Can it really be true? Dare I say it? Iraq is actually getting safer? What with a new movement called ‘Awakening’ throwing Al-Qaeda out of Baghdad suburbs; Reports that violence is markedly down; Iraqis returning in droves; could George Bush's surge really be working? Iraqi bloggers investigate and give the real word from the street.
A big story in the blogs is about a new militia called “Awakening” (Al-Sahwa) that has taken over the streets of the Baghdad suburb of Adhamiya that was formerly controlled by Al-Qaeda and, with the help of US Troops, brought some sense of normalcy to the streets. Now, to understand how bad life is in areas controlled by Al-Qaeda, here is a description by Last of Iraqis:
I took a vow on myself not to go Adhamyia unless it was a matter of life and death because of the situations that deteriorates more and more every day there, specially after Al-Qaida has stopped a doctor's car that I know with his wife, dragged him out and killed him and his wife in the middle of the street in cold blood and no one could do anything for them. After Al-Qaida entered a house of newly wed couple, locked the husband in the bathroom and they raped his wife one after the other and finally killed her while the husband couldn't do anything other than screaming in the bathroom, things were getting really dangerous out there.
Alive in Baghdad had a reporter on the ground when Awakening took over. In his first report Alaa describes how the militia took control:
Today, November 11th, Al-Sahwa forces started arresting some people who work like criminals before. Those arrested were given to the custody of US troops. As well, they arrested two persons who have been killing people and committing some robberies and kidnappings.
Later he reported even more progress:
Al-Sahwa forces start arrested anyone who has worked with Al-Qa’eda before, because some Al-Qa’eda members began to work with Al-Sahwa and they arrested more than 20 of them. After these arrests, the members who joined from Al-Qa’eda guided the US Troops to some roadside bombs and helped the US troops to destroy it and they destroyed more than six bomb in diferent places in Adhamiya, and also destroyed one of the carbombs yesterday night.
And with the new militia beginning to assert its authority Alaa reports that some normalcy is returning to the streets:
With this plan there is no way for anyone or any insurgents to bring a bomb or put the bomb in the streets so that make a kind of security for now in Adhamiya, and some of the shops have begun to open again and normal life is returning, step by step.
Never one to miss new events, Last of Iraqis decides to go to Adhamiya and find out for himself and came out with mixed feelings. He writes:
I was relived by the great number of cars roaming the streets, the walking people, the shops which are getting ready to re-open and the feeling of settlement, kids playing soccer in the street till late hours, men and women walking in the streets and the fixing campaign for the lights and gardens; workers are taking care of the gardens and squares which hadn't been taken care of for more than a year.
I was worried because the majority of the awakening members are just kids, 14-16 years old carrying AK's and wearing vests(not all of them) and also because what the residents say about the background of these kids and men! … many of them aren't good members of the society and many of them were with Alqaeda till a recent time. …
Awakening got good control over the area, they were helped by [American] troops to achieve that, it seems that they want to do good … Well, I should be more specific in my words; they were ordered and directed to be good, because they are for money, and that's very obvious, Alqaeda didn't pay the ex-members like the awakening did specially if we knew that they were low ranked members …
the payment of the awakening as what I have heard is like this: from 14-16 years old $250 a month, older than 16, $450, the payment of the officers starts from $600 and up.
Baghdad Connect is somewhat more cynical:
the flip ‘flop’ Surge .. has been replaced with the rad Sahwa (a few resistance & Al Qaeda units awakening) as they have finally realized that it’s worth working for the invaders as it holds profitable future (Oil@USD 95) rather than wasting their lives on some wretched Shiites. …
As one Sahwa dude told BC “we’ve done our own part and stopped attacking them (the invaders), now they have to fulfill their promise and get rid of the Iranians”!!
Word from the Street
Still a drop in violence, however fragile, is what the media reports. So Neurotic Wife, who works in the Green Zone, asks a colleague what he thinks:
He pondered for awhile before answering then said, well it depends what you mean when you say “normal”. I said well, Im reading that shops are opening late, people are staying later than usual, there is life basically. M smiled, then said, well, yes its abit more quieter than before, but that doesn’t mean situation is good.
Her opinion is that the drop in violence is more due to the 6-month ceasefire ordered by Muqtada Al-Sadr than any efforts of the Iraqi government and US troops.
Baghdad Connect considers that what is gained on one hand is lost on the other. He writes:
The western hot-spots … have over night become safe nocturnal exploits for their native neighbors … The east of Baghdad, however, has deteriorated a bit for a change.
Over in Mosul, HNK reports that the situation is still deteriorating:
Before two weeks, our neighbor’s brother who is about 30 years old, married and having a kid did’t return to home. … And two days later he was found in the postmortem room. Today, our neighbor called and said that he is leaving Iraq to Armenia .
The basic is: We are still insecure and in danger even when we are in our own house. But life goes on.
While WorkingForIraq cannot see any political solution to create any lasting peace. He writes:
I believe it will take a new generation of people who can get past their sectarian differences and look for the good of the country. The reality is now all are vying to shape the new Iraq… Sunnis feel they can reverse some of the damage that the Shia Ideologues have done and Shia want to cement the system where they rule as religious ideologues and not as platform politicians and the Kurds are content to see the instability continue so that they can continue to build Kurdistan at the expense of the rest of Iraq. The United States probably wants political disarray so that it can gain the best arrangement for long term agreements in Iraq and Iran continues to play the political groups against one another in a grotesque divide and conquer strategy.
What can you make of all this? There is a noticeable improvement in general security, yet the bombs keep exploding around what should be the most secure area of the Green Zone. Nobody has a feeling that this new lull will last. And what can one make of Al-Qaeda? How easily its foot soldiers can be bought off for a little more money. At best this makes them no better than hired mercenaries. At worst another facet of a brutal occupation. Paid to be good and if the Iraqis do not behave, then they are left to do their worst. But the truth is that there are so many conflicting interests that no one state, not least America, can claim even a small sway on the processes affecting Iraq.