Why is Baghdad removing checkpoints during security crisis?

By Omar Sattarfor Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

On Dec. 20, security authorities in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, started removing concrete barriers and checkpoints that have been deployed across main and secondary streets since the launch of the law enforcement plan in 2006.

This step seemed like a new security plan and it raised several questions and concerns, especially since it coincided with the recent explosions that hit various Baghdad neighborhoods and the Jan. 2 suicide attack in Sadr City in east Baghdad, which killed and wounded dozens of people.

According to a statement by Maj. Gen. Jalil al-Rubaie, the commander of Baghdad Operations, there is an integrated plan to lift all checkpoints in the capital, and the first stage was implemented Dec. 20 in Rusafa.

Rubaie said, “More than 25 checkpoints and 85 surveillance posts were removed from Rusafa in Baghdad, which will significantly ease traffic jams and prevent bottlenecks, provided that the relevant stages are implemented respectively.”

But the most prominent concerns remain — the timing of this step, its relation to previous security plans, such as Saqr Baghdad and Baghdad Wall, and the negative impact of these measures on security in the capital’s neighborhoods.

Saad al-Matlabi, a member of the security committee in the Baghdad Provincial Council, told Al-Monitor, “We know nothing about Saqr Baghdad; it seems it was a ruse or a trick to steal people’s money. Today there is no such thing as Saqr Baghdad.”

Saqr Baghdad is a plan where the Baghdad operations command would require citizens to buy stickers and affix them to their vehicles’ windshields to facilitate surveillance and control; the project is not yet completed.

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