May 13, 2009:
The Shia dominated government is arresting Sunni Arab leaders who turned on al Qaeda two years ago with the understanding that they would not be prosecuted for their previous terrorist activities. Since it was U.S. commanders that persuaded the Sunni Arab leaders to switch sides, the Iraqi government leadership felt no responsibility for promises (real or implied) of amnesty. Now the government believes it has sufficient military and police forces to deal with any resumption of terrorism from the Sunni Arabs. Thus the government is going to prosecute the Sunni Arab leaders who organized the terrorism that led to the deaths of thousands of Iraqis only a few years ago.
The extent of corruption in the government was demonstrated two weeks ago, when police officials went to arrest nine Trade Ministry officials, on corruption charges. Bodyguards for the officials began firing, and eight of the nine men suspects got away. The Trade Ministry handles over $60 billion of government money a year, and parliamentary corruption investigations have found numerous instances where Trade Ministry officials were stealing. Most of the nine men sought are still at large, and some are believed to have fled the country.
Next year, for the first time, the costs of U.S. operations in Afghanistan ($87.1 billion), will be higher than for Iraq ($81.7.) It's not just the money that's leaving. Many support units are moving from Iraq to Afghanistan, including some key intelligence and SOCOM operations that have been in Iraq for several years. By the end of this year, there will be 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and about 120,000 in Iraq. Casualties are also way down in Iraq. For the last six months, there have been more deaths from non-combat causes (mainly accidents and disease) than from combat.
The U.S. has asked Syria to do something about the increasing number of Islamic terrorists crossing into Iraq. For over a year, the Syrians had cooperated in reducing that traffic. But this year, the Syrians appear to have cut back on that effort. The U.S. and Iraq estimate that about 20 al Qaeda members a month are crossing over from Syria. This small number is enough to keep al Qaeda going in Iraq, with a few bombings a month.
May 2, 2009: Three Iranian helicopters crossed the border in the Kurdish north and attacked villages believed to shelter Iranian Kurdish separatists who had been fighting Iranian security forces. Iran had used artillery to attack villages like this in the past, but this was the first time they sent aircraft across the border.