The Christian Science Monitor

In Baghdad, Iraqis embrace return to normalcy, with eye on its fragility

Iraqis shop late into the night as they experience a new sense of normal life in the upscale Mansour district of Baghdad, April 13, 2018. Source: Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor

The ceremony opening a small road along the Tigris River in Baghdad could hardly have been more modest – or more symbolic of how normalcy has begun to unfurl across the Iraqi capital for the first time in decades.

A single red ribbon stretched across the road, one end taped to a wood vase full of plastic flowers, the other end to a cyclone fence. Blocking the road were two battered concrete barriers.

A crane was readied, and the chief of the Baghdad Operations Command (BOC), Lt. Gen. Jalil al-Rubaie, arrived with a security escort bristling with firepower, also symbolic.

The general cut the ribbon and watched as the concrete barriers were chained up and removed.

The message of the road openings – it was the 800th to be opened in the Iraqi capital since late 2016 – is that “Baghdad is safe, and now everything is normal,” General Rubaie said.

Iraqis are doing everything they can to make Baghdad “as beautiful and safe” as it was before 2003, he says, but acknowledges that security challenges persist. The Islamic State (ISIS) “is not finished. Militarily it is finished on the ground,” he says, but ISIS “cells” still pose a threat against Baghdad.

“But we work hard to stop them,” he vows.

Indeed, such ISIS cells remain active: One group, dressed

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