Updated at 7:39 p.m. EST, Jan. 12, 2010
A massive security sweep in Baghdad has suppressed other news reporting in Iraq. The operation, which government officials say was against a bomb plot, even drowned out the stunning assessment that Dutch involvement in the Iraq War was illegal. The much-awaited testimony of former Tony Blair insider Alastair Campbell also took second stage to the sweep. At least five Iraqis were killed and six more were wounded in attacks outside Baghdad.
Iraqi security forces conducted a massive raid in Baghdad after allegedly receiving a citizen’s tip about a possible bomb attack. Several parts of the city were under lockdown while police searched cars, and a large cache of explosives and several devices were apparently discovered in homes and warehouses. Police also detained 25 suspects, and as many as 10 car bombers were intercepted. Universities were closed and some streets experienced gridlock. Last year, Baghdad was rocked by several massive bomb attacks that focused on government buildings, and many fear that March elections will trigger renewed violence. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed former Ba’athists for previous attacks.
Rumors over a Sunni coup and of the assassination of senior Sunni politician and Maliki rival Saleh al-Mutlaq had to be vigorously quashed. The Shi’ite-led government also made a point of noting that Mutlaq’s followers were not involved in today’s plot. Mutlaq, who was recently barred from running in the March elections for alleged ties to Ba’athists, questioned the timing of these raids. Another Sunni lawmaker, Dhafir al-Ani, outright complained that the government is spooking the people in order to improve their chances at the polls. The ban, which Mutlaq blames on simple politicking, could lead to a Sunni boycott of the election. A 2005 election boycott severely undermined Sunni power.
While the neighborhoods disrupted by the operation appear on the surface to be predominantly Sunni, some Shi’ite strongholds were also targeted. The Sunni-neighborhood of Fadhil was the scene of a massive raid on the local Awakening Council (Sahwa) last March. A separate raid in Baquba today led to the arrest of a Sahwa leader there as well, and hundreds of Sahwa members were detained in an underreported operation last week. The Sahwa are predominently Sunni and were critical in reducing violence in Iraq. Police also searched the Sadr City suburb, where many residents support another of Maliki’s political rivals, Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
An independent commission in the Netherlands has concluded that Dutch involvement in the Iraq War was illegal. Among the issues presented was the misinterpretation of UN Security Council resolution 1441, which authorized member states to use force against Iraq. It was also revealed that the British may have asked the Dutch to join the coalition through unofficial channels. The British refused to hand over a private letter from then-Prime Minister Tony Blair to Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende that asked for support.
Meanwhile, Alastair Campbell reiterated his contention that the United Kingdom was not rushed into war in Iraq. Campbell, who was the communications chief under Tony Blair, spoke at the Iraq Inquiry. He also applauded the war and said Britons should be proud of their involvement.
Elsewhere, four people were killed and three more were wounded during a car bombing in Saidiya. Another person was wounded in the incident. The dead included the manager of the economic security directorate.
In western Basra province, one person was killed and another was wounded when a hand grenade blew up inside a home in Qebla.
In Mosul, no casualties were reported after a Katyusha rocket landed on a home.
U.S. forces staged an operation in Hamam al-Aleel, where they captured two suspects.
Two special groups leaders were arrested in Kut.
A wanted suspect was captured in Kirkuk.
Police in Tal Afar warn of assassination attempts there.
In the United States, a Tennessee court charged a U.S. army officer with smuggling over $100,000 from Iraq.