As we noted more than once before, Operation “Imposing Law” is an escalating effort with military and political components. After the troops fixed their feet on the streets of Baghdad, PM Maliki and the troops are pushing forward with both components.
Politically, Maliki put an end to speculations about his real intentions of a cabinet reshuffle and announced that the reshuffle is going to happen within two weeks from now.
In his press conference this morning, Maliki also announced that the Supreme Judicial Council will be issuing warrants against a number of politicians and members of parliament who have connections to militant groups that are involved in attacks on civilians and security forces.
Meanwhile Iraqi and American forces are increasing their presence in and around Sadr city. Today hundreds of American and Iraqi solders swept through Jamila district just north of Sadr city. They searched homes and shops without meeting any resistance.
The Mehdi army is not responding to the raids with fire, but they are trying to undermine the security plan by spreading rumors about alleged crimes committed by US soldiers, specifically against the Shia. The latest of these rumors was a ridiculous one I heard yesterday from a taxi driver from Sadr city. His story, quite similar to one told by a Sadr city council member, is that US soldiers are raiding Shia homes, arresting innocent civilians, and then dumping them at night near strongholds of Sunni insurgents, blindfolded and handcuffed so that the insurgents would find them defenseless and slaughter them!
Violent incidents are still decreasing in number and impact in Baghdad. Yesterday for instance the only reported incident was the abduction of an adviser to the minister of defense by gunmen in western Baghdad. It was less than 24 hours until the security forces succeeded in freeing the abducted general and arresting 4 of his captors.
Elsewhere in the capital the troops are using not only guns and Humvees, but also shovels and bulldozers. In areas such as Karrada and Palestine Street Iraqi soldiers and workers of the Baghdad municipal services are working on removing trespasses on public property and irregular roadblocks set by locals at earlier times. The measure sparked anger and dismay among some people whose businesses were damaged because the bulldozers also removed irregular kiosks and stalls.
An Iraqi officer explained the decision yesterday by saying that those illegal roadblocks and trespasses were making it difficult for the troops to quickly reach areas where intervention is needed.
Other law enforcement officials are also getting more serious in doing their job. Traffic cops who would normally stop a suspicious vehicle only if it passed by their post are now riding their motorbikes and chasing suspected vehicles down highways and other streets.
This is an indication that Imposing Law does not mean only sending soldiers to kill terrorists. It is reaching out to deal with other aspects of mess and to counter relatively “benign” violations-like breaking the “odd and even” traffic rule, defensive irregular roadblocks and unlicensed kiosks and stalls-by providing protection for the personnel of civilian departments while they do their job.