Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Perspective: US tries – again – to win support on embattled Baghdad street

A resident of Baghdad’s Haifa Street talks to an interpreter about problems in the area while the commander of Troop C, 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, listens

BAGHDAD - Hussein Hassan Abbas has gone to the Baghdad municipality about 10 times over the past six months for help in removing raw sewage flooding his home's entrance. Each time, he says, he hears the same answer: "Forget it, you live in an area filled with Sunni extremists."

He explains that the only reason he feels safe even leaving his mostly Sunni neighborhood of Sheikh Ali near Haifa Street in central Baghdad is because of his Shiite-sounding name, despite the fact he's a Sunni Arab. He pulls laminated IDs from his wallet to make the point.

The sectarian and bureaucratic hurdles faced by Mr. Abbas and his neighbors along Haifa Street mirror those the US military must overcome as it once again pours money and resources into such areas to win the "passive support" of Baghdad.

US military leaders say they remain committed to funding essential services and repairing war- damaged schools and hospitals – an effort they see as vital to the Baghdad security plan. But a month into the initiative, the race – as some officers call it – appears fraught with difficulties.

Read the rest at the Christian Science Monitor