Yesterday Iraqâ€™s Minister of Defense, Sadoun al-Dulaimi, announced that starting Saturday 40,000 Iraqi troops will seal Baghdad and begin to "hunt down insurgents and their weapons." Baghdad will be divided into two main sections, east and west, and within each section there will be smaller areas of control.
There will be at least 675 checkpoints and al-Dulaimi said this is the first phase of a security crackdown that will eventually cover all of Iraq.
Keep in mind that most of Iraq has remained in a "state of emergency" since the beginning of the siege of Fallujah, on November 8th.
"We will also impose a concrete blockade around Baghdad, like a bracelet around an arm, God willing, and God be with us in our crackdown on the terroristsâ€™ infrastructure."
Also at the press conference was Bayan Jabor, the Minister of Interior who added, "These operations will aim at turning the government's role from defensive to offensive."
This is really, really bad news.
The Iraqi security forces already have an extremely bad name throughout much of Baghdad. Iâ€™ve had three Iraqi doctors tell me, in different hospitals at different times, that they call the Iraqi National Guard the "dogs of the Americans."
Another close friend of mine in Baghdad, also a doctor, wrote me recently to say;
"Iraqi forces now have what they call "liwaa al deeb," which means the Wolf Brigade. This is a very American name, and is an ugly name which gives the impression of violence. In the past the Iraqi troops held names of some famous Muslim and Arabic symbols which were more accepted. Anyway, the name wouldnâ€™t matter if their behavior was straightâ€¦.they now practice a kind of state sponsored terrorism."
He went on to give an example of their not-so-straight behaviorâ€¦
"Eyewitnesses in Al-Saydia area to the south of Baghdad told me that recently when a car bomb detonated and destroyed the area nearby, people were astonished to see the so-called police looting a destroyed mobile phone store that was nearby! The police now are a bunch of thieves. Many of then are already criminals who were released from Abu Ghraib prison before the war."
When I was in Baghdad in January, I was shot at by Iraqi Police on two different occasions simply because our car drove too close to them.
Hence, out of concern for his family, Abu Talat has returned to Baghdad. He fears that his two youngest sons will be detained simply because they are of "military age," according to the US military.
Even now in Haditha, where the US military is engaged in an operation called "Operation New Market," (where do they get these names?) somewhat similar to the recent attack on Al-Qaâ€™im, where around 1,000 troops are raiding homes.
They have set up sniper positions, and according to an Iraqi doctor I spoke with today that has colleagues in Haditha, "The Americans are detaining so many people there, any man between the ages of 16 and 25 years is being immediately detained without question."
So Abu Talat is back into the fireâ€¦needless to say, I support his decision to go back to look after his family, but not without deep concern and sadness.
"What else can I do, habibi," he asks me while holding up his hands today.
So we say goodbye yet again, which in this situation is always a difficult thing to do. Will I see him again? Will his family be alright? What ifâ€¦?
Life in occupied Iraq. On any given day, anything can happen. Itâ€™s a numbers game.
He or any of my other friends there could end up like the three civilians who were shot dead by US soldiers yesterday while they were traveling in a minibus in al-Dora, Baghdad.
Lieutenant Jamie Davis, a spokesman for the US military, said of the slaughter, "The details are sketchy and we donâ€™t know who was involved."
According to AFP, the bus driver who survived the incident said US troops opened fire after he pulled over to get out of their way.
Now with over 675 checkpoints to be manned by the "dogs of the Americans," weâ€™ll all have to get used to countless more civilian deaths where "the details are sketchy."
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