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Baghdad Braces Itself

June 28, 2004|Ayad Rahim | This is an excerpt from Iraqi-American Ayad Rahim's blog. Rahim, a journalist and teacher, has been in Iraq for several months.

BAGHDAD — For the last couple of weeks, I've been staying at an Internet cafe till at least 11 o'clock. Last night, after my uncle and his wife picked me up, they said I should start heading back earlier, as June 30 approaches. That's the day, of course, that the coalition hands Iraqis the keys to the office, and, as we've seen, there are going to be a lot of attacks.

People are expecting the interim government that takes over Wednesday to impose a curfew. That, of course, would reduce the number of cars in the street and expose car bombers. This is nothing new for Iraqis: During every revolution or coup, the incoming regime, they say, has imposed some type of curfew.

People who can afford to leave the country are -- to ride out the storm a couple of weeks at the least (more like a month or two). A cousin's daughter and her family and in-laws just drove to Jordan. The road to Amman passes by Fallouja and Ramadi, two of the cities attacked recently. I called her siblings to see if they'd heard anything from her -- they hadn't. Too early, they said.

My uncle has said he won't go to his downtown office for a while. Small shops, bakeries and fruit and vegetable places will probably stay open -- they aren't expected to be targeted. Quite likely, jewelry stores will be closed, fearing thieves and looting, in case police disappear and the situation turns anarchic. Likewise, electronics stores, car dealers. Banks await orders from the government. That leaves the main targets of all of this, the police and defense forces. Everything depends on them. They're at the spearhead of the fight. This is where the mettle of the nation is going to be tested. This could be the make-or-break period, testing the proposition that Iraqis will stand up and fight for their freedom.

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