Features from the War Zone: Courtney Kealy in Basrah

Courtney Kealy, a veteran foreign correspondent for Fox News (and native New Yorker) recently told the Observer via phone from Baghdad that the mood at her bureau was "much better" than a few years ago.

"I don’t wake up to a bomb in the morning," said Ms. Kealy. "I set an alarm now. It still could happen. I might hear a mortar every now and again. But in 2005 we were in the Palestine Hotel. At one time, they tried to take the whole thing down, Oklahoma-City style. That was a very scary place to be."

"When I did my live shot, I had my back to the square and I would always think this would be really horrible if I got shot by a sniper and my mom watched it live," added Ms. Kealy. "These were the type of things you didn’t want to think to yourself but were running through your head."

"The difference that the surge has made is that I can jump out of a Humvee now—or even consider traveling with the Iraqi army for the first time—and not have to be moving constantly because I have to worry about being sniped at," she said.

Recently, Ms. Kealy took advantage of the improved security situation to travel to the Southern port city of Basrah, where she spent a whole day with the first division of the Iraqi army, as they patrolled one of the roughest neighborhoods in the city.

Afterwards, Ms. Kealy filed a series of stories about the current state of Basrah. The reports can be found here and here.

In the latter story, Ms. Kealy takes viewers into the neighborhoods of Basrah, where until a couple months ago, Shia militias roamed the streets without challenge. Recently, the Iraqi army has moved into the city and restored a sense of law and order, however tenuous.

"Residents remain wary that the militias might come back," Ms. Kealy says in the report. "They don’t yet completely trust the government or that the Iraqi army will remain here. But with each day that passes people here can feel a greater sense of security. And for the first time many can at least hope for the future, they’ve been so long denied."

Features from the War Zone: Courtney Kealy in Basrah