Baghdad Security Operation Starts
An ongoing security operation is reported underway in Baghdad. Reuters reports:
IRAQ'S prime minister launched a security crackdown against al-Qaeda in Baghdad today but extended an olive branch to Sunni rebels who want to join the political process in a twin strategy to ease violence. Backed by tanks and armoured vehicles, about 50,000 Iraqi security forces and 7200 US-led troops were deployed across Baghdad, setting up checkpoints and patrolling streets in the strife-torn capital, officials said.
Clashes erupted between gunmen and Iraqi troops and a car bomb killed two people, but the clampdown appeared to help keep violence at bay in a city hit almost daily by carnage and kidnappings. In Adhamiya, a violent Sunni Arab rebel stronghold, gunmen armed with automatic rifles blocked roads and exchanged fire with Iraqi soldiers before Iraqi army tanks rumbled through the area to restore order, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.
Mohammed at Iraq the Model comments:
Baghdad looked tense today as the city witnessed the launch of the new massive security operation "Forward Together". The feeling here ranges from anxiety to hope which I saw clear in the voice and looks of the people I met; in addition to the understandable anxiety that accompanies every new military operation I saw a lot about hope that this new operation may be able to stop or even reverse the deterioration of security in the capital. ... Some Baghdadis have shopped for extra amounts of water, food and fuel expecting the operation and curfews to take more than a few days and there's a minor internal immigration within Baghdad from the more dangerous districts to the relatively safer ones. This isn't happening in large numbers and I knew about it only from some families that I know that have temporarily left their homes in some districts.
In Baghdad you can't find the same feeling you would find in Ramadi, that is the fear that the operation will include collective punishment and this is because Baghdadis are used to living standards of a big city (in Middle Eastern standards though) but in the past few years they have suffered enough from militants of all types and want their city life back, they want to see militias and insurgents defanged and they want schools and markets and services to function properly again. ...
I don't want to bet on the citizens' cooperation in this regard but at the same time I can say that they won't give the militants a hand. The militants are getting more and more isolated by the day and this isolation is directly related to the increasing suffering and contempt of the citizens from this useless armed opposition especially that most of the once were opposition parties have joined the political process and became an integral part of the government and they smothered their tone and making their demands through political routes. ...
The militants know the strategic value of Baghdad so they will probably try hard to keep a low profile during the operation in order to stay in Baghdad and I don't expect them to risk an open confrontation with the authority and they will not be dragged to such confrontation; they depend almost entirely on hit and run attacks using the advantage of looking like civilians until the moment they strike. So for this operation to work out, we will need to focus on disarmament and collecting every piece of weapons that can be collected because each weapon represents a chance for more violence.
An email from the White House, probably sent out to a lot of bloggers, dated 21:43 EST on June 13 details background which may be relevant to the security operation in Baghdad. As will be evident from the extracts below, the security plan includes not only securing Baghdad but also Ramadi, though this does not seem imminent.
With the President in Baghdad, the group was joined for breakfast Tuesday by Iraq's Ambassador to the U.S., Samir Sumaidaie. Following breakfast and earlier Baghdad meetings between the President and the Iraqi Prime Minister, the two leaders and the Iraqi cabinet met via secure teleconference. The Prime Minister discussed his top priorities for the new government, and he and members of his cabinet briefed the President and the U.S. team on Iraqi plans for improving security, national reconciliation, and economic reform. The President hailed the Prime Minister for the leadership he has shown and for laying out a bold agenda for Iraq. American and Iraqi leaders discussed how the U.S. government could best support the Prime Minister's agenda and together advance security and renewal in Iraq.
Prime Minister Maliki Is Focused On Taking Immediate Actions In Three Areas:
1. Improve security by both military and political actions; secure Baghdad; eliminate armed gangs; and promote national reconciliation and the rule of law.
2. Immediately build economic and government capacity; increase production of oil and electricity; and build a foundation for prosperity.
3. Engage the nations of the region and the world in Iraq's democratic and economic development.
Securing Baghdad: The Prime Minister has made the security of Baghdad his top priority. He has briefed the U.S. government on his campaign to crack down on the violence and at the same time promote reconciliation.
Coalition Action: Prime Minister Maliki will soon announce more specifics of his plan to secure Baghdad. The President will provide, through the Commander, MNF-I, 12 battalions (approximately 7,200 troops) of Coalition forces in Baghdad to support 36 battalions of Iraqi Army forces (approximately 26,000) and nearly 23,000 Iraqi police who will work together to secure the city. Their goal will be to deny terrorists safe haven in areas around Baghdad and to deny terrorists freedom of movement in the city.
Securing Ramadi: Terrorists/insurgents have been focusing on destabilizing Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, both to undermine the government in that province and as a transfer point and staging ground for attacks elsewhere.
Coalition Action: Coalition forces are working with the Iraqi Government to stabilize the city by keeping the pressure on terrorists/insurgents while recruiting, training, and fielding Iraqi army units to serve in and around Ramadi. A locally recruited police force is also being built.
Mohammed is very probably correct when he says that the success of the security operation, despite the dramatic "tanks in the street" account by Reuters, is in intelligence gathering and weapons collection. It is the small unit, house to house stuff. Ideally, informers should be recruited or move in with the covering security force and emplace themselves while the local gangs are temporarily disorganized. The good news in using Iraqis to lead this effort is that they are far better equipped, linguistically and culturally, for this kind of combing operation. The bad news is that small unit actions in a big city (where there may be a temptation to pocket cell phones, money, and other valuables) requires a great deal of discipline and cohesion which a fledgling force may not have, especially when the security forces may be from another Muslim denomination. Hence the fear of "collective punishment".