Iraq is a mass of contradictions.
Security is really better. I've been walking around on streets I wouldn't have driven near a year ago. Of course, I hunker down under my head covering and black coat and don't make eye contact, or speak English except when I'm out of public view. Stores are open at night, the streets are full of shoppers, traffic jams are impossible.
And I wonder what will happen to the US embassy and all the installations inside the protected Green Zone when Iraqis take over security in the zone. When I walked through the long, sandbagged, barbed wired path into the Green Zone today, I went through five separate security checks - including two by Ugandan security guards overseen by Americans, two body patdowns by Iraqi lady guards, a dog sniffing (of my purse), a hands outstretched in a circular glass enclosure that detects explosives, and a passport check by Peruvian guards.
Security in the zone is even tighter than when I was here last year, perhaps because a female suicide bomber blew herself up in November right where I walked in, killing and wounding several people.