Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Residential-lockdown strategy now stardard for Iraq ?

George Bush phoned Tareq al-Hashemi, head of the Islamic Party and one of the three leaders of the Iraqi Accord Front, on the weekend, to tell him that he, Bush, was going to give serious attention to the demands that the IAF has been making as a condition of staying in the Maliki government. This was the gist of a statement that was issued by Hashemi's office yesterday. AP says the White House confirmed there was such a call. This was the weekend WaPo published its unusually blunt story accusing Maliki of colluding in efforts to rid the Iraqi military of officers that were effective in fighting Shiite militias, suggesting, for what it is worth, a coordinated media effort to turn up the pressure on Maliki on the sectarianism issue. (The news-hook in the anglosphere being: here is additional scandalous inside information about Shiite machinations; while for Arab readers the news-hook is "Bush himself is on the case"). For what it is worth.

Meanwhile, Al-Quds al-Arabi reports on two cases where the American-Iraqi forces are sealing off residential areas as part of their military strategy, implicitly noting that the two cases have similarities.
Iraqi sources said the American forces closed off Falluja at all of its seven entrance-points, on the grounds they were looking for wanted persons, not permitting residents to either enter or leave the city. And an Interior Ministry intelligence source in Falluja [confirmed that information, adding suburban districts to the east and south of Falluja were similarly sealed off]. This came after reports of an intention by armed persons to undertake a comprehensive attack on bases of both the Iraqi and American forces...
And in the south, the journalist says, sources in Diwaniya said the American forces, assisted by the Iraqi National Guard, imposed a cordon around two districts of that city, adding
Eyewitnesses said the forces closed off all of the entrances leading to the area. The sources said the forces conducted raids and searches looking for weapons and certain persons wanted by them, after forbidding residents to leave their homes, adding that this whole operation started as a result of shelling of the multinational-forces Camp Echo (?) by katyusha rockets Sunday night.
The journalist doesn't highlight the point, presumably because he doesn't feel he has to, but it seems clear that lockdown of residential areas, in response to attacks or threats of attacks, has become a common strategy, whether high-profile as in the case of the Adhamiya wall, or under-the-radar as in these two cases. (The journalist notes US forces haven't announced results of either operation).