December 22, 2011: The day began with a bang in Baghdad as seven bombs went off across the city, killing 18 and wounding many more. Most of the terrorist violence is carried out by Sunni Arabs who refuse to accept the rule of the Shia majority (who outnumber Sunni Arabs about four to one). Sunni Arabs have dominated the area for centuries and many would rather die than exist without that power. The majority of Sunni Arabs are willing to coexist peacefully with the non-Sunni Arab majority (which includes Sunni Kurds, Christians, and some other minorities). However, many Sunni Arabs still have contempt for the Shia Arabs and believe that, in the longer term, Sunni Arabs will once again rule Iraq. But for the moment, Iraqi Sunni Arabs risk being driven out of Iraq because the other Iraqis have just about had it with all this Sunni Arab violence.
Prime minister Maliki demanded that the Kurdish government in the north turn over the Sunni Arab vice president, Tariq al Hashimi, who is accused of running a death squad and other terrorist activities. Maliki threatens to bring charges against other Sunni and Kurdish officials if the non-Shia politicians do not start cooperating. For Sunni Arab politicians, this means halting support for terrorists in their communities. The Sunni Arab terror attacks against Shia Arabs (and Shia Iranian pilgrims) keep alive the Shia urge to crack down hard on the Sunni Arab community (about 16 percent of the population.) For centuries the Sunni Arabs have dominated, and often persecuted, the Shia majority. For several decades, under Saddam Hussein, the persecution became particularly horrific. Since 2003, American pressure held back the Shia desire for official vengeance. Many Shia want to drive all Sunni Arabs out of the country, an action that would cause Iraq many diplomatic and image problems.
To further complicate the situation the government is dominated by two alliances. One, led by Maliki, is almost entirely Shia. The other, Iraqiya, is mainly Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and secular Shia who don't want a Shia dominated dictatorship or too much Iranian influence. Getting the two coalitions to compromise has proved difficult. In the Middle East, political compromise has historically been much more difficult to achieve than in the West. Right now the Iraqiya block is refusing to participate in the government, which makes running the country more difficult.
Many Iraqis, including most Shia, fear increasing Iranian influence. 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. Iraqis 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.
There are only about 2,400 American government employees left in Iraq. About a third of them are Department of Defense civilian military trainers. The rest are mostly State Department personnel, plus some from other government agencies. The trainers are dispersed all over the country in military bases. These trainers do not leave the bases. Most of the diplomats are in the newly built embassy compound (the largest America has.)
Iraqi security forces comprise 450,000 police and 208,000 troops. Naval forces are mainly a coast guard and the air force has no jet fighters. Potential foes are Iran (350,000 troops), Turkey (600,000), Israel (133,000 plus 380,000 well trained reservists), and Saudi Arabia (75,000, double that if other Gulf oil states join in). In effect, Iraq is dependent on the United States for defense from any of these potential invaders. But the threat of invasion is low, while the threat of subversion, especially from Iran, is high.
December 19, 2011: The government attempted to arrest Sunni Arab vice president Tariq al Hashimi. The charge was terrorism, specifically for using his force of bodyguards as a death squad. In the last few weeks 13 of Hashimis have been arrested and questioned. The police reports detailed assassinations and terror attacks by the Hashimi bodyguards.
December 18, 2011: The last American troops left Iraq. The very last 500 troops, in 110 vehicles, left a camp in southern Iraq before dawn. Even the Iraqi troops in the camp were not told of the departure time, to reduce the possibility of terror attack on the Americans. The terrorists failed to make any significant attacks on the departing Americans.
During eight years of fighting there were 35,000 American casualties (12.8 percent of them fatal). There were more than ten times as many Iraqi casualties, mostly the result of terrorism campaigns by Sunni and Shia Arab groups. That violence has died down since most Sunnis gave up the fight four years ago. But diehard Sunni Arabs continues to terrorize Shia Arabs and Sunni Arabs that won't support the violence. The Shia majority is also pressuring the Kurds to give up their autonomous ways, especially making deals with foreign oil companies to explore for oil in Kurdish territory. While the Shia could crush the Sunni Arabs (using the Shia dominated security forces), the Kurds are united, control their own territory, and are better trained and organized than the Shia soldiers and police.
December 17, 2011: NATO ended its seven year training mission in Iraq. The remaining 130 trainers come from 13 nations. NATO and Iraq wanted foreign trainers (including Americans) to remain after 2011. But the issue of immunity from local prosecution became a hot item in Iraqi politics and was impossible to get through parliament. Such immunity was essential because the Iraqi justice system is corrupt and foreign troops could be falsely prosecuted. That risk was unacceptable in the West. Over 700 American civilian (former military personnel) trainers remain, using a special diplomatic agreement to obtain immunity.
December 13, 2011: Three bombs hit oil pipelines in the south. This was embarrassing for the commanders of the 40,000 Iraqi "energy protection" troops. These generals had assured Iraq that the energy protection force could protect oil and power facilities from terrorist attack. Such attacks are way down over the last few years but Iraq needs to eliminate all of the energy sector attacks to keep oil revenue coming in, and electrical power and fuel getting to Iraqis.
December 12, 2011: The U.S. has agreed to sell Iraq another 18 F-16 fighters. Iraq already has 18 F-16s on order.
December 11, 2011: About 7,000 U.S. troops are left in the country but many are leaving every day and all are supposed to be gone before Christmas (the 25th). The departure times are kept secret to avoid terrorist attacks. All U.S. troops are expected to be gone within a week, in order to keep the American government promise that all the departing troops would be home by the Christmas.
December 7, 2011: About 8,000 U.S. troops and 5,000 civilian contractors are left in the country.
December 6, 2011: An electrical power line, bringing in electricity from Iran, was bombed and damaged.
December 5, 2011: Another terrorist bombing on Shia pilgrims left 28 dead and over 80 wounded. It's a peak time for Shia visiting Shia shrines in southern Iraq, and Sunni Arab terrorists keep trying to carry out attacks.
December 2, 2011: The largest American base in Iraq, Camp Victory, was handed over to Iraq. At one point, 46,000 U.S. troops operated out of Camp Victory.
In an unusual incident in Kurdish northern Iraq several dozen Kurds came out of a mosque after a sermon and attacked 19 businesses (mostly liquor stores). In addition to a lot of property damage, at least 25 people were wounded. Police eventually halted the attacks and prosecutors are seeking to arrest the Moslem clerics who instigated the attacks.
December 1, 2011: The U.S. turned over control of the Umm Qasr naval base to Iraq. There are only 13,000 U.S. troops left in Iraq.