With the abduction of five Brits – one specialist and four security personnel who, the papers said, erroneously, were guarding him – from inside the Iraqi Finance Ministry, life is getting tougher for the vast army of foreigners ripping off bli … er… helping the country in its transition to democracy.

The team that snatched the Brits were, according to reports, wearing police uniforms and had the correct identification papers. Speculation has focused on where they got them from. They probably just didn’t change after the end of their shift in the police. They’re in the police! Dummies.

The targeted and planned nature of the raid seems to indicate that the insurgency in Iraq is becoming yet more professional and organised.

Moqtada al-Sadr’s recent speech, his first in seven months, was a call for Shia-Sunni unity in a campaign to throw out the US, and the drive for a united front, and the call seems to be meeting with a positive response from Sunni leaders – the 1920 Revolution Brigades. The somewhat unwieldy name refers to the Arab uprisings after Britain reneged on its WW1 promise to get out of the region. It was put down with one of the first air bombings, using mustard gas, masterminded by a bloke named Winston Churchill.

Plus ca change. In response to gathering Iraqi unity, the US has stepped up an increasingly indiscriminate bombing war. In the search for the missing five Brits, an all night raid on Sadr City was conducted, including a follow up to earlier air-strikes. So the very presence of foreigners makes things lethal for Iraqis, and every such incident recruits more to the cause.

Greg ‘Remedial’ Sheridan was asking a few weeks ago why no one was making much of a fuss over the visit of Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyer Zebari, whom he had interviewed. The answer, Greg, was because he had no power, as evidenced by the fact that he had time to talk to you at length.

Insofar as Iraq has an effective leader at the moment, al-Sadr is it. Whether he can turn around the sectarian friction of the last two years remains to be seen.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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