Baghdad is a problem.
On a scale of one to ten, it's an eight: one being a small Greek island in early September -- ten being Armageddon.
But today, for the first time, one of our stringers said, "I can't wait until I get to Baghdad. It's much safer."
I was slack jawed.
I don't often hear the words "safer" and "Baghdad" in the same sentence. But this reporter lives in Baquoba, north east of here. Baquoba is a nine. Perhaps even and nine and a half.
"If I weren't Sunni, I'd be dead. I'm 100 percent certain I'd be dead," he said as he handed me a tape that he'd smuggled in the ashtray of his car; reporters in the area now operate in secret.
Al-Qaida supporting Sunni gunmen have taken over large parts of the city and don't like their pictures taken.
"They have driven out 90 percent of the Shiites in the area," he estimated.
Sectarian violence growing worse
I increasingly hear about entire villages being ethnically cleansed. Two weeks ago, we traveled to Saba al-Bor, a village north of Baghdad where Shiite militias have driven out nearly all of the Sunnis. The Sunnis are now on the outskirts of the town, lobbing in mortars, trying to drive out the Shiites. It's a nine there too.
But our reporter today told me about a new strategy in the civil war used in a village called Hweidar near Baquoba.
Hweidar is a small Shiite village surrounded by Sunni towns.
"Do you know what the Sunnis are doing?" the reporter asked me.
"They are firing in mortars?" I suggested.
"That too… but what else?"
"Just tell me."
"They are cutting it off. They have cut the power lines and are even stopping food from entering. Now, the only way in for supplies is by bellum," he said.
A bellum is a traditional Iraqi riverboat used by fishermen and farmers. British forces used these round, flat-bottomed rafts during WWI to transport supplies during their march north to Baghdad.
American and Iraqi officials have now launched a major "Baghdad security plan."
But as our stringer reminded me today, Baghdad is only part of much wider problem.