Christians in Baghdad have had a rough time in the last three years, their churches bombed, and women forced to veil by religious fanatics. Many have fled. So it was rather bizarre to see a Christmas scene, complete with Santa Claus set up on a stage in the neighborhood of Karrada, known for strong Shiite Muslim, as well as a Christian population base. In the audience were senior commanders and a middling official from the Interior Ministery and the National police, beefy guys in camoflage and black berets, along with a smattering of Christian clerics, and an aging but famous national soccer coach who happened to be Christian.  On the stage was a masked Santa and kids in Claus dress-up, helped to line up  by Muslim ladies in full black abaya who came from the local branch of the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. The Prime minister and Interior Minister were scheduled to make a showing but never turned up.
Why the mix of Santa Claus, Christians and the Interior Ministry, which runs the police and intelligence agencies and was just accused by the Maliki government of fostering a coup plot? Maybe the government wanted to rally Christian votes for coming elections. Or maybe it wanted to show its warm fuzzy side after the coup arrests, which many thought was nasty political theatre. The 35 alleged coupsters were released by week's end, and the Interior Minister decried the charges as a big mistake.