It’s been less than two weeks since the Baghdad operation was officially launched. This period, though short, has been full of events, both good and bad.
We are not in a rush to judge the operation unlike some media or politicians who seek anything they can use to serve their agendas. We Baghdadis only want this operation to succeed and we still have some patience to show.
These days I make sure that I have daily tour in Baghdad, covering both Karkh and Resafa (west and east) and these tours aren’t exactly boring because there are always new things to see.
The buildup of troops in the capital seems to be incremental and increasing by the day giving a steadily growing sense of the seriousness of the operation. During my tour with some friends yesterday we were stopped to be searched seven times during about only two hours; five times in Karkh and two in Resafa. The search typically includes verifying the vehicle registration papers, looking for guns and munitions or suspicious objects, destination of the passenger/driver and often their identity cards. In general the security personnel are polite with people they search and some of them even end the procedure with an apology for the inconvenience.
We are getting used to the procedures at checkpoints; keep your hands visible on the wheel, keep your papers close to you, prepare to open the trunk and if it’s getting dark then turn the headlights off and turn the reading light on.
I hear a lot from people how they want to see checkpoint search each and every vehicle on the street even their own because we know that the more effective checkpoints are, the more secure the city will be.
Yesterday I saw the national police units using new armored vehicles (I guess they are Revas) that look much more professional and effective than ordinary SUVs or pickup trucks. Actually it would be great if all national police units got these unique vehicles because then both imposters and corrupt officers would have little chance to carry out attacks on civilians in the name of the corps.
I also noticed that some checkpoints are becoming better organized; first a soldier or a cop would allow cars to pass one lane at a time, then his colleagues would carry out the regular search and finally traffic cops would do their own part of the searching.
The government is meanwhile issuing a bunch of new orders to empower the plan; among those orders are:
-Offices of political parties are not allowed to possess heavy weapons for defense.
-Vehicles or buildings from which fire is opened on civilians or security forces will be confiscated and their inhabitants/drivers arrested.
-The sale of petroleum products in the black market is prohibited.
In fact, I could see American armored vehicles parked in front of a few offices of political parties yesterday but I don’t know yet if that presence was in order to impose the new order or to provide security for these offices and compensate for the absence of heavy weapons.
Militarywise, the spokesman for the operation said 42 militants killed and over 250 militants and suspects captured during the first week and good amounts of weapons and munitions were found. The troops had also defused 13 car bombs and many IEDs.
The best part of the results is still the return of displaced families to their homes; the latest count for this shows that more than 600 families have returned so far. While the return went with little problems for most families some forty families are complaining about receiving new threats from terrorists immediately after they went back to al-Adl district.
More occupied mosques are also being returned to their original keepers, and earlier today Sunni and Shia worshippers gathered to hold joint prayers in several places in Baghdad that were shown on TV.
Last week, Maliki made his first public appearance on the streets of Baghdad when he visited the area of Palestine Street in Resafa, on the day after the bombings in the New Baghdad district. The same day general Aboud Qanbar, the commander of the operation, walked in Haifa Street. These public appearances are apparently part of a PR campaign to show that senior officials are not afraid of leaving the green zone anymore, and frankly this has left a good impression among the public.
The terrorists counterattack is a dirty chemical one this time.
Nothing surprising about it though-their old master had along history of using chemical weapons against unarmed civilians and so we’d expect the minions to use the same evil ways to mass murder and terrorize our people.
The other counterattack came sadly from within the government and parliament, and used the media as a weapon through spreading allegations of rape to undermine the security plan. This attack, though not as deadly as poisonous gas, could be much more harmful on the long run.
Those allegations (some are being retracted now) were used to call for stopping the security operation in parts of Baghdad, and this in my opinion is not a justified call even if the allegations were true. I mean we can’t just simply generalize the accusation; thousands of patrols, raids and searches were conducted last week and one ill-doing must not justify for the halting of thousands of good peacekeeping missions.
In this regard it’s worth mentioning that the judiciary is already trying to provide the required legal component to the operation, al-Mada reports:
The supreme judicial council assigned nine judges, nine representatives of the general prosecutor and fifteen magistrates the task of visiting designated detention facilities to interrogate suspects. The source added that the council demanded that the interior and defense ministries commit themselves to show detainees before a magistrate within 24 hours of the arrest … When the magistrate orders keeping the detainee in custody, no other authority has the right to release him, and when the magistrate orders releasing the detainee on bail no other authority shall continue his detention, unless the detainee is wanted for other charges.
Calling for halting the operation isn’t realistic and is of no good to us. I think asking for more judges and a bigger role for the judiciary in supervising the work of the military would’ve been a better demand, one that can really help the people.
Mohammed Fadhil is PJM Baghdad editor and blogs at Iraq The Model