Apparently co-ordinated assaults on the police stations of neighbouring Baqubah and Bani Sad, northeast of Baghdad, killed more than a dozen people on 22 November. The method was the suicide car bomb that has become the lethal weapon of choice for those resisting the US-led occupation. That all the victims were Iraqis also fits into an emerging pattern of targeting locals co-operating with the US – often softer targets than the Americans themselves. ‘The security situation has changed,’ head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Paul Bremer said on 25 November. ‘They have failed to intimidate the coalition and they have now begun a pattern of trying to intimidate ordinary Iraqis.’

Unwilling to wait for Straw’s prediction to come to pass, CPA officials are seeking to remove sources of inspiration for the resistance. The noose is being tightened on Saddam Hussein’s former deputy, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who the US believes is organising the guerrilla campaign. A $10 million bounty was placed on his head in mid-November. His wife and daughter were arrested in Samarra a week later. On 24 November, the US-appointed governing council banned Dubai-based television station Al-Arabiya for its broadcast of tapes purporting to come from the former president. ‘Al-Arabiya incites murder because it is calling for killings through the voice of Saddam Hussein,’ explained Jalal Talebani, holder of the council’s rotating presidency. Washington, which has criticised Al-Arabiya and Doha-based Al-Jazeera on several occasions for their reporting of the conflict, expressed support for the ban.

Worryingly for the Pentagon, which is desperate to secure international assistance in the face of the mounting death toll among its own troops, resistance fighters also appear to be targeting foreigners to discourage any such help. Tokyo called on the coalition to step up security at the Japanese embassy in Baghdad in late November after a nearby gun battle and threats linked to the potential dispatch of troops. Undeterred, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on 25 November approved a limited deployment. The numbers involved and the proviso that the soldiers be kept out of the major danger zones mean that the gesture will do little to ease the coalition’s security headaches.