September 14, 2011: Corruption remains the single biggest problem. While most Iraqis are all for halting corruption, too many will still take a bribe. This means the criminal gangs and terror groups can cripple police operations by paying off a few cops. Soldiers and other government employees are too frequently willing to take a bribe. This leads to all sorts of problems, from increases in crime and terrorism, to an inability to provide essential services (electricity, water, education, law and order). Everyone admits there is a problem, but not enough, yet, will step up and do something about it. It’s not lost on many Iraqis that even though they have a democracy, unless the corruption is greatly reduced, they will never have peace and prosperity. Thus Iraqis note that the “Arab Spring” movements that have overthrown several dictatorships will still have to deal with the corruption, which is a major problem throughout the Arab world.
Because of the growing violence with Kurdish separatists (against Turks and Iranians) and Sunni Arab terrorists, the U.S. government warned its employees in the Kurdish north to use an armed escort when on the road. Despite that, the Kurdish north remains a popular tourist destination for Arabs from the south. The Kurdish separatists are fighting in a few sections of the Turkish and Iranian border, and leave most of the north in peace.
The continuing pro-democracy protests in neighboring Syria have had a curious effect. The many Islamic radical groups (and older secular Arab radical outfits) there are, for the most part, siding with the government and providing muscle to hunt down and capture or kill demonstration organizers. These terror organizations have had sanctuary in Syria for decades, and many feel that a reform government would likely end that. Islamic terrorism has become unpopular in the Arab world since al Qaeda’s large scale attacks against Moslems after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Syria is the last decent place where a terror group can operate, openly and effectively. Somalia and Yemen are very distant second choices. Thus a lot fewer Islamic terrorists are sneaking into Iraq from Syria these days, as they are needed to fight the revolution in Syria.
September 12, 2011: A bus with Shia Arab pilgrims, going to visit a religious shrine in Syria, was stopped on the western Iraq (Anbar province) highway, and 22 Shia men were murdered (29 women, children and old men were spared). There has been growing religious violence in Anbar, where local police can be bribed, or intimidated into inaction, allowing Islamic radical and Sunni nationalist groups to maintain bases. The national government has not pushed the issue, with the violence level (about ten incidents a week) remaining steady for the last two years. Sunni leaders in Anbar accuse the national government of taking orders from Iran, to keep the violence going in Anbar, in order to punish the Sunni Arabs.
September 11, 2011: The government in the Kurdish north halted exports of 100,000 barrels of oil a day via pipelines in their territory. This is part of an ongoing dispute with the Arab dominated national government, over how much oil money the northern Kurds should get.
September 10, 2011: The head of the Integrity (anti-corruption) Commission resigned, after growing popular and political pressure to do so. The former head of the commission has been in the job for nearly three years and there was growing evidence that he was largely responsible for covering up for corrupt officials and derailing corruption investigations. Corruption has been a growing cause of popular unrest.
Pro-Iranian Shia leader Moqtada al Sadr has ordered Shia radical groups to cease attacks on American troops, so that they can continue to withdraw by the end of the year. Sadr’s Mahdi Army was defeated by Iraqi forces in 2008 and he was forced to flee to Iran. Sadr has since returned, and pro-Iranian terror groups have become more active. But Sadr has been more bluff and bluster than real threat. Iran is still controlling Iraqi Shia terrorist groups, although Sadr can sometimes be difficult for everyone. This “order” is actually more of a request. There is one good reason to halt attacks, because American retaliation causes serious damage to the Shia militias.
September 9, 2011: Three terrorist attacks in northern Iraq (mainly around Mosul) left six people dead.
September 8, 2011: A prominent anti-corruption journalist was murdered in his home by a professional killer. This caused a growing number of demonstrations by Iraqis fed-up with the corruption and government inability to deal with it.
September 6, 2011: In western Iraq, police were ambushed and six of them killed.
September 3, 2011: In the north, the deputy military commander of PJAK (the Iranian Kurdish separatist group based in Iraq) was killed by Iranian artillery. Iran recently launched another offensive against PJAK bases in Iraq, causing over a hundred casualties. Turkish forces have also launched another offensive against Kurdish separatist (PKK) bases just across their Iraq border. The Turks are mainly using air strikes. Despite the Turkish air attacks, the PKK and PJAK have agreed to combine their efforts to fight Iranian forces, which are on the ground inside Iraq. The Kurdish government complains about the Iranian invasion, but will not send troops to confront the Iranians.
September 2, 2011: Pro-Iranian Shia leader Moqtada al Sadr called for Iraqis to rise up against the government. Sadr cites the corruption, but most of his followers know that Iran, which is a religious dictatorship under Sharia (Islamic law) is as corrupt as Iraq. So Sadr’s call for uprisings has little impact.
September 1, 2011: For the first time since U.S. forces entered Iraq in 2003, a month went by without any American troops being killed. Terrorism left 239 Iraqis dead in August, down 8 percent from July.