Counter-Terrorism: The Baghdad Test


January 5, 2010: Iraqi security forces, desperate to stamp out the last remnants of terrorism, have decided that their troops need an additional incentive to catch the car bombers before they can reach their targets. The latest gambit is a car bomb, but without a detonator, and driven by a policeman. The care has explosives hidden in it, in the same manner that car bombers currently do it. The driver tries to get through some of the the 1,500 check points in Baghdad, and when he does, the guards who failed to detect the explosives, are arrested and replaced by a new crew, who now have an incentive to search more diligently.

The word got around quickly, and soon drivers found their vehicles being checked out with increased vigor, and success. Such extreme, by Iraqi standards, measures are in response to a small number of high profile car bombings since August, that have killed 383 and wounded four times as many. Back in 2007, that many people were being killed in a single week. But since then, the number of attacks have plummeted over 90 percent.

The diehard terrorists, supported by Baath party (Saddam's helpers) hiding out in Syria and Jordan, are determined to overthrow the Shia dominated government, and regain power. But the new government is also elected, and democracy has a way of putting lots of pressure on politicians. Senior officials have lost their jobs, and many more, especially in the security services (Ministries of Defense and Interior), will also be tossed, if the attacks don’t stop, or drop sharply. While much effort has been put into recruiting and training security troops, there are still shortcomings in leadership (Saddam put trusted Sunni Arabs in charge, and nearly these all lost their jobs after 2003), there is still the endemic corruption. Some checkpoint guards will always take a bribe to let someone past (assuming the vehicle is carrying non-explosive contraband, like drugs). But now, the guards, and their supervisors, are suddenly sharper and more observant. All because of one car. But it won't last. The culture of corruption means that there will quickly develop a lucrative system for selling information, on what the "test car" is, to checkpoint personnel. But for the moment, the idea works.




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