Rusafa is a large district in central Baghdad bordered by the Tigris River to the southwest and Sadr City to the northeast. The district is predominantly Shia, but contains significant Sunni enclaves and a small Christian population, with a surprising number of openly practicing churches, according to Colonel Craig Collier, the commander of the 3rd Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division. The 450 soldiers of the 3-89 Cav are responsible for the district’s security, in conjunction with thousands of Iraqi Army, Iraqi National Police, Iraqi Police, Kurdish private contractors, and Sons of Iraq (neighborhood watch).Interestingly, much of the stabilization is being attributed to militia groups associated with the US and Iraqi militaries.
Rusafa contains Baghdad’s largest and most famous markets, including the Shorja, Saria, and Bab al Sharji, some of which were the scenes of high-profile suicide bombings during the sectarian-fueled carnage of 2006-2007. Over the past year, and especially over the past six months, the district has calmed significantly. The predominant remaining threats are Mahdi Army mortar rounds aimed at the International Zone that fall short and suicide vest bombers and car bombs that target the markets and Coalition forces. Less successful suicide attacks occur maybe once a month, while once common highly successful “spectacular attacks” have become much less frequent.
But Thornburg attributes most of the improvement in his area in southern Rusafa to the Sons of Iraq, the local neighborhood watchmen who are paid by the US. The Sons of Iraq program was started here seven months ago by local leaders and the 82nd Airborne, the unit last responsible for the southwestern half of Rusafa, which is essentially downtown Baghdad. Local Sons of Iraq leaders claim they were “the first Shia Awakening” against militias and al Qaeda.Well, this is just more stability for the Dems to call a civil war.
“The SOI have exceeded expectations. They’ve turned one of the most violent areas of Baghdad into one of the most quiet,” said Thornburg. “Specifically, they are looking for Mahdi Army. They know who comes into their area, they man checkpoints 24 hours a day, they do vehicle searches, they question people and they patrol. The locals trust them and they are happy with them. They’ve earned a lot of wasta [respect] from the citizens, and the results speak for themselves. It’s a real success story.”