Actually yesterday was the first time in months that I hear the familiar characteristic sound of the 30 mm cannon that is usually mounted on A-10's and Apache helicopters. This particular weapon is an indication of the seriousness of the battles even though was fired only a few times. Anyway, military aircrafts are still roaming the skies above us occasionally at low altitudes and making significant sounds.
The battles left more than 50 militants killed and more than a dozen captured, seven of whom are Syrians and this supports what we reported in our last post that eyewitnesses said. Meanwhile there have been more clashes in Al-Aamil district in western Baghdad yesterday and we learned that all roads and bridges leading to that area are now closed, with helicopters hovering above.
With all of this going on, the government still insists that the new security operation in Baghdad hasn't started yet according to the spokesman of the government Ali al-Dabbagh who, in a statement to Al-Mada has also denied the news about the Peshmerga or The Badr brigade being involved in the new security operation:
The operation will be conducted by the troops of the Interior and defense ministries supported by the MNF…redeployment of units and relocating them from one area to another within the borders of the nation is a normal action
Al-Dabbagh also told l-Mada paper that this operation would be different:
This one will differ in terms of tactics, supervision, deployment plans and size of the participating troops who are well equipped and prepared… this plan is built on what we learned from the shortcomings of previous ones
Al-Dabbagh delivered more details to al-Sabah:
He denied the reports that the government had set a specific starting date or duration for the operation but he said that the operation would be decisive, focus on confiscating unlicensed arms, strike militants no matter what their backgrounds or affiliations were and would commit to enforcing peace and order by all possible means putting the issue of militias on the top of its priorities.
What al-Dabbagh said reflects that the government is determined on dealing firmly with any security breach "this time there will be raids on targets without putting in consideration that they represent this or that political or partisan front" and asserted that troops would reach their targets no matter what side effects
The debate among politicians here about the operation continues; some are for and others are against and perhaps among the major points of controversy is the participation of the Peshmerga. This one is already clarified after the participating units have been identified. It appears that some of the participating brigades in fact have a Kurdish majority but they are IA brigades though and they answer to the defense ministry, not the Peshmerga organization.
The Peshmerga Minister of Kurdistan made this explanation to Al-Mada (same link as above):
"The news reports show some confusion, the media considers all Kurdish troops as Peshmerga while in fact there are three brigades; one in each of Duhok, Sulaymaniya and Erbil that are part of the IA and they receive orders from the Iraqi defense ministry." Sheikh Mustafa denied there would be any role for the Peshmerga in Baghdad's operations.
The other point of controversy, and the more important one indeed is the fear from having the operation turn into a selective operation that targets one sect and ignores the other. I think that although this might possibly be the case but those who are marketing this idea are the extremists in the first place; the ones who see a serious threat for them in this operation.
For example, the association of Muslim scholars which was yesterday calling the former army officers to lead a coup said the new operation would target Sunnis only. This sounds like a replay of a broken record that al-Qaeda always uses to deepen the sectarian tension, terrify, and win the sympathy of nonviolent Sunnis who still believe the political process has a chance. The statement came like this:
Reuters reported that a website carried a call from the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq to his followers to be prepared to confront the new American-backed security plan of Baghdad, calling the plan an Iranian conspiracy to strike the Sunni people.
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of the so called the Islamic Emirate in Iraq sent an order to all armed groups to be ready to confront what he called Iranian gangs preparing to launch an offensive on Baghdad's Sunni neighborhoods using the cover of the security plan to "annihilate Sunni Muslims and destroy their mosques"
Most people here expect the major operations to begin by Friday or early next week at maximum and actually it looks like nothing is going to stop the government from doing it.