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US offensive in Baghdad begins surge of killing and repression
The escalation of the Iraq war that was outlined by US President Bush on Wednesday night is already well underway. Beginning last Saturday, Iraqi government and US forces have pursued an operation to dislodge anti-occupation resistance fighters from Haifa Street—a major thoroughfare in the heart of Baghdad that follows the west bank of the Tigris River and leads into the “Green Zone” area where the US embassy and offices of the Iraqi government are housed.
A full offensive into the district was carried out on Tuesday. What followed makes clear that the “surge” of US and Iraqi government troops into Baghdad is a prescription for mass killing and repression.
Haifa is a predominantly Sunni Arab neighourhood and the street itself is lined with high-rise offices and the apartments and homes of former public servants and army officers of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime, who were deprived of their jobs and social position by the US invasion. The poorer, working class backstreets have been described by American troops as a “labyrinth” of winding alleys and crumbling homes, and a “perfect place for insurgents who need cover”.
As armed resistance to the US occupation grew throughout 2003, the area became known as one of the most dangerous in Baghdad. While repeated raids have been made and hundreds of locals killed or detained, the US military has thus far failed to terrorise the populace into submission. As soon as American forces have withdrawn from the area, guerilla cells have reformed and resumed their insurgency.