Five rears after the invasion of Iraq the US and the Iraqi government both claim that Iraq is becoming a less dangerous place, but the measures taken to protect Mr Maliki told a different story. Gun-waving soldiers first cleared all traffic from the streets. Then four black armored cars, each with three machine gunners on the roof, raced out of a heavily fortified exit from the Green Zone, followed by sand-coloured American Humvees and more armoured cars. Finally, in the middle of the speeding convoy, we saw six identical bullet proof vehicles with black windows, one of which must have carried Mr Maliki.
The precautions were not excessive since Baghdad remains the most dangerous city in the world. The Iraqi prime minister was only going to the headquarters of the Dawa party to which he belongs and which are only half a mile from the Green Zone but his hundreds of security guards acted as if they were entering enemy territory.