Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year from IBC!

Well folks, it's been quite a year, hasn't it? Very few predicted that the surge and the various Anbar Awakening groups would have any chance of reducing the overall violence in Iraq. But the trendlines point to the possibility of the year ahead in Iraq being one of further rebuilding and a chance for the various political groups to learn how to compromise with one another for a shared, successful future.

We'll have lots of time, I imagine, to examine the details over the next months, so I thought I'd end this year with one of my favorite YouTube clips featuring our dear old friend, Mohammed Al Sahaf (aka Baghdad Bob), the former Information Minister of Saddam's regime:

Mohammed Al Sahaf: "They are trapped everywhere in the country. ... They are not near Baghdad."

Heh heh heh.

Happy Near Year, all ye IBC faithful! To my colleagues here at IBC (CMAR II, RhusLancia, Mister Ghost, and D.C.), to all the Iraqi bloggers, Omar (ITM) and Mojo in particular, and especially to all the regular IBC readers and commenters who have been coming here and joining our debates over the last almost four years. THANKS and HAPPY YEW YEAR! May both Iraqis and Americans be blessed with a year peace and progress.

Hey, by the way, if you have any other funny clips to end the year or begin the new one, paste the url in the comments page and I'll punch it up onto the front page.


UPDATE: Ringing in the New Year in Baghdad.


Monday, December 24, 2007

I'm done commenting at 24StepsToLiberty

Tell you straight (no intervention)
To your face (no deception):
You're the biggest fake,
That much is true.
Had all I can take,
Now I'm leaving you
- "Would I lie to you" by Eurythmics

Yes, he's a pompous jack-ass. Yes, he thinks the only problem with Iraq are all those danged Shi'a Arabs (60% of the country, and -as he calls them- "turbaned snakes") insisting on how things should be done, and oppressing his helpless Sunni Arab relatives. But now he's put himself in the category with Khalid Jarrar & Riverbend: His posts only have value as a morose propogandist. I'll continue to read him, as I read them all, but I have no interest in probing further for his point-of-view.

Look, I don't intend to demonize Iraqi Sunni Arabs. The Shi'a Arabs in Iraq have a lot of blood on their hands and backwards racial/sectarian bigotry in their hearts. But, give me a break! I am so sick of 24Steps painting the Shi'a as blacker than black and painting the Sunni Arabs as "put upon".

Below is our last exchange. It begins in a thread of comments of people trying (without success) to convince 24 that maybe Sunni Arabs in Iraq had participated in unjustified attacks against Shi'a Arabs. 24 blames it all on debaathification (key omnious organ music), and yet, he says, there was no special Sunni Arab character to the insurgency, Al-Qaeda, or Saddam's regime.

6:58 AM CMAR II says:

[24Steps] Al-Qaeda did the attack? Then you and I are on the same page too: The Iraqi Sunnis are not responsible for the attack.

I was prepared to walk away, as I can see people try to reason with you, and as you cover your eyes and ears and respond with "lalalalala!" But this tears it.

Who received AQ-inspired jihadists from Morocco, Eqypt, Indonesia, anywhere else in the Sunni Muslim world? That was Shi'a Arabs? It was Shi'a Arabs providing carbomb factories to AQI to plant in front of Shi'a mosques? So Sunni Arabs lost their jobs, and they responded by killing innocent strangers going to church. That's an equal reponse? Are you as crazy as they are???

How did the AQI imports live without safehouses when they arrived through Syria and Saudi Arabia? (nevermind that the US military reports with sadness that most of the AQI members were Iraqi) Why is it that since IRAQI SUNNI ARABS turned on AQI, those monsters have become men on the run and violence in Iraq has dropped EIGHTY PERCENT? I repeat: EIGHTY PERCENT. This change occurred after the IRAQI SUNNI ARABS came in from the cold. So who bears responsibility for EIGHTY PERCENT of the violence until then? Answer: The Iraqi Sunni Arabs who JOINED as well as allied themselves with AQI FROM THE BEGINNING as this IRAQI SUNNI ARAB (formerly of Saddam's regime) testifies.

You're words have left me no recourse but to conclude that you are as bigoted a SUNNI ARAB as Layla Anwar. I'm through.

(p.s. I'll save this comment for when you silently delete it)

24Steps didn't silently delete this comment. He deleted my next one. Obviously, this is not the first time he has done this to me or anyone else.

At 8:44 AM, 24StepsToLiberty replies:

[CMARII ] “you are as bigoted a SUNNI ARAB as Layla Anwar”

When did the term “Sunni Arab” become an insult? Do you think you are insulting me when you call me Sunni Arab?

No you don’t. I would be honored if the Iraqi Sunnis consider me one of them, just as much honored I would feel if the Iraqi Shiites consider me one of them, and the Christians and the Kurds and Yazidis and Turkumans and every other minority in Iraq.

And one more thing: I have much respect to Layla Anwar, although I completely disagree with her, because at least she believe in something and has tons of information and evidence about it, unlike your kind of idiots.I am Iraqi, and someone like you, a total ignorant and arrogant racist, can never insult me. You are much much smaller than a bug in my world, which means you are not noticed. From now on, keep barking and I will not listen, as usual.

CMAR II replies (comment deleted):

[24Steps] I would feel [much honored] if the Iraqi Shiites consider me one of them

You mean a "turbaned snake"? You're halfway there already judging from the way you change your skin with every comment.

Incidentally, for all your venom directed at Ayatolla Al-Sistani, it was he, in late 2004, that told the Shi'a Arabs "I don't care if they blow up the whole town. Don't hit back." (Who was the "they" he was talking about? The neighbors' chickens?)

Sistani could be thought of as the Shi'a 24Steps of 2004. He advocated, then, that Iraqis forgive and forget the crimes of the Mehdi Army (who needs guarantees?).

[24Steps] I have much respect to Layla Anwar

That goes without saying, doesn't it?

[24Steps] When did the term “Sunni Arab” become an insult?

If you and Layla were daisies, "flower" would soon be an epithet. I hope (for the good of Iraq) that most Iraqi Sunni Arabs aren't crawling over themselves to advertise you two as one of them.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Madtom vs CMAR II

Responding to me here, then here and here, the gruff but loveable Madtom says:

I [respond] with trepidation, as I do not want to start a war, or feed the enemy, but the line is crossed. I have to disagree.

Here you're pushing your "original sin" theory, which I see as a revision of history. You seem to forget that people were crying out for help from way before last November.

I seem to remember rumors of an "awakening" from at least two and half years ago. Those call fell on deaf ears and the administration went forward with it's strategy. A strategy that was in place from before the 2004 election where the president himself ran on a platform of "fight them there". I ask you "fight who"?

And it must have been before November that the Mesopotamian introduced the Anbar awakening. These people were there from almost the beginning. Yet they were silenced but their circumstance. The rise of the Shi'a bent on revenge, the US on their doorstep and their calls for help being ignored. Who could they turn too but their own. But who allowed the chaos that came with liberation. Who allowed the ministries to burn and be looted, who disbanded the army, and the border patrols. Who opened the border and turned the area into an no mans land reminiscing of the old west. Who wanted terrorist from all over the ME to stream into anbar to fight. I think if we are going to talk about original sin you might want to look to the strategist that organized this war.

I can come to only one conclusion, knowing full well that your not stupid, and guessing your not blind, I can only conclude that this is again part of the new electoral campaign. Much like the original WMD campaign had little to do with Iraq and all to do with the rights distaste of Clinton, your now trying to rewrite history to prepare the stage for the next election.

My response:


A few things right off the bat:
Now let's go...

On rewriting history

I am not rewriting history. Although I think I only started using that term sometime in the middle of last year, I've been posting on Sunni Rejectionism as the original sin of Iraq since early 2005 (until they boycotted the election it would have been premature). I posted on this widely in comments of many blogs and on my blog. In fact, the Anbari leaders themselves say that prior to the Awakening, they began and maintained the insurgency because they believed that the US had come to "steal their oil". Now they say they have come in from the cold because they were wrong.

I think we agree 160K troops on April 2003 is still insufficient to accomplish all the goals you listed. Didn't the skeptical retired generals say in 2003 that 1/4 to 1/2 a million troops were needed? So why is it working now? Because the attitudes of the Sunni Arabs have changed. If the Sunnis Arabs had had the same attitude then as now, it would have taken a *lot* fewer than that to have accomplished the same thing.

I'm rewriting history? Something like 80% of Sunni Arabs boycotted the January 2005 election. They boycotted them in Baghdad as well where security was higher. I don't need to remind you of that the Jarrars and Riverbend were singing from the songsheet about The Boycott. THAT came from the Sunni Arab leadership and the deposed leadership. Shi'a Arabs faced danger in going to the polls as well and went anyway. THEIR leaders called it a religious DUTY to show up and vote. Forward-minded Sunni Arabs like the ITM bloggers, like Zeyed (used to be), braved those polls as well. This was not the common mind-set in Fallujeh, Samara, or Ramadi.

Before the Al Askari mosque's destruction, IIRC something like 9 of 10 self-identifying Sunni Arabs in Iraq were said to want the US to pull out immediately. They still believed they could win a civil war and return to the status quo. Almost immediately after the atrocity, when they realized they really *were* a significant minority in Iraq (which many openly doubted before), when they realized they had stuck their arm in a hornets nest, a slim majority of Sunni Arabs thought the US should stay until Iraq was "fixed". No surprise that many more Shi'a Arabs began saying the US should leave; they thought were were getting in the way of the proper "fix" which was the elimination of the Sunni Arabs.

There was an alternate plan to the 2003 Centcom strategy which called for the US to send enough troops to take the place Saddam in Iraq. I have always said that that would have been a mistake, and that if we had done that instead, people would have blamed the resulting insurgency on "Bush didn't trust the Iraqis" (which 24Steps says now anyway). I believe my first comment on this started with something like "Those who complain about the current strategy will never need to answer for the things that would have gone wrong if their strategy had been implemented instead."

I didn't blog before early 2004, but I said it to whomever would listen before and definitely afterwards that the Rejectionist Iraqis saw US troops as a "humiliation". More troops, greater humiliation. I said a larger footprint would only be a larger target for the insurgency. The success of the Surge (not in place until May 2007) on top of a Sunni Arab turnaround (said to have been born in September of 2006 and come of age in November 2006) confirms for me that I was right. I am not framing my response based on the success of the Surge (which I supported and railed at a large number of Senatorial leaders for deliberately undermining).

On the "Flypaper Strategy"

You know, Madtom, I think this is a situation where one guy sees faces in a drawing and another sees a vase.

The FPS never struck me as a real-live plan so much as an acknowledgement of reality. When the US went to Afghanistan to beat AQ, every bloody-minded jihadi from Africa to Indonesia followed us there to fight the infidel. But Afghanistan was only the tip of the iceberg. As Secy Rice said, in January 2001 our Afghanistan policy wasn't working because our Pakistan policy wasn't working because our Middle East policy wasn't working. Whether Egypt or S.A. or Iran or Iraq or Pakistan or the West Bank, the most vile talk against the US was inevitably the most officially sanctioned. Meanwhile, the worst mass-murderers could always find a place to hide. Zarqawi went to Iraq when he was injured in Afghanistan, but how did he get there? Through Iran, who was supposedly helping us in Afghanistan.

It was obvious that Afghanistan was only symptom of a regional problem. It could not be saved without a wider regional change. So where to start next? If we couldn't get world support or acquiescence in starting with Iraq, there is no way we could start anywhere else. IMO Rumsfeld/Bush, rather than seeking a location for an Armageddon with AQ, hoped to have things work out reasonably enough in Iraq to move to Syria or Iran.
But either way, Iraq was considered (and IS) a better place to WIN (not merely fight) against AQ. I've said that since 2002.

When Bush said "Bring 'em on", I didn't (and don't) think he really hoped the jihadis would to take him up on it. Instead, it is what you say, when someone gets in your face, to get them to back down: You say "If you really want to go lets go". Hopefully, the other party is just talking tough and will back down. In the jihadis case, dying is the only thing they look forward to anyway, so it didn't work. But I don't think they came because Bush invited them. They were coming already.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Senior Al-Qaeda Theologian Calls for an End to the Jihad

A Psyops Poster in Iraq

From the New York Sun,

Sayyed Imam al-Sharif (wikipedia reference) says:

This is the sort of thing that causes people to call Iraq a "quagmire"....for Al-Qaeda.

"Among the things which sadden the Muslims and delight the unbelievers is the hindering of some combat operations against the enemy due to treachery (among other things)."
-- Close paraphrase of recent OBL statement

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Alive In Baghdad Blogger Killed

Ali Shafeya Al-Moussawi, a correspondent of the Alive In Baghdad blog was killed at his home in Habibya, Sadr City on Friday night, December 14th.

The details are sketchy but AiB is fingering Iraqi National Guard forces.

Report here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Al Askari Cascade
(or "the Persistence of Pessimism")

In the comments of the last post, there was a thread about the frustration with Zeyad's perspective at Healing Iraq. Anbar has awakened, but for Zeyad it seems, Iraq is still squarely in February 2006.

Iraqi Mojo said:
I think [since leaving Iraq and going to NYC] Zeyad has become enamored by leftists who've embraced him for slamming the US & Iraqi govt and reject anything positive out of Iraq.

While I'm also frustrated by Zeyad, his change occured before he left Iraq. I have my own opinion of how Zeyad moved from ardent, optimistic supporter of the end of Saddam's regime to pessimistic and nostalgic for the Bad Ol' Days. So, I'm putting it out to see how closely my sense of Zeyad's conversion squares with the perspective of others.

It came about in two stages:

  1. Zeyad's favorite candidate, Allawi, lost in a landslide two years ago to the sectarian Shi'a parter, he suffered the same ideological breakdown as those other erstwhile Sunni Arab, New Iraq-boosting Iraqi bloggers: 24Steps and Baghdad Treasure.

    It does no good to explain to him (or them) that the fault for the SCIRI/Dawa victory is shared with their own relatives who never ceased to compare the new Iraq unfavorably to Saddam's, thus helping to provide moral support to the insurgency.

    Let me lay it out: In December 2005, Iraqis voted for the party they hoped were most likely to make the insurgents and anyone helping them sorry they were ever born. The Noble Insurgency put Shi'a sectarian bigots to control of Iraq in 2005.
  2. The second, and fatal, blow to Zeyad's hope for the new Iraq was the aftermath of AQI's destruction of the Samarra Shrine.

    From that time, Zeyad, backed a grassroots Sunni revolution against the new Iraqi government (who he already detested) because he saw it as backing the Mehdi militias who were targeting Sunni Arabs. To a great extent this was true: Many wings, including the police and Health Ministry went to war openly against all Sunni Arabs. Unfortunately, some of those Sunni Arabs needed going to war against. And by implication, Zeyad's position, justified all Sunni Arabs helping the bad guys which justified targeting all Sunni Arabs.

Shortly afterwards, Zeyad publicly declared Saddam's deposal to be a mistake.

What's ironic, IMO, is that the destruction of the Samarra mosque initiated a cascade which led directly to the Anbar Awakening:

a) The Iraq Sunni Arabs (ISA) gave AQI a free-hand in their areas and found out what allying with AQI would really meant.

b) The attack and subsequent ISA alliance with AQI justified (for Shi'a) letting JAM take the gloves off against Sunni Arabs: This caused two subsequent results:

i) Sunni Arabs discovered "Oh. I guess we *aren't the majority ethnic sect in Iraq. Not by a long shot".

ii) The ISA got a taste of what owning an insurgency against their freely elected government would mean. They discovered what it was to make yourself a pariah to 80% of your country. They discovered that life as a refugee in Syria and Jordan was not as glamorous as it was made to look on TV. And so, many of their leaders turned their backs on the insurgency.

Without this cascade occuring first, I believe the Bush/Petraeus Surge would have failed as previous plans had. From February to November of 2006: That seems to be how long it took for the Sunni Arabs to change their practical perspective.

However, certain Sunni Arab bloggers (and I've named three of them so far) have never accepted the culpability of their ethnic sect for committing the "original sin" in Iraq of supporting the insurgency (either explicitly or implicitly), and rejecting the elections. From what I have read, the majority of the Anbaris, especially their leaders who stayed in Iraq have faced the hard truth that they made genuine, quite serious initial mistakes, and so they seem to see things differently. And, lo, violence in Iraq dropped 80%. And, lo, the Shi'a militias are losing support.


Here's a good example of the willful delusion of one of the bloggers I mentioned in this post. In his comments section, the Sunni Arab 24 Steps to Liberty offered this explanation of why there was an 80% drop in violence in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq between May and August of 2007:

In 2005, when Ibrahim al-Jaafari was seated Prime Minister, the civil war was started in Iraq, noticeably in Baghdad. If we go back to any news outlet archives, we will find that the sectarian killings started in mid 2005. The Shiites started to kill and force out Sunnis from mixed neighborhoods, and the Sunnis started a campaign to kill Shiites and drive them out of mixed neighborhoods. After killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in Baghdad and other places in Iraq, millions more were forced out of their homes, some fled to other neighboring and regional countries and others were displaced within Iraq. [this is all documented by the UN, U.S. media and organizations and other international sides.]

Therefore, two years later, the segregation was completed and the Maliki government succeeded in its plan-- Baghdad that is divided based on sectarian backgrounds and an Iraq that is divided based on sectarian and ethnic backgrounds. And that’s why, I say once again, there were less targets in the streets for the militias and insurgents to kill. And that’s why there is the illusion of “safety” in Baghdad and a safer Iraq.

My reply:

Actually, my memory is that until the Al Askari mosque was demolished in Feb 2006, the Shi'a Arabs were pretty roundly admired for not going to war against the Sunni Arabs for car bombs against their mosques and neighborhoods. I seem to recall that it was in Fallujeh, April 2004, that we first heard of sectarian cleansing against Shi'a Arabs and Kurds. Oh the poor victimized Sunni Arabs! Don't remind me of how they were pitifully forced to struggle against the odds in 2004 and 2005. You might make start sympathizing with Sadrists.

[So you say] this is the cause of an 80% drop in violence between May and August of this year...after a steady rise until then???If you are right, then shouldn't the violence have dropped steadily throughout 2006 as the neighborhoods became gradully more segregated? Or are you saying that it was the MALIKI GOVERNMENT who was planting all the car bombs and IEDs and started tapering them off in May?Pause for a moment...isn't it just possible that the drop in violence BY 80% over 4 months had a little something to do with AQI losing its strongholds in Anbar?

No response from 24. No surprise, really.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Two Years Ago

Two years ago to the day, 12.4 million Iraqis - almost 80% of those eligible - went to the polls to elect their first permanent parliament since the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime.

From wikipedia: Iraqis in the predominantly Sunni city of Husaybah, wait in lines to vote, during the Iraqi legislative election, December 15, 2005. Just a few weeks earlier, Soldiers and Marines battled insurgents in this city, located along the Syrian border.

Few people today would say the elected Iraqi government has performed well. However, in the face of the largest terrorist campaign in modern history as well as a domestic and international peanut gallery that's irrationally sympathetic to the government's violent opposition, I'd say they have at least beaten the odds by surviving. With their term now halfway over, I hope they capitalize on the grass-roots movements now willing to move Iraq forward. Perhaps the first half of their term was focused on their survival, and the second half will be focused on real improvements for the Iraqi people. We'll see.

It does look like Iraq's democracy will at least survive until the next national election, now only two years away. Maybe the Iraqi government looks like a trainwreck at times (yeah, and so does ours!), but with practice maybe Iraqis'll get worthwhile elected leaders. We're still trying here in the US, so stick with it, OK.

In the meantime... Congratualtions, Iraq, for what you've accomplished so far.

From wikipedia: A group of Iraqi citizens walk down a path showing their purple fingers, signifying that they voted in their country’s first parliamentary election. Iraqi citizens elected their first permanent parliamentary government, which will lead the new democracy for the next four years. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michael J. O'Brien

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Blog Entry in which I Agree with Adnan al-Dulaimi

Surprised? You should be. As most of you know, in my opinion the Sunni MP Adnan al-Dulaimi has held back much progress in Iraq over the last four and a half years. Every few months, it seems, he withdraws from Parliament and freezes any legislation currently being debated. I probably shouldn't mention al-Dulaimi's "Criminal Hatwear," but I will.

Today, however, upon learning that over 70 Iraqi MPs have decided to perform the hajj to Mecca instead of tackling the key pieces of legislation before them, such as the oil law, al-Dulaimi started to fume. Mohammed Ameer reports for the AFP ("Iraq parliament grinds to halt as MPs make for Mecca"):
"We had hoped that our brothers would stay in Baghdad," Sunni MP Adnan al-Dulaimi told AFP. "Their decision to travel while we are discussing crucial laws amounts to negligence."

He said MPs should also be discussing a possible amnesty for certain categories of prisoners to coincide with the Islamic Eid al-Adha holy day around December 20 -- marking the end of the hajj -- and adjustments to the ration system for poorer families.

"The speaker of parliament ought to have prevented lawmakers from travelling because this is not an appropriate time to travel -- whether to Mecca or anywhere else," said Dulaimi, a member of the National Concord Front, the main Sunni bloc in parliament.
Jeez. I can't disagree with al-Dulaimi here. Can you? At the same time, some of the Shiite MPs across the aisle are equally upset:
Abbas al-Bayati, member of parliament for the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), one of Iraq's most powerful Shiite factions, was equally scathing.

"The oil and de-Baathification laws and more importantly the annual budget are stalled," Bayati told AFP. "The absentees and the travelling lawmakers have done harm to Iraq's interests."

Even if the hajj pilgrims could be forgiven for their religious pursuits, he added, the other MPs could not.

"If 70 MPs went on pilgrimage where are the other 205 lawmakers? If 50 of them have acceptable reasons where are the rest of them? Their absence sends out a negative signal."
When SCIRI and National Accord Front agree, you know the issue must cross sectarian lines. But my favorite two graphs in the news article come from deputy speaker Khalid al-Atiya:
The assembly's deputy speaker Khalid al-Atiya said the MPs decided to take a short holiday after two successive weeks of work.

"As we had continuous sessions for two straight weeks, it was decided that the parliament would take a break for the next two weeks due to the pilgrimage season," Atiya said.
Heh heh heh.

"Continuous sessions for two straight weeks"!

Wow, take a break, fellas! You deserve it.

Don't worry. We'll make sure we Tivo "Family Guy" while you're on the hajj (hat tip: M.H.Z.).


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Baghdad: City of Neighborhoods

We're starting to get reports back now from people in Baghdad on the changes there. While Anbar, for example, has been quiet for some time now, the security in Baghdad varies from neighborhood to neighborhood.

map of baghdad

A couple weeks ago Mohammed of Last of Iraqis went into Adhamiya and reported back -- in "Awakening" -- that much had changed there. The streets were filled with shoppers, stores were open, and checkpoints were manned by young Sunna. "Bottom line is that the peace and settlement can be felt in the area," he wrote, "good future appear in the horizon, but no one can be sure, because you can't trust ex-members of Alqaeda or teenager mercenary, no one knows their intention, but what they are doing to this moment is very good."

Iraq Pundit has been in touch with relatives in Baghdad and yesterday -- in "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" -- he passed on what they've been telling him:
I hear from my relatives in Baghdad that some neighbourhoods are quiet, and some remain dodgy. For example, Karrada has returned "to that Baghdad we know," according to my cousin. People can stay out late and feel okay doing so. Ameriya and Dora are fine, but Mansour is really bad. Some relatives who had lived in Mansour for decades were just kicked out by thugs. The relatives were told that because they are Shiites, they don't belong in the Sunni neighbourhood of Mansour. I really was horrified. Our street had Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Christians, and Turkoman. Nobody believes this horror. Of course, these kind of scenes are taking place all over Baghdad. Shiites kicking out Sunnis; Sunnis kicking out Shiites. Nobody believes this kind of separation will last. It's too alien to our lives.
So while Karrada, Ameriya, and Dora appear to be fairly safe, Mansour, an upscale neighborhood on the west side of the Tigris, is not. And, as Iraq Pundit notes, this sectarian friction is occurring in other parts of Baghdad. "Nobody believes this kind of separation will last," he writes. "It's too alien to our lives." That's everyone's hope -- except for AQI and the Sunni and Shia extremists on either side.


In "Embattled Baghdad Shows Signs of Hope," Leila Fadel reports on a new TV program in Baghdad:
A local television station has begun a feature called "Baghdad Nights," showing the capital's residents shopping, eating and socializing after the sun has set— a sight that until recently was unheard of in most neighborhoods.

From on Baghdad:
The City of Baghdad has 89 official neighborhoods within 9 districts. These official subdivisions of the city served as administrative centers for the delivery of municipal services but until 2003 had no political function. Beginning in April 2003, the U.S. controlled Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) began the process of creating new functions for these. The process initially focused on the election of neighborhood councils in the official neighborhoods, elected by neighborhood caucuses.
The nine officials districts are: Adhamiyah, Karkh, Karadah, Kadimyah, Mansour, Sadr City (Thawra), Rasheed, Rusafa, and Tisa Nissan.


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