Rearranging a Rearranged Baghdad

Or as Blah-3 terms it, “Bringing Democracy to Iraq.”

Iraqis Announce New Crackdown Across Baghdad
Published: February 14, 2007

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 Iraq’s 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 controlled.

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.

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 areas.

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 people’s claims. In addition, thousands of people took over homes immediately after the invasion, claiming basic squatters’ rights.

Under the general’s 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.

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

General Qanbar, wearing a camouflage uniform and a red staff commander’s 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 minister’s office.

Read the rest here.

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