"The despair is there; now it's up to us to go in and rub raw the sores of discontent, galvanize them for radical social change. We'll give them a way to participate in the democratic process, a way to exercise their rights as citizens and strike back at the establishment that oppresses them, instead of giving in to apathy....We'll not only give them a cause, we'll make life goddamn exciting for them again -- life instead of existence. We'll turn them on. Saul Alinsky
Summer is looming for Baghdad, providing ample opportunity to "rub raw the sores of discontent" of the many factions fighting for control in the spreading mideast conflict.
Recent unverified news reports filed by the english speaking Arab press that Dae'sh (ISIS) had taken control of the Baiji refinery and co-located power plant speaks to the nature of the asymmetrical battle being waged in a region Americans were assured by Obama had been pacified when he "declared victory" at a speech at Andrews Air Force base in 2010 and announced his decision to withdraw stabilization and occupation forces from Iraq.
The majority of the reports are focusing on the news that Baiji is the site of a refinery; however, those in the West are most likely not aware it is also the co-location of a major 600 megawatt thermal power plant which supplies a significant portion of Baghdad's fragile power grid.
Temperatures in Baghdad soar in the summer months; as does the demand for electrical power to drive air conditioners and the water pumps necessary for irrigation and drinking water. There is very little relief for Baghdadis - the physical elements of the city are unrelenting - few trees to provide "natural" cooling and cover, as well as the use of masonry construction makes the entire city an unrelenting heat sink.
The Dae'sh took, but unsuccessfully held, the Baiji refinery/power plant in the spring of 2014 before being routed by the Iraqi army. It is no surprise to analysts who follow the region that this season the Dae'sh have shifted their strategy from attempting to secure and hold Baiji - to a play to simply disrupt and vandalize, which yields the same outcome: to make life as miserable as possible for the people of Baghdad and "rub raw the sores" of their discontent.
It is a balancing act - Dae'sh recognizes it is necessary to act before the weather gets too hot to make large scale military operations challenging, but close enough to the peak of summer heat to make the repairs as difficult as possible to get online quickly enough before the true measure of the misery is felt. In the eyes of asymmetrical warriors, a secondary goal is to transfer people's ire from the disrupters (Dae'sh) to the government for its failure to protect them and maintain essential services.
Another Archimedean point in the strategy will be the Musayyib plant south of Baghdad. This region is known as the "Throat of Baghdad" and is a majority Shia area. Creating ongoing disruptions to the power grid in this region will go a long way in furthering the "rubbing raw" of the already existing ruptures of the multiethnic social fabric, barely kept intact in the past only by the brutal oppression of the US-removed Sunni majority Hussein regime.
As the entire Iraqi power grid is already fragile and given to overt piracy by citizens desperate for access to western comforts, it doesn't take much to overwhelm a system already under duress. A take down of any plant triggering a loss in generating capacity within the network immediately shifts demand to the rest of the already overburdened grid, with the predictable brown and blackouts as other plants are forced into peak load in a cascading failure.
It will be a long, hot and miserable summer for many in the mideast this year. Who shoulders the blame for that may decide the "victor" in this loser-take-all struggle.
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