October 9, 2013:
The Sunni Islamic terrorists have killed over 6,000 people (nearly a thousand in September) so far this year and the government is under a lot of popular pressure to stop the mass murder. So far the terrorists have managed to find ways to work around each new security measure, and the Sunni minority still refuses to turn on the terrorists (as they did in 2007). The additional security measures have forced the terrorists to rely more on car bombs, and remotely detonated ones at that, because the terrorists are apparently running out of suicide bombers. The Sunni terrorists (mostly the local al Qaeda and Sunni nationalists who are not eager to have a religious dictatorship that al Qaeda wants) continue to strive for a civil war between Shia and Sunni. This would be disastrous for the greatly outnumbered (4-1) Sunnis, but most Sunnis are still bitter over the loss of power and income after the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein. The 2007 peace deal, arranged by the United States, brought with it a 90 percent drop in terrorism and a halt to the Shia death squads that were randomly killing Sunnis. But after the Americans left in 2010, the Shia dominated government reneged on the terms of that deal, mainly by not supplying the promised jobs and share of the oil income. Sunnis also accused the Shia government of not supporting them in the north where Kurds were trying to reclaim property Saddam had stolen in the 1980s and given to poor Sunnis from the south. Then came accusations that some Sunni politicians (including several senior elected officials) were supporting Sunni terrorists. Some of these accusations appear to be true, but for most Sunnis it was the last straw and the Sunni terrorists found themselves with more fans and recruits. While many Sunni leaders oppose the terrorism, speaking out can get you killed by Sunnis who consider any peace proposals treason against the Sunni community. Now the Sunni uprising in Syria has further encouraged the Sunni terrorists, despite the lack of any real progress in Iraq and the growing risk of a devastating Shia backlash.
Iran is apparently allowing Syria to fly some of its warplanes to Iran where they are safe from NATO air raids. This, of course, required Iraq to allow the Syrian aircraft to use Iraqi air space to reach Iran. That sort of thing gets Iraq in trouble with its Western aid donors and that means Iran has to spend more money bribing Iraqi politicians to deal with that problem. More politicians are coming out and calling corruption the most serious problem in the country but not enough of them to get much more done about the problem. The corruption cripples the economy by limiting foreign investment and preventing local entrepreneurs from starting new businesses.
The Syrian civil war continues to spill over into western Iraq, as it has for over a year now. This area (Anbar province) is mostly desert, sparsely populated (1.5 million), and mostly Sunni. Think of it as the northernmost part of the Bedouin Desert, which Saudi Arabia occupies most of to the south. Saudi Arabia is the Bedouin heartland and the Anbar tribesmen feel a religious and cultural kinship with the Saudis. During the centuries of Sunni Arabs dominating the Shia majority in Baghdad and to the south, the Anbar Sunnis did not get along with the Baghdadi Sunnis, because the latter considered themselves as superior (by virtue of education, wealth, and power) to the mangy nomads and small farmers of Anbar. But in the last decade of Saddam’s rule, the Baghdadi Sunnis made peace with their fellow Sunnis in Anbar, the better to defeat increasing Shia unrest and rebellion. The Anbar Sunnis now see themselves as the champions of Sunni Arab resistance against the hated and despised Shia. In response to this some 20,000 Iraqi soldiers were moved to the 600 kilometer long Syrian border last May and began attacking Sunni terrorists and blocking their movement across the border. The main objective of this operation was to halt support for Syrian rebels by Iraqi Sunni and to keep the road to Syria open for Iranian supply convoys (for Syrian government forces and pro-government militias). The Iraqi troops are attacking known Sunni terrorist and smuggler bases along the border. Sunnis are fighting back, attacking the Iraqi (largely Shia) soldiers with roadside bombs, snipers, and ambushes.
The ISI (Islamic State in Iraq), one of the main al Qaeda groups in Iraq, has become stronger and bolder because of all the terrorists it has sent to fight in Syria. This has brought in more contributions to al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria and made the Iraqi al Qaeda leaders ambitious. Earlier this year the head of ISI defied orders from the al Qaeda supreme leader (bin Laden successor Ayman al Zawahiri) to stop poaching members from the Syrian Jabhat al Nusra (JN). That was because Zawahiri declared the April “merger” of the new (since January) Syrian JN with the decade old ISI as unacceptable and ordered the two groups to remain separate. The reason for this was that the merger was announced by ISI without the JN leadership agreeing to it. The merger formed a third group: Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). That was the problem, as many JN members then left their JN faction to join nearby ones being formed by ISIL. Most JN leaders saw this as a power grab by ISI, especially since most of the JN men who left to join ISIL were non-Syrians. Many of these men had worked with ISI before and thought they were joining a more powerful group. But ISIL was apparently just an attempt by ISI (which is having a real hard time in Iraq) to grab some glory, recruits, cash, and power by poaching JN members. JN appealed to Zawahiri for help and got it. But as has often happened in the past, orders from al Qaeda supreme headquarters are being ignored. That’s not the first time al Qaeda has been called on to slap down misbehaving Iraqi Islamic terror groups and it won’t be the last. In the past al Qaeda leadership escalated and quietly ordered the assassination of the rebellious Iraqi al Qaeda leaders. In any event, the Iraqi branch (ISI) is now technically at war with the Syrian branch (JN). This has led to a growing number of deadly battles between Syrian and Iraqi branches of al Qaeda. ISI/ISIL has made it clear that it intends to unite Iraq and Syria in a new Islamic state under Iraqi leadership. The fighting in Syria has made it easier for Islamic terrorist groups to raise money (illegally of course) in the oil producing Arab Gulf states. The idea of Islamic terrorism in support of Sunni Islam is still popular with many Sunni Arabs, especially if the bombs go off somewhere else. ISIL now has over 5,000 armed men in Syria and is still getting enough donor cash to keep the terror attacks going in Iraq. The Iraqi terrorists are not popular in Syria and often find themselves fighting government forces and other rebels at the same time.
There are now over 200,000 Syrian refugees in northern (Kurdish controlled) Iraq. About a third of those have arrived in the last two months. The Syrian Kurds are under constant attack by ISIL, who carry on the decades old Iraqi Sunni animosity towards the Kurds.
October 8, 2013: The government signed a deal to build a 270 kilometer pipeline to carry Iranian natural gas to electrical power plants in southern Iraq. This will bring Iran $3.7 billion a year in revenue. The pipeline is being built by Iran and will be operational in about a year.
October 7, 2013: In Baghdad a security guard caught a woman attempting to plant a bomb next to a primary school. Sunni terrorists are using more women for terrorist operations because they cannot get enough competent men. Many of the more competent Sunni are simply leaving the country to improve their economic situation.
October 2, 2013: In the last week Iran and Iraq signed at least two military cooperation agreements. These involved joint training and Iran providing training for Iraqi specialists. The two countries will also allow trade between the two countries in locally made military equipment. Mainly that means Iraq buying Iranian weapons. There has long been informal cooperation of the same sort that is now part of the formal agreements. The new agreements also settle some disputes between Iranian and Iraqi naval forces over how to handle smugglers.
North of Baghdad Islamic terrorists shot down an army helicopter. It’s not uncommon for Iraqi helicopters to be hit by ground fire, but one getting shot down is rare and is mainly a matter of chance.
October 1, 2013: In September, 23 Iraqis were executed for terrorism. That makes about 90 executions for 2013 so far. Executions are used to prevent extremely dangerous terrorists from later getting out of prison (via jailbreak or bribes).
September 29, 2013: In Kurdish north Iraq six heavily armed men tried to break into the headquarters of the Security Directorate (which runs all counter-terrorism ops in Kurdish controlled territory). All 6 attackers were killed, along with 6 Kurdish security personnel. It was later discovered that the attackers were al Qaeda operatives attempting to free al Qaeda men held prisoner in the complex.
September 26, 2013: In Syria a mortar shell hit the Iraqi embassy compound in Damascus, killing 1 and wounding 5.
The Iraqi military is buying $20 million worth of American Talon robots for use in dealing with roadside bombs. Afghanistan earlier also selected the Talon.
September 23, 2013: In the northern Syria (Idlib province) an Iraqi Islamic terrorist leader (Abu Abdullah Libi) was killed, apparently by secular rebels. This has led to more fighting between Islamic and secular rebels in Syria.
September 20, 2013: In the largely Sunni city of Samarra 2 bombs went off in a Sunni mosque, leaving 15 dead 20 wounded. Sunni terrorists have, over the last decade, destroyed several Shia shrines in the city.