October 23, 2011: The U.S. and Iraq failed to reach an agreement on a Status of Forces treaty for U.S. troops. So all American forces will leave by the end of the year. The stumbling point was Iraqi insistence that there be no immunity (that Americans who commit crimes in Iraq be tried under U.S., not Iraqi law). Immunity was necessary because of the high level of corruption and partisan politics in Iraq. Immunity clauses are a normal part of many Status of Forces agreements (that govern behavior and use of American troops in foreign countries). In some countries, where the local judicial system is not corrupt, American troops are subject to local law for crimes against locals. But Iraq does, and long has had major problems with corruption. It's also very fashionable for Iraqis to blame everything (including Saddam) on the United States. Blaming others for your flaws and not taking responsibility is a popular approach to life in this part of the world. It's also why there is so little economic, political, educational and cultural progress in so many Moslem countries. When you have students demonstrating for the right to cheat (as happened recently in Bangladesh) and adults openly supporting government corruption, you have to protect your troops. American diplomats in Iraq have the usual diplomatic immunity, and about 200 U.S. military trainers will remain behind, as part of the American embassy staff (and thus have immunity) after the end of the year.
Ironically, most Iraqis wanted some American troops to remain behind. While it's popular to excoriate U.S. troops as "invaders" and "occupiers", many Iraqis also see American soldiers as "protectors." In general, Iraqis avoid calling American forces "liberators" (from Saddam and dictatorship), but there is an unspoken agreement that the Americans changed Iraq for the better, but that it will take a while longer to fix the flaws in Iraqi character that allowed a tyrant like Saddam to take power, and hold onto it for decades. Many Iraqis fear another Saddam (likely a Shia one), or invasion and conquest by Iran (of all or part of Iraq.)
Although most Iraqis are Shia, they are also Arab, and do not want to be ruled by their Shia brethren from Iran. That's because the Iranians are Indo-European people and have long treated their Arab neighbors with disdain and cruelty. Iraqi can see this happening right now in western Iran, where the Iranian Arab minority (about two percent of the population) is constantly being persecuted by the Indo-European Iranians. The Iranian Arabs also get it from the Azeri Turk minority (25 percent of all Iranians). Iraqis have bitter memories of centuries of domination by the Ottoman Turks (who now control only Turkey), whose empire once stretched into North Africa and the Balkans. One thing all Iraqis are grateful to Saddam for was his ability to keep the Iranians out. Many Iraqis fear that, without a badass like Saddam, there will be no one to motivate Iraqis into blocking Iranian moves to occupy Iraq, or control its rulers.
But while U.S. troops are gone, they have not gone far. There are American forces just across the border in Kuwait, another Arab state fearful of Iranian expansion. Unlike the Iraqis, the Kuwaitis celebrate their liberation (from Iraqi invaders) by Americans in 1991. That's mainly because Kuwait is one of the several smaller states along the west coast of the Persian Gulf. These small countries have long survived by their wits, not real or imagined military power. This involves being genuinely friendly to powerful foreigners, who can keep the local predators from swallowing them up. For centuries, European nations, particularly Britain, were the most popular foreign allies. But since the 1950s, the U.S. has become the big buddy of choice. Iraq, despite its military weakness, still sees itself as a potential military power. That potential has never been realized. Iraq did not "defeat" Iran during the 1980s war (which Iraq began by invading Iran in an attempt to steal some oil fields), but hung on until Iran got tired of fighting. The Iranians have never forgotten that Iraqi invasion, and that scares most Iraqis. Thus Iraq has to swallow its pride and illusions, and form some kind of defensive alliance with the United States.
As a practical matter, the war in Iraq ended three years ago, when most Sunni Arab tribes broke with al Qaeda and Sunni Arab nationalist groups (allied with al Qaeda) and turned on the Sunni Arab terrorists. The number of terror attacks soon fell by 90 percent. There are still Sunni terrorists out there, but few enough that the Iraqi security forces can handle them. Same with the Shia Arab militias, especially the pro-Iranian ones. The government forces defeated these pretty much by themselves, and this encouraged American commanders that Iraqi troops and police could deal with internal threats. The Sunni Arab and Shia zealots will be part of the political landscape for a decade or more, and Iraqis are going to have to deal with it, or suffer the return of dictatorship.
Turkey reports that their 10,000 troops in northern Iraq have killed at least 49 PKK rebels in the last two days.
October 20, 2011: Some 10,000 Turkish troops entered northern Iraq, in an effort to do some major damage to the PKK (Kurdish separatist). The ground troops were accompanied by increased fighter-bomber and helicopter attacks. This unscheduled offensive was triggered by a series of PKK attacks (launched from Iraq bases) on Turkish border posts yesterday. This left 24 Turkish troops dead, which was the heaviest loss since 1993. The Turks always have plans for moving troops into northern Iraq, but have not done so on a large scale since 2008. There are 1,200 Turkish troops stationed permanently (and unofficially) in northern Iraq, to help keep an eye on the PKK. Since 2008, most of the Turkish military activity against PKK targets in northern Iraq has been with aerial bombing. But apparently this was not enough, and now there are over 20 battalions of Turkish infantry and tanks moving towards known PKK base areas, to settle things up close and personal.
October 16, 2011: Iraqi air controllers have been in charge of Iraqi air space since the first of October, and have been able to handle the job. Since 2003, the U.S. had controlled Iraqi air space.
October 15, 2011: In Baghdad, two senior intelligence officers, in two separate attacks, were killed by assassins armed with silenced pistols. This sort of thing is used by gangs and terrorist organizations to gain some control over the security forces, as a form of protection. Scaring intelligence officers off is usually a good protective measure.
In Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad, two bombs went off, killing at least fifteen people.
October 14, 2011: In the aftermath of the Baghdad bombings two days ago, police arrested 306 terrorism suspects.
October 12, 2011: Five terror bombs went off in Baghdad, killing and wounding over a hundred people.