March 13, 2012:
In the south, Turkey and Iran are fighting a low-level war for access to local markets. The Turks are more efficient but they are Sunnis and Iran considers largely Shia Iraq its exclusive territory for trade and economic opportunities. There's also the historical and ethnic angle. Iranians and Turks have been fighting over control of what is now Iraq for nearly a thousand years. For the last 500 years, Iran has been losing this fight and wants to turn that around. The Turks have the support of the Iraqi government, which fears the Turks more than Iran. In response, Iran has its Quds Force organizing terror attacks on Turkish economic operations in the south. This has led to threats from Turkey against Iran, and Quds has had some limits placed on its operations. One reason having nuclear weapons is so popular in Iran is Iranians know that will make it possible to put the Turks on the defensive for once.
While many Iraqi Sunni terrorists are moving to Syria, so are at least as many Sunni Arab tribesmen who belong to tribes with clans on both sides of the border. This is done out of tribal loyalty. The Iraqi terrorists believe that if the rebels win the Iraqi Sunni terror groups will be allowed to maintain a long-term presence in Syria. Until a few years ago Syria was a base for Sunni Iraqi Arab terror groups, but when most Iraqi Sunnis turned against the terrorists (in 2007) there was also a collapse in popular support for the terrorists throughout the Moslem world. Cash and recruits stopped coming to Syria, to be shipped across the border to Iraq. But now the terrorists see an opportunity to get their base back. Once more, the Persian Gulf Arab states (especially Saudi Arabia) will be under pressure to let its citizens contribute to Sunni Islamic terrorist groups. Another argument in favor of this dangerous practice is that Sunni Islamic terrorists counteract their Shia counterparts from Iran.
The violence in Syria, which is still mainly a struggle against an Iran-backed despot and not a religious war between Sunnis and Shia, has led Iraq (run by Shia Arabs who don't want to be dominated by the non-Arab Iranians) and Saudi Arabia (mostly Sunni but threatened by Iran) to develop closer relations. This annoys Iran, but Arabs feel more comfortable with each other, despite religious differences, than with other cultures (Iranians are Indo-European).
March 12, 2012: Criminal gangs are getting bolder. This was demonstrated today when a gang robbed four jewelry stores simultaneously in Baghdad. Nine people died. Even under Saddam the criminal gangs were active in the large cities, and this has gotten worse since decades of police state rule ended in 2003.
It's not just the criminal gangs that have grown larger and bolder over the last decade. Religious gangs have also become a major law and order problem. Earlier this year Shia Islamic radicals began threatening and attacking young men who have adopted Western dress and customs. This includes piercings, hipster clothing (all black Western styles), and bizarre haircuts. The religious gangs came to accuse these "Emo" (for "Emotional") guys of being homosexual. This is rarely the case but the gangs know that homosexuality is much more unpopular than hipster appearance and lifestyles. Using the homosexuality angle as justification, the Shia religious gangs have killed over fifty Emos so far this year. In the last six years over a hundred men a year have been killed after being accused of homosexuality.
This Islamic radicalism continues to flourish throughout the region and it's one thing Shia and Sunni Moslems have in common. Iraq is unique in that it has a Sunni minority that, until 2003, controlled a Shia majority population for centuries. Many of those Sunnis would rather die than forsake that advantage and continue to support Sunni Islamic terrorists willing to kill to fight the ruling Shia majority. Al Qaeda recently claimed to be making at least ten attacks (bombings, shootings, kidnappings) a week so far this year.
Last month, 150 died from terror attacks, a new record low. In January 151 died. Despite all the high profile (to attract the attention of local and foreign media) terror attacks in the last few months, 2011 terrorism related deaths were down 27 percent from 2010. This was a continuation of the decline from the 2007 peak of 18,000 deaths. Last December had the lowest death toll (155) since 2003. While the Sunni Arab terror groups are being beaten, as long they can still carry out their attacks, which mainly kill civilians, the entire Sunni Arab community will keep feeling the hate. In response, some Sunni Arab politicians are demanding an autonomous Sunni Arab state, extending from Baghdad (parts of which are still exclusively Sunni) north to Kurdish territory and west to the Jordanian border. Unfortunately, this idea has little support in the Sunni community because this autonomous Sunni Arab area has almost no oil. At the same time, the Kurds are allowing foreign firms to develop oil fields in areas the Kurds have controlled for two decades. This annoys the Shia dominated Iraq government but there is no enthusiasm for invading the Kurdish north. The Shia can take comfort in the fact that they still control most Iraqi oil. It's the oil and billions in oil revenue which occupies the attention of most Iraqis. Given the continued (since Saddam's rule) corruption and inept government, Iraqis have more to be upset about than a few terrorist bombings. If the corruption could be reduced wiping out the terrorists would happen a lot more quickly.
March 8, 2012: Turkish warplanes hit PKK targets in northern Iraq.
March 7, 2012: Several terror bombings left fifteen dead. These attacks caused some anxiety in the government because Iraq is hosting an Arab League heads-of-state meeting in Baghdad later this month.
March 6, 2012: PKK members have kidnapped five kin of the President of Iraq, Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani. The Barzanis have been powerful supporters of Kurdish independence for over a century. Saddam Hussein was accused of killing over 8,000 Barzani males, in an attempt to quash Kurdish unrest. The recent kidnappings are an attempt to remove restrictions the Kurdish government have recently placed on the PKK.
March 5, 2012: North of Baghdad, police arrested five men for participating in the attack on policemen in Haditha the day before. One of the men killed himself with an explosive vest but the other four were arrested.
March 4, 2012: Starting at 2 AM, in the western Iraqi city of Haditha (Anbar province), a gang of gunmen, some dressed as soldiers, began killing policemen. Before dawn arrived the gunmen had fled and 27 policemen were dead.