Iraq: November 24, 2003


The Iraqi police in Baghdad have formed a 13 man "booby trap squad." The members are former military and police bomb experts and work in shifts to answer calls 24/7 in Baghdad and its suburbs. This is because most roadside bombs are discovered and defused or destroyed before they can be used against coalition or Iraqi forces. The Iraqi bomb experts have found that the bombs show an expert touch and some ingenuity. The bomb makers are apparently a combination of former military men, combined with some engineers and untrained recruits. The bombs are often equipped with timers as well as remote control devices (via a cable or wireless.) The bombs cause more damage to Iraqi civilians than coalition troops and finding and disarming them is considered a police function. Iraqi civilians have been increasingly active in providing tips on where bombs have been planted. This is largely self interest, as the people planting bombs don't appear to care how many civilians they kill or injure.

Iraqi civilians have been increasingly cooperative in identifying those attacking coalition and Iraqi government targets. The attackers are seen as Saddam loyalists or foreign terrorists, and both these groups have few fans, even within the Sunni Arab community. It's still not fashionable to be seen helping the coalition troops, but cash rewards are paid and good relations with the coalition can help you, or someone in your family, get a job.

Coalition forces consider about 90 percent of Iraq as peaceful. Nearly all the remaining violence is happening in Sunni Arab areas around Baghdad. The resistance is increasing as more Iraqi police enter service, and apply more pressure on pro-Saddam forces. Popular opinion in Iraq is very anti-Saddam and there are more calls for trails and public executions of pro-Saddam fighters, as well as those who committed atrocities during the last 30 years. This will become an issue when the Iraqi Governing Council takes over next year. The Iraqi call for revenge against the thousands of (largely Sunni Arab) Saddam henchmen with blood on their hands, will not go away.

Long term, the coalition strategy is to find relatively honest Iraqis to run for elective office or serve in the government bureaucracy, and be able to keep the lid on Baath Party attempts to regain power. Another unknown is how well the Shia, Kurds, Sunni and other minorities can work together. Many Iraqis believe that a king or dictator is needed to make the different groups work together. Other Iraqis believe Iraqi is capable of ruling themselves in a democratic fashion. Time will tell who is right.

Attacks continue against oil and gas pipelines in northern Iraq. Here, these pipelines run through a lot of isolated areas and there is a large Sunni minority that contains many Baath Party diehards. 

So fat, coalition forces have arrested 307 foreigners on suspicion of terrorist activity. These include 140 Syrians and 70 Iranians.

Civilian flights into Baghdad airport were suspended for two days after it was confirmed that a cargo jet had been damaged by a SA-7 portable missile.




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