There was an explosion inside the International Zone (aka: Green Zone, aka: Ultimate Gated Community) last week. The first since 2007. According to the McClatchy Newspapers, Iraqi officials at first attributed the explosion to a rocket that had landed in a parking lot. Later they admitted that it was a suicide car bomb that detonated at the entrance to the parliament building and killed five people. McClatchy notes that "as the drawdown has continued, violence has risen steadily. More than 100 people have been killed in violence in Baghdad in November; the number for October was 65."
On 1 January 2009, full control of the International (formerly "Green") Zone was handed over to Iraqi security forces. So-- if entry into the Green Zone, where Iraqi government offices and the U.S. Embassy are located, is strictly controlled, how did the suicide car bomb made it past the gate? Is this a prelude of what is to come in 2012?
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki denies that the explosion signals a deterioration in Green Zone security ahead of US forces' planned pullout. In fact, the PM down playing the attack says, "It was a very simple operation." One apparently meant to kill him.
"The preliminary intelligence information says that the car was due to enter parliament and stay there and not to explode. It was supposed to explode on the day I entered parliament," he told the Associated Press.
Mr. al-Maliki was also quoted in the Guardian saying that the bomb was probably assembled inside the Green Zone and was not very powerful. He reportedly also blamed al-Qaida in Iraq and Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party for the violence.
Uh-oh! Shouldn't this give you some pause or something? How many more car bombs out there can be assembled inside the Green Zone?
In the meantime, just days before the last of our troops leave Iraq, and the Iraq headache is officially transferred from DOD to the State Department, the US Embassy in Baghdad released escalating warnings about kidnapping of U.S. citizens throughout Iraq including the International Zone. The most recent warning includes a notice that the movement of its employees within the IZ is restricted.
On November 22: Possible Increased Kidnapping Threat
The U.S. Embassy wishes to apprise all U.S. citizens of the potential for increased kidnapping operations by militant groups throughout Iraq, including in Baghdad. The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens in all areas of Iraq maintain a heightened sense of security awareness and take appropriate measures to enhance personal and operational security at this time.
On November 28: Significant Threat of Kidnapping of U.S. Citizens
The U.S. Embassy wishes to notify all U.S. citizens of the existence of severe threats of kidnapping operations and attacks by terrorists throughout Iraq. These threats also exist within the International Zone in Baghdad. The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens in all areas of Iraq maintain a heightened sense of security awareness and take appropriate measures to enhance personal and operational security.On December 3: Continued Severe Threat of Kidnapping of U.S. Citizens
Due to severe threats of kidnapping operations and terrorist attacks throughout Iraq, including the International Zone (IZ), the U.S. Embassy has greatly enhanced the security posture for U.S. Government employees. This enhanced security posture includes severely restricted movement within the IZ. The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens in all areas of Iraq, including the IZ, maintain a heightened sense of security awareness and take appropriate measures to enhance personal and operational security at this time. U.S. citizens are advised to keep a low profile; vary days, times, and routes of travel; and exercise caution while driving and entering or exiting vehicles.
It's December 5, 2011 and that's the way things are. How long can the International Zone remain "green" might be a good question. And if movement within the IZ is severely restricted, how much work can our folks realistically do over there? Also what about State Department folks outside the IZ, which bunker can they hunker while staff movement is severely restricted?