Iraq: Shia Taking Over Baghdad

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February 5, 2006: The anti-government forces appear to be focusing attacks on the nation's electrical grid. Outages due to attacks - usually bombings - are frequent, and are straining the ability of the Iraqis to repair. There's apparently an increasing shortage of specialized equipment. Public services in Iraq are only marginally back to the levels they were at the time of the 2003 Coalition invasion. One of the principal complaints of the man-in-the-street about the new government is its apparent inability to improve public services (not just electricity, but also water and sewage, and even the supply of heating and cooking oil), so keeping the electrical grid secure should be a major priority. Towards this end, the government has already formed several "infrastructure protection battalions," and is increasing aid to local leaders in order to get tribal militias involved in the security mission. But more money is needed, as well as less corruption and more responsible government officials. The corruption taints everything that happens in Iraq. While there are many honest officials and military officers, too many are dirty, and ready to sell their services to the highest bidder. It's an all too common situation in the Arab world, and Iraq was always seen as among the worst when it came to corruption. Even when Saddam was in charge, corruption continued. After Saddam fell, it was revealed that his closest associates were stealing big time, even though Saddam had a well-deserved reputation for killing those he found being disloyal to him in any way.

Some security duties in Shia areas of Baghdad have been turned over to the radical Shia Badr Militia, so that Coalition and Iraqi forces can concentrate on cleaning terrorists out of Sunni Arab areas. Elsewhere in Baghdad, the Iraqi 5th Brigade, of the 6th Infantry Division, took charge of FOB (Forward Operating Base) Honor from U.S. troops. This put Iraqi troops in charge of guarding part of the "Green Zone," that large area of Baghdad where Coalition troops and civilians live work. Except for an occasional mortar shell, the Green Zone has been immune to terrorist attack. But to accomplish this, American troops have controlled security. Senior Iraqi government officials work in the Green Zone as well, so the government is putting its life on the line by giving Iraqi troops responsibility for part of the area. This is a test of the ability of the Iraqi army to handle such an assignment. The skills of the troops are not the major issue, but the ability of them to resist threats and bribes from terrorists. These tactics are increasingly used to compromise Iraqi security. Terrorists will sometimes kidnap family members of soldiers, and then make demands. This is one reason why the plague of kidnapping in Iraq is so disruptive to public order. The only way to deal with the kidnapping is to insure there are no towns or neighborhoods where criminal or terrorist gangs control the turf. When this happens, the kidnappers have no safe place to keep their victims, or themselves. With police active everywhere, it's easier for people to tip off the cops (and often collect a reward) about who and where the kidnappers are. This has been the pattern in other countries that were once cursed by large numbers of kidnappings. One thing that makes the 5th Brigade safe from kidnapping is that about 85 percent of the troops are Shia Arabs, and live in Shia neighborhoods that are hostile to the Sunni Arab terrorists and gangsters. Moreover, for Shia Arab troops, security of the Green Zone is an important part of their war to prevent another Sunni Arab dictator from taking over, and sticking it to the Shia once more.

 

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