Crackdown Across Baghdad


Richard Moore

        General Qanbar did not mention the role American forces
        would play in the crackdown, but his remarks were clearly
        timed to coincide with more aggressive efforts by American
        troops on the streets of Baghdad. The Americans have been
        establishing outposts ‹ called joint security stations ‹ to
        work alongside the Iraqi Army and police to end the
        sectarian bloodletting.

Something's fishy when those who have been encouraging sectarian bloodletting 
say they're going to end it.


Original source URL:

February 14, 2007

Iraqis Announce New Crackdown Across Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Feb. 13 ‹ The Iraqi government on Tuesday ordered tens of thousands of 
Baghdad residents to leave homes they are occupying illegally, in a surprising 
and highly challenging effort to reverse the tide of sectarian cleansing that 
has left the capital bloodied and Balkanized.

In a televised speech, Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar, who is leading the new crackdown, 
also announced the closing of Iraq¹s borders with Iran and Syria, an extension 
of the curfew in Baghdad by an hour, and the setup of new checkpoints run by the
Defense and Interior Ministries, both of which General Qanbar said he now 

He said the government would break into homes and cars it deemed dangerous, open
mail and eavesdrop on phone calls.

General Qanbar did not mention the role American forces would play in the 
crackdown, but his remarks were clearly timed to coincide with more aggressive 
efforts by American troops on the streets of Baghdad. The Americans have been 
establishing outposts ‹ called joint security stations ‹ to work alongside the 
Iraqi Army and police to end the sectarian bloodletting.

On Tuesday, senior American officers expressed surprise about the plan to 
resettle people who had moved from their homes amid sectarian cleansing. But 
they declined to be identified, saying they did not want to contradict the Iraqi

General Qanbar indicated that the plan would be carried out evenly across 
Baghdad. But critics said Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who has come 
under intense criticism for pursuing a sectarian Shiite agenda, might be trying 
to appease his detractors and may not actually carry out the plan. Some feared 
that his government might not apply the same pressure to residents of Shiite 

Since the bombing of a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra a year ago, the sectarian
map of Baghdad has been almost completely redrawn, as Shiites pushed Sunnis from
neighborhood after neighborhood.

The general faces a monumental task. Even without the daily violence, continuing
sectarian killings and a lack of security forces to perform basic policing 
tasks, there is no system in place to investigate the veracity of people¹s 
claims. In addition, thousands of people took over homes immediately after the 
invasion, claiming basic squatters¹ rights.

Under the general¹s plan, people who have illegally occupied homes will have 15 
days to leave. While they are there, he said, they must protect the home, not 
steal from it or damage it.

³Anyone who does not follow this law will be treated according to the 
antiterrorism laws,² he said, adding that the government would set up committees
to determine ownership.

General Qanbar, wearing a camouflage uniform and a red staff commander¹s beret, 
made it clear that he reported only to the prime minister. Mr. Maliki appointed 
him as the overall Iraqi commander for forces in Baghdad in January. With the 
extraordinary powers he claimed, an increasing amount of authority is now 
consolidated in the prime minister¹s office.

At least 10 formerly mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad are now almost entirely 
Shiite. East Baghdad, vulnerable to attack from Shiites in the Sadr City 
stronghold, is almost entirely under Shiite control. West Baghdad, where there 
are still fierce sectarian clashes, is a war zone of divided neighborhoods, 
where crossing from a Shiite enclave to a Sunni enclave without the right 
identification, or the other way around, can mean death.

The Iraqi cabinet proposed a plan last year to create space in West Baghdad for 
some 3,000 Sunni families who had been displaced, but nothing came of it.

It is impossible to know exactly how many people have been forced from their 
homes, but estimates by Iraqi and American officials range from tens of 
thousands to as high as 200,000.

Samantha Power, a public policy professor at the John F. Kennedy School of 
Government who has written widely on genocide, described the plan as either a 
public relations ploy that would never be enforced, or worse, a prelude to more 
sectarian cleansing and catastrophe.

³To do this in the middle of a war when tempers have been inflamed and 
militarization is ubiquitous seems to be putting the cart before the horse,² she
said. ³You haven¹t stopped the willingness to ethnically cleanse, but you¹re 
imposing the moral hazard of ethnic cleansing on the cleansee? Unless you create
security first, you are paving the way for a potential massacre of returnees.²

General Qanbar did not explain how the houses would be checked except to say 
that people in homes that did not belong to them must have currently dated 
letters from the owners.

Apart from the resettlement issue, he promised swift justice for law breakers.

³All the people who have done terrorist operations or major crimes like killing,
stealing, rape, kidnapping, bombing public or private buildings and who have 
bought, sold or made weapons or bullets, we will hand them over to the Major 
Crimes Court, which will hold emergency trials,² he said.

The general also said all convoys ‹ even those from the government ‹ would be 
subject to search at the checkpoints. Government security forces have been 
infiltrated by criminals, militants and Shiite militias.

If they refuse to stop, he said, ³They will be treated as illegals.²

Only hours before he spoke, there was more carnage on the streets of Baghdad.

In one attack, a suicide bomber killed 17 people and wounded 40 more at a Trade 
Ministry food warehouse in a poor Shiite neighborhood. At the site of the blast,
there was little faith in the promises of politicians.

³I think the situation will get worse, and we can tell in advance that the 
security plan is a failure,² said Muhammad Saadi, 28, a worker at the warehouse.
³The government can do nothing to stop the suicide bombers.²

Around him, the white foam of a fire extinguisher mingled with pools of blood, 
as moaning voices filled the air.

In recent days, new checkpoints have appeared around the city with tanks and 
heavy weapons meant to demonstrate a powerful show of force.

But residents expressed skepticism that checkpoints could provide any real 

³These checkpoints are useless,² said Ahmed Aboud, 45. ³You can bribe them with 
5,000 Iraqi dinars and bring in all the explosives you want.²

New Tape from Qaeda Figure

CAIRO, Feb. 13 (AP) ‹ Al Qaeda¹s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, said 
President Bush was an alcoholic and a lying gambler who wagered on Iraq and 
lost, according to a new audiotape released Tuesday.

Mr. Zawahri said in the tape that Mr. Bush has been forced to admit his failure 
in Iraq after he repeated the ³lie, which he became addicted to, that he is 
winning² in Iraq and Afghanistan.

³Bush suffers from an addictive personality and was an alcoholic,² he said.

³I don¹t know his present condition,² Mr. Zawahri added, ³but the one who 
examines his personality finds that he is addicted to two other faults ‹ lying 
and gambling.²

Mr. Bush, who is 60, has acknowledged that he had a problem with drinking but 
has said he gave up alcohol when he was 40.

The 41-minute audiotape could not immediately be authenticated; The Associated 
Press found it on a Web site commonly used by insurgent groups, and it carried 
the logo of the multimedia arm of Al Qaeda.

Khalid al-Ansary and Damien Cave contributed reporting.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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