Baghdad: The View from the Ground

Firsthand reporting on the situation in Baghdad is being made continuously available by Rhode Islander Rocco DiPippo on his Autonomist website. Rocco bleeds red, white and blue, but he’s no Pollyanna. He calls it like he sees it and reports the good with the bad. For example, there was a lot of the bad in his February 12 report

So much for the peace and quiet in Baghdad. While I was at lunch today, three huge bombs exploded in the heart of Baghdad. The first one was hidden in a plastic bag and targeted a popular falafel restaurant. When it detonated, at least nine people were killed. Falafel restaurants are targeted by Islamic extremists based on the (il)logic that in Mohammed’s day, there was no such thing as falafel, so it is therefore un-Islamic to eat it today…
Approximately thirty minutes after the first blast, two car bombs blew up almost simultaneously near the Shorja market district, collapsing a building and wrecking stalls and shops. Approximately fifty people were murdered in those explosions.
Fortunately, the good is more prominent in his more recent reports. First, U.S. forces are definitely on the offensive. Here’s a report with some analysis from February 15
During the evening, I went outside and watched our pilots drop signal flares in support of Stryker brigades who were conducting block-by-block, house-to-house searches of Baghdad’s neighborhoods. They met little resistance, but confiscated a lot of small arms and ammo. That’s mixed news — what it likely indicates is that the militias and other crazies are laying low until sweep operations end.
…and another from just yesterday
A check of today’s headlines earlier today showed only brief mention of the massive bombing raid that took place in a terrorist enclave in the Doura area last night. I’d never heard anything like it. About 9:00pm, while on the phone to the Autonomistress, my apartment was rocked by about 20 distant, but massive, detonations in quick succession. I knew immediately, from both the tone and number of the detonations, that it was US firepower in action. Halfway through the barrage, the electricity in my apartment went down. To my relief, I was able to contact some friends who live closer to where the bombs were being dropped and confirmed they were OK. Then I walked back to my office, climbed a ladder to the roof and scanned the horizon. I could see no fires or smoke, which, believe it or not, is sometimes the case when blast ordinance is used.
Most importantly, consistent with other reports becoming available, the U.S. offensive appears to have calmed Baghdad and maybe beyond, at least for the moment. Here are Rocco’s observations and analysis from February 17
There was a dramatic countrywide decrease in violence yesterday. Baghdad experienced an enormous drop in the number of sectarian killings, bombings and shootings. Normally, the number of violent incidents reported in the city averages around 100 per day. Since the start of the recent security sweeps, that number has steadily dropped but on Friday, it plumetted to 38 reported incidents. Since I’ve been in Baghdad, that’s the lowest total yet. May it get even lower.
I have no solid explanation why violence has also dropped dramatically in other parts of the country. However, I’ll go out on a limb by theorizing that the Baghdad crackdown on militias, coupled with a surprisingly effective performance by the Iraqi Army, has sent a message to the murderers that their activities will no longer be tolerated. Behind the scenes, I think that the Bush Administration has threatened to end support for the corrupt Maliki government, and is successfully pressuring that government to end its implicit support for the Islamist Mehdi Army, Iran’s proxy.

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