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Wednesday, December 20, 2006




The Battle for Power

The New York Times

December 19, 2006
By JAMES GLANZ


Over the past six months, Baghdad has been all but isolated electrically, Iraqi officials say, as insurgents have effectively won their battle to bring down critical high-voltage lines and cut off the capital from the major power plants to the north, south and west.

The battle has been waged in the remotest parts of the open desert, where the great towers that support thousands of miles of exposed lines are frequently felled with explosive charges in increasingly determined and sophisticated attacks, generally at night. Crews that arrive to repair the damage are often attacked and sometimes killed, ensuring that the government falls further and further behind as it attempts to repair the lines.

. . .

“Now Baghdad is almost isolated,” Karim Wahid, the Iraqi electricity minister, said in an interview last week. “We almost don’t have any power coming from outside.”

. . .

The reason that the attacks on the high-voltage electrical lines, known as 400-kilovolt lines, have been especially devastating is that they serve as the arterial roads of the national grid, the gargantuan electrical circuit that was designed to carry power from the energy-rich north and south to the great population center in Baghdad.

Throughout the country, there are perhaps 15 particularly critical 400-kilovolt lines, carried by their unmistakable 150-foot towers. The entire network runs for 2,500 miles, often passing through uninhabited desert, . . .

. . .

. . .Electricity officials say the decisive moment came July 6, when saboteurs mounted coordinated attacks across the country, gaining a lead in the battle that the government has not been able to reverse.

“They targeted all the lines at the same time, and they all came down,” Mr. Abbo said.

. . .

. . . Last week even the official United States State Department figures, which many Iraqis contend lean toward the optimistic side, said there was an average of 6.6 hours of electricity per day in Baghdad and 8.9 hours nationwide.

Before the war, Baghdad had 16 to 24 hours of power and the rest of Iraq 4 to 8 hours, according to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent United States federal office.

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