Security in Baghdad

I have not been optimistic about the success probability of Operation Forward Together a/k/a Op Lightening a/k/a Security Theatre Part Deux for force ratio and civilian trust concerns. I just want to look at a single article written in the past couple of days as an indicator of the level of insecurity in the capital: [all emphasis will be mine]

Gunmen released Iraqi deputy electricity minister Raad al-Harith Tuesday evening, hours after he was kidnapped on a busy street in Baghdad.

Officials from the Electricity Ministry told the press that al- Harith was released in the evening, but provided no further details.

On Tuesday morning, unknown gunmen kidnapped the deputy minister and 19 of his guards in Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua.

The source said unidentified gunmen, wearing Iraqi army uniforms, ambushed the convoy of Raad al-Haris on the Qanat Street in eastern Baghdad.

A number of government senior officials and parliament members have been seized away in a new wave of kidnapping in Iraq.

On Saturday, unknown gunmen kidnapped a female Sunni Arab

lawmaker Taiseer Najah al-Mashhadani and seven of her bodyguards, while she was traveling in a Shiite neighborhood in northeastern Baghdad. Her whereabouts is still unknown.

On Sunday, a senior official from Iraq’s health ministry was also kidnapped in Baghdad.

A medium level functionary is kidnapped. Okay, that unfortunately is typical in Baghdad, and it is a good surprise that he was released apparantly unharmed, but what can we learn from this.

First, this is a bureaucrat with power — a significant chunk of the US counterinsurgency campaign is premised upon delivering electical power and other capital intensive public goods. The Iraqis who are in a positition to help deliver or not deliver on these promises and intentions are not protected.

Secondly, the deputy minister had 19 security guards attached to his convoy. If I am understanding the Iraqi government correctly, this is a man on the same governmental level as say Gordan England, Richard Armitage or Robert Zoellick — and the 98% of the world asks themselves — who the hell are these three guys??? — my point exactly. Yet he travels with at least a short platoon of bodyguards.

Thirdly, whomever ambushed and abducted them were able to overpower the entire guard force fairly easily. This says one of two things — either the kidnappers are operating in large elements and was able to overwhelm the guards by surprise, or the Army has gone rogue and was able to get into a position of overwhelming strength.

Fourth, both kidnappings happened in Shi’ite areas of the city. This is an endemic problem that symbolizes the breakdown of security provided by the state.

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