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The Week in Iraq is a weekly assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi civilian casualties by IBC's news collector and Recent Events editor Lily Hamourtziadou.

The analyses and opinions presented in these commentaries are personal to the author.

Recent weeks

Healing the wounds of the past
  18 Jan 2009

Happy New Year
  11 Jan 2009

The sad numbers
  31 Dec 2008

  21 Dec 2008

The farewell kiss
  14 Dec 2008

Regrets –he’s had a few…
  7 Dec 2008


The Week in Iraq

Imposing the Law

by Lily Hamourtziadou

18 Feb 2007

There have been two more major attacks this year, with over 50 dead victims, both in the past week. This is the updated list of major attacks in 2007:

-16 January, 70 mainly students and staff, Mustansiriya University, Baghdad
-22 January, 88 killed by bombs at Baghdad market
-1 February, 73 killed by suicide bombers in Hilla
-3 February, 137 killed by a suicide bomber in a lorry full of explosives, Baghdad
-12 February, 90 killed by explosions in Shorja market, Baghdad
-18 February, 62 killed by bombs at second-hand market, Baghdad

The new security plan, ‘Operation Imposing Law’ or ‘Operation Law and Order’, was officially launched on February 14, and its draconian measures announced. They include:

*the suspension of gun licences
*the interrogation, search and apprehension of individuals, if necessary
*the searching of whatsoever public and private property
*the seizing of weapons, explosives and ammunition
*the search and confiscation of mail parcels, letters, cables, wire and wireless communication devices
*the search and seizing of any vehicle with shaded glass and apprehension of its passengers
*the closing of borders with Syria and Iran for 72 hours
*the extension of the curfew, which will now be 8:00pm-6:00am

US soldiers will be embedded with Iraqi units in nine districts across Baghdad, but will come under a separate US chain of command. US officers say they hope to see results around September.

Despite the new measures, another 600 civilians were killed this week in Iraq.

On Monday 12 February, on the anniversary of the Samarra bombing of a Shia shrine, around 160 die, most of them in explosions at Shorja and nearby Bab al-Sharqi markets in Baghdad. A policeman is beheaded by insurgents in the town square north of Baquba, 6 are murdered in a public garden in Baquba, and police find 32 bodies in the streets of Baghdad.

Around 90 are reported dead on Tuesday 13 February, among them a family of 11 killed near Balad. Another 12 civilians are killed in Baquba, while a lorry carrying explosives kills 18 in Baghdad. Over 30 bodies are found in Baghdad and Mahmudiya. Not included in the count are 22 unidentified bodies buried in Kut.

Another 90 civilians are killed on Wednesday February 14, on the day of the official launch of the new security plan (which has unofficially been in force since February 6). The latest plan is seen as a last-ditch effort to prevent all-out civil war in Iraq –should it fail, Maliki’s government could collapse. The dead include 2 Oil Ministry employees, 22 policemen, a female lawyer, a man shot dead by US troops in random fire, a university student shot dead by British forces in Basra in random fire, 7 people executed publicly by insurgents in Baquba, and 22 bodies found near Khalis.

Among the 125 victims on Thursday 15 February are a footballer, 5 children killed by mortars in the back garden of their home, 7 killed in Sadr City, 8 in Al-Gasreen village, and 72 bodies found in Baghdad and Mosul. In Karbala, another 74 unclaimed bodies are buried. It is reported that Mahdi chiefs, Moqtada al-Sadr among them, have fled to Iran.

Friday 16 February and Saturday 17 February are the most peaceful days of the week. Just over 60 people are killed over two days, creating a feeling of optimism in Iraq and in the US, that the new plan is working. Both Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and US secretary of State Condoleezza Rice make statements declaring ‘Operation Imposing the Law’ a success, and quoting an 80% decrease in violence in the last few days.

Their joy is short-lived, as a major attack kills over 62 in a Baghdad market on Sunday 18 February. Another 20 people are killed in other attacks in Baghdad, Tikrit, Mosul and Suwayra. The attack on the second-hand market is the sixth major attack in 2007.

Meanwhile, US officials have been building a case against Iran. President Bush has maintained that elite Iranian Quds Force operatives have been supplying weapons to insurgents in Iraq. US officials in Baghdad have alleged that Iranian officials were behind the smuggling of a deadly explosive device used against US forces. Iraq’s Sunnis have been quick to agree with them: ‘We diagnosed this problem a long time ago,’ Salim al-Jabouri, a prominent Sunni member of Iraq’s parliament told TIME. ‘It was expected that the Americans would come to the same conclusion.’ Shia politicians, however, have dismissed such claims, as has Iran. They claim, instead, that this amounts to propaganda by the Bush administration seeking to deflect blame for the American military failure to curb the violence in Iraq. As for the Iraqi Prime Minister, he has remained silent on the issue. At the same time, the president of Iran has vowed alliance with Syria against the US. Specifically, the presidents of Syria and Iran vowed alliance against what they called ‘US and Israeli conspiracies against the Islamic World,’ during a 2-day meeting in Tehran last Saturday. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is also scheduled to meet Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.

This further polarisation inside and outside Iraq makes any peace plans for the region look utterly hopeless.

Especially when they try to impose the law with guns.