their regular patrols, doing their operations, whether that's offensive or defensive.
And some might get a short break for a dinner, maybe a turkey dinner made up of food prepared by some of the contractors here.
But for example, in Fallujah, in the rubble of Fallujah, Marines are still clearing out houses in the South and in other parts of the city. There were actually two Marines killed today as they were trying to raid various houses.
RAY SUAREZ: Let's talk a little bit about the story you're working on for the New York Times regarding a political opening between the interim Iraqi government and the insurgency.
EDWARD WONG: Well, today Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign minister, gave a news conference where he said that sometimes soon in Amman, the capital of Jordan, the Iraqi government would meet with resistance leaders or opposition leaders.
He didn't really name who these leaders were and he didn't say exactly when this meeting would occur, but he said this was in the works, and this would be the first sort of official summit, as you might want to call it, between leaders of the insurgency and the Iraqi government.
Now, he said that some of these people whom the government wants to meet with might be outside the country right now, and that indicates that he might be talking about people who are financing the insurgency right now.
Intelligence reports indicate that right before Iraq fell, many of Saddam's most loyal officials or workers fled the country taking with them lots of money, and are now pouring money back into the country towards rebel fighters here.
RAY SUAREZ: Was it your sense from how this was explained by representatives of the foreign ministry that they want to do this quickly, get these insurgents and their followers into Iraqi politics in time for the election?
EDWARD WONG: It's unclear exactly what timetable they're working on. I do suspect that it has to due partly with the election so they can try and quell violence that might surge as we head towards Jan. 30, when the elections are scheduled for.
But all the parties that will register for the elections are being registered right now, and the deadline has passed for party registration. So you won't see new politicians entering the field.
More than 200 parties have registered. I think basically they want to persuade some of the insurgency that the parties that will be running for election can represent their interests, and that they should wait it out to see what happens with the elections.
RAY SUAREZ: Edward Wong in Baghdad, thanks for being with us.
EDWARD WONG: Great. Thanks a lot, Ray. Have a good Thanksgiving.