Iraq: What's Not News


February21, 2007: At least a hundred, of the six million people in Baghdad, were killed by Sunni Arab terrorist attacks in the last four days. The two week old "Battle of Baghdad" has forced Sunni and Shia gangs to stay in hiding. That has helped the terror bombing operations, as these depend on stealth and surprise. The army and police catch many of the bomber vehicles at check points, but there are so many attempts that the terrorists can still carry out a few successful attacks a week. However, recent attacks appear to be of the "use it or lose it" variety. The more intense security operations inside Baghdad have uncovered bomb workshops and safe houses, meaning that more bombers will have to come in from the suburbs. But the suburbs are under attack as well. So desperate were the Sunni terrorists in the Baghdad suburb of Tarmiya, that they attacked an American outpost in the town. Three suicide car bombs were used, as well as dozens of gunmen. Two Americans were killed, but most of the attackers did as well, with the rest fleeing after their attack collapsed under American firepower. The Battle for Baghdad has seen dozens of these temporary American combat outposts set up, with the expectation that the terrorists would be tempted to try and overrun one of them. The failed attack at Tarmiya does nothing for terrorist morale.

While most of the Battle for Baghdad has concentrated on Sunni terrorists, American and Iraqi troops were also seen surrounding and taking over the headquarters of Muqtada Al Sadr, the head of the Mahdi army (a coalition of pro-Iran Shia militias). Sadar, and most of his henchmen, have fled to Iran, until the Battle for Baghdad is over. The Mahdi army officially denies that Sadr is out of the country, but no one has seen Sadr inside Iraq in weeks. Same thing with many of Sadr's key associates. The Shia militiamen are also off the streets. American troops were seen removing documents and other items from Sadrs headquarters.

Despite the jump in terrorist bombings in the last few days, the death toll in Baghdad, since the security operations began two weeks ago, have declined by over 70 percent. Shia civilians were afraid that, with Shia militiamen off the streets, there would be more attacks by Sunni death squads. This didn't happen, mainly because Sunni civilians, who provided safe houses for Sunni terrorists, have been driven from Shia neighborhoods. The Sunni killers have to travel farther to find a target, and that is more difficult because the Iraqi army and police have erected more check points over the last six months. American intelligence analysts have also used predictive software to analyze terrorist attacks and movements, and determined the best places to put the new checkpoints, and what to look for. Getting past checkpoints has become a major chore for Sunni terrorists, and many of them don't make it. When you hear of a suicide bombing with only one or two dead, that's usually a car bomber caught at a check point. Sometimes they take the bomber alive, which is an intelligence bonanza, as the bomb, and the bomber, can be examined at length. Also not reported are the hundreds of Sunni terrorists who get arrested at checkpoints each month. Occasionally, these arrests will result in some gun fire, and that might be noisy enough to make the news. But, generally, the most important stuff is not considered dramatic enough for a headline.

"Taking back the streets" is easy. Holding them in the long term is hard. It will take several months before it is known who won the Battle of Baghdad. It's all a matter of crime rates. If the murder rate comes down, you've won. Actually, the murder rate has come down over the last year, but not enough to become news. Eliminating the suicide car bombings would be a real victory, as these operations are largely for the media. Militarily they mean much less than the gun battles between police and terrorist (Sunni or Shia) gangs, or the raids on terrorist safe houses. At this point, the Sunni Arabs are fighting a media war. On the ground, they have lost. But until the media confirms this, they can keep it up.




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