Posts Tagged ‘iraq’
While I suspect that the Baghdadis interviewed by Bloomberg’s Aziz Alwan and Zaid Sabah are right, I also really really hope that they are entirely wrong. Terrible things–a mass expulsion of Sunnis from greater Baghdad?–are possible.
Each morning Majdi al-Dabbagh listens to the news to figure out if Islamic State is any closer to Baghdad. He has an escape route south planned for his family if the jihadist group manages to storm the Iraqi capital, yet sees no immediate need to flee.
“I’m afraid of hearing headlines saying that Da’esh are clashing or fighting in the streets of Baghdad,” the Sunni Muslim resident of the eastern Baladiyat neighborhood said in a phone interview, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “All Baghdadis are scared right now. But in general, life is still normal.”
By staying put, al-Dabbagh is betting that Baghdad will be better defended than cities such as Mosul, seized by Islamic State after it routed the Iraqi army during a lightning advance across the north in June. Analysts say he’s probably right, with enough government forces and allied Shiite militias amassed around the capital, and backing from U.S. warplanes, to prevent an outright assault by the Sunni militant group.
“Baghdad isn’t Mosul and is the hardest domino to knock over,” Ramzy Mardini, a Jordan-based non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council research group, said in an e-mailed reply to questions. “To overtake Shiite territory, especially a major city like Baghdad, the Islamic State would need far more military power than it has.”
There are about 120 Iraqi battalions stationed around the capital, according to Abdul Kareem Khalaf, an Iraqi military analyst and former interior ministry spokesman. While numerical superiority didn’t help the Iraqi army in Mosul, the mostly Shiite force faces less opposition from the public in Baghdad, and will get more support from irregulars.
On the outskirts of Baghdad, Shiite militias have set up checkpoints where masked men in black with automatic rifles stop and search vehicles. The largest groups include the Peace Brigade of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the League of the Righteous linked to Qassem Suleimani, head of foreign operations for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.