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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tales of Baghdad Cabbies

According to reporters who've been to Iraq, they say the "true barometer" of the success of the surge will be measured by Baghdad's taxi drivers.

From today's Washington Post:

Cabbies gripe that the improved security situation also makes it harder to eke out a living. A growing number of Baghdad residents now feel comfortable driving their own cars around the city, obviating the need for taxis. The skyrocketing cost of fuel has made it harder to make ends meet. And high unemployment has led many young men to plop a yellow "TAXI" sign atop their vehicles, adding to the competition for passengers.

For taxi drivers who used to take passengers from Baghdad to Syria, the increased sense of security -- combined with strict new visa rules in Syria -- has stopped the exodus to the border, ending their source of income.

Muntasir Rasheed, 24, who worked for two years driving Iraqis to Damascus, said he is now unemployed. Almost no one is going to Syria anymore. The demand is so high in the reverse direction that $500 taxi rides from Damascus to Baghdad now cost $1,000, he said

It's not all happy news for cabbies on those rides through Al Anbar province. The Post reports Sunni insurgents who US Marines haven't taken care of, have been known to cut off the fingers of drivers who are spotted smoking, and ears of drivers caught listening to music.

This article's on A1. God it's going to be fun to see Harry Reid explain this one. Maybe he can do it during one of those 30-second "Special Sessions of the Senate" he's holding this week with Jim Webb (D) of Virginia?