But, I’m confused. I coulda swore I heard someone say “The war is lost.” Maybe that prognostication was a bit premature.

Violence in Iraq has dropped by 70 percent since the end of June, when U.S. forces completed their build-up of 30,000 extra troops to stabilize the war-torn country, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.

This is the lead of a Reuters story. Watch how they use the next sentence to make sure that no one jumps for joy.

The ministry released the new figures as bomb blasts in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul killed five people and six gunmen died in clashes with police in the holy Shi’ite city of Kerbala south of the Iraqi capital.

Happiness at good news duly beaten down to near zero, let’s proceed with the actual story.

Washington began dispatching reinforcements to Iraq in February to try to buy Iraq’s feuding political leaders time to reach a political accommodation to end violence between majority Shi’ites and minority Sunni Arabs that has killed tens of thousands and forced millions from their homes.

While the leaders have failed to agree on key laws aimed at reconciling the country’s warring sects, the troop buildup has succeeded in quelling violence.

Under the plan, U.S. troops left their large bases and set up combat outposts in neighborhoods while launching a series of summer offensives against Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, other Sunni Arab militants and Shi’ite militias in the Baghdad beltway.

Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf told reporters that there had been a 70 percent decrease in violence countrywide in the three months from July to September over the previous quarter.

Wasn’t al Qaeda supposed to engineer some kind of Tet offensive over the summer? Whatever happened to that? I guess we can file it away with the “brutal Afghan winter” as Things The Press Predicts That Don’t Happen. Instead of a Tet, we get Osama’s Weekly Radio Address, in which he begs the various brutes and thugs fighting under various anti-US and anti-Iraq banners to “just get along.”

He’s desperate. We’re not (anymore). The Iraqi government has some time now to build reconciliation between the various Sunni and Shia groups that have decided on a common enemy, which is no longer the US but al Qaeda.

(“Osama radio” Photoshop by Cry Havoc)

Update (AP): Meanwhile, at the Times, “The news out of Iraq just keeps getting worse.”