November 24, 2009:
The recent high-profile bombings have mobilized public support to identify and arrest the terrorists responsible. As a result, dozens of prominent terrorist leaders and technical personnel have been arrested in the last few weeks. This includes several that had recently arrived from Syria, where many notorious, Saddam era, terror groups have found sanctuary. There are still some two million Iraqis living in exile, most of them Saddam supporters. About a million are living in Syria, which remains a center of Islamic terrorist activity. Most of these Syria based plans for violence are directed at targets inside Iraq. These refugee groups are getting desperate, because the UN is unable to find a lot of money to support the exiles, and Syrian wants these Sunni Iraqis to go home (where many would face prosecution, or violent retribution from their victims.)
Western archeologists are finding that many of the news stories coming out of Iraq about the theft or destruction of ancient artifacts were false. The national museum had preserved nearly all its treasures, and there was no widespread damage to archeological sites. Like much of the reports from Iraq over the last six years, the main intent was to get an exciting headline, not report what was actually going on. Some reporters, especially those embedded with U.S. troops, reported having their stories rewritten, or simply not published, because their editors felt what was actually happening over there contradicted the U.S. medias belief about what was actually going on. Some of this attitude persists.
A recent international corruption survey found Iraq at the bottom of the list (of over 160 nations) in the company of Somalia, Afghanistan, Burma and Sudan. Because of election laws, that force people to vote for "lists" rather than individuals, it's difficult to hold anyone accountable for corruption. A new election law, that fixed many of these problems, was recently passed, but senior (and often corrupt) officials are still trying to block this reform. Many of the Shia politicians running the government would be happy to see a Shia dictatorship established, with them running things. Most Iraqis are not so sure about that idea.
Combat deaths in Iraq have reached 3,476. There have also been 888 non-combat deaths since the March, 2003 invasion, and most of the recent reports of American troops killed in Iraq have been from accidents, not combat. During the fighting in Vietnam, there were 47,359 combat deaths (most between 1965-70). Peak troop strength in Vietnam was three times what it was in Iraq. Taking that into account, the casualty rate (deaths per thousand troops per year) in Iraq was about a third of the rate in Vietnam and World War II.
November 23, 2009: Another typical day, with five roadside bombs used around the country, leaving 11 people wounded (including two U.S. troops). There are fewer and fewer terrorist bombings, and less competent (and deadly) ones at that. The police have gotten better at collecting information from dead, and captured, terrorists, and quickly acting on it. This has greatly reduced the number of competent terrorists out there.
Kurdish politicians in the north have agreed to merge the two separate Kurdish "armies" into one unified force (one with 55,000 active and reserve gunmen, the other with 18,000). The Kurds have long been divided by clan and tribal politics, which is the main reason that they never established a Kurdish state.
November 16, 2009: Thirteen men were abducted, in a village outside Baghdad, by gunmen in army uniforms, and later found dead. This is believed to be the result of a tribal, not a sectarian, dispute. Such violence even occurred during Saddam's rule. Crime, in general, continues to be a major complaint in Iraq. So is the involvement of soldiers and police in criminal activity. This, in turn, is the result of the continuing shortage of experienced commanders. Nearly all army officers and police commanders had to be replaced after 2003, because the existing ones were selected mainly on the basis of their loyalty to Saddam. The new ones were hastily selected and trained, and many have not worked out.