The London Times reports plans are in the works for “the second liberation of Baghdad” after the new government forms; operational developments in Iraq
The political process remains a major front in the war in Iraq as the disparate political parties struggle to form a unity government. Omar at Iraq the Model fears the current political haggling and possible appointment of two Dawa Party candidates for Prime Minister would delay the formation even longer, as they are even less desirable than Jaafari. Omar warns of the deterioration of the security situation in Baghdad, and explains ‘neighborhood watches’ are forming at the neighborhood level. But it is the politicians who are now seen as the problem; “Baghdad’s residents are managing their daily life with great difficulty and each delay in forming the government makes the situation even tenser and people more worried and people of course have different attitudes; there are always those who expect the worst to come and there are those who still have hope that this mess must reach an end, however they all agree that the situation now is bad by all standards and the accusation fingers mostly point at politicians who are being blamed for this exacerbating crisis.”
The situation Omar describes is the prime reason that several weeks ago we recommended for an increased security presence in Baghdad. The politicians need breathing space as the insurgency and al Qaeda continues to focus their efforts in Baghdad. Operation Scales of Justice is designed to alleviate some of the pressure in the city, but based on the reports from Iraqi bloggers and those in the media, the effects of this operation are marginal.
Today, the London Times reports the U.S. military is planning on a ‘new liberation of Baghdad,’ which would be carried out after the appointment of the new Iraqi government. This operation would provide “one of the few ways in which a fresh Iraqi government could bind the new national army and prove its mettle.” The operation would be Iraqi-led, with U.S. forces serving in a supporting/advisory role, and the Marines’ “three block war” and the targeting of the militias are the centerpieces of the campaign:
The sources said American and Iraqi troops would move from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, leaving behind Sweat teams – an acronym for “sewage, water, electricity and trash” – to improve living conditions by upgrading clinics, schools, rubbish collection, water and electricity supplies.
Sunni insurgent strongholds are almost certain to be the first targets, although the Shi’ite militias such as the Mahdi army of Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical cleric, and the Iranian-backed Badr Brigade would need to be contained.
While we speculate on the possible re-liberation of Baghdad, Iraqi, Coalition and insurgent operations continue to focus on the regions in and around Baghdad.
Five terrorists were killed, including a “wanted al Qaeda terrorist… whose name is currently being withheld, was involved in the planning and execution of improvised explosive device attacks and allegedly was associated with al Qaeda foreign fighter operations,” and five detained after Coalition forces struck at a safe house in Yusifiyah. Three of those killed were wearing suicide vests, and further vests and bomb-making materials were discovered. Near Hawijah, two insurgents were killed while placing roadside bombs. The soldiers from the Iraqi Army’s 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 8th Iraqi Army Division recently led Operation Cobra Strike, which targeted a bomb-making cell in the area of Haswah and Iskandariyah. A forgery ring, which produced government IDs, was broken up in Samarra, and title=”Washington Post: Iraqi Bust Nets Ring Smuggling Oil to Syria”>a massive oil smuggling operation was dismantled in the northern town of Rabiah.
Late last week, the insurgency scored two successful attacks on the Iraqi police and the U.S. Marines. On Wednesday, an eight vehicle convoy of about one hundred police was ambushed on the way to Najaf. Over ten police were killed and dozens missing. Six insurgents were captured and one killed. Curiously, the insurgents passed on attacking a U.S. military convoy, just minutes before, indicating the insurgents has specific intelligence on this unit. The Iraqi police and Army are prime targets of the insurgency. The destination of the police – Najaf – also raises some red flags (more below).
In Anbar province, two Marines were killed and twenty-two wounded in unspecified ‘combat operations’. The location of the fighting has yet to be disclosed, but the Marines killed and wounded belong to 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, which was last known to be operating in Fallujah. Asharq Alawsat reports “fierce fighting” between the Iraqi Army and insurgent forces. Another three Marines were reported to have been killed in a seperate battle, and again the location of the Marines in Anbar is unspecified. The Marines appear to have been “cheating” closer towards Baghdad of late, and have been seen operating as close as Abu Ghraib. The recent DEBKA report (which must be read with the required helpings of salt) of Marine units being rushed to Najaf & Karbala does seem more interesting in that light. Najaf is a seat of power for the Shiites and Sistani, and the insurgency and Sadr would make a play in the city in any bid to seize power or disrupt the political process.
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