The government has banned 15 political parties with links to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. Most Iraqis associate the Baath Party with Sunni Arab domination and tyranny. Baath was also secular and, in theory, socialist. But Baath was basically an excuse for the Sunni Arab minority (15 percent of the population) to loot the nation's oil wealth, and kill or terrorize any Iraqi who tried to get in their way. The U.S. and Iraqi governments (dominated by the 65 percent of Iraqis who are Shia, and 20 percent who are Kurds) differ on how to deal with the Sunni Arabs. The U.S. wants to use a lot of amnesty for the Sunni Arabs, to reduce terrorism (many Sunni Arab terrorists fight because they know they would be killed for their past crimes, while serving Saddam). The government does not want to grant a lot of amnesty, because the victim's families and friends make vocal protests, and the media loves to pick up on stuff like that. Another complication is that many Sunni Arabs believe that they will eventually take control of the country again. They believe this because they are better educated, more ruthless, arrogant and convinced of their own innate superiority to the Kurds and Shia Arabs. The Sunni Arabs also believe that they will have the backing of the Sunni Arab nations to the south (especially Saudi Arabia), who want a Sunni Arab run Iraq as a defense against Shia Iran. Most Iraqis would rather all the Iraqi Sunni Arabs be killed or driven out of the country (a quarter of them are already gone, since 2003). The government and the United States see this as the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Something not to be discussed, but something that cannot be ignored either. Most Iraqis do not trust the Sunni Arabs, and want revenge for all the crimes committed by the Sunni Arabs. Americans tend to play down how long people hold grudges in the Middle East. The big question right now is whether the Iraqis can maintain a government that is generally accepted by most Iraqis, and do that without resorting to mass killings and expulsions of the hated Sunni Arabs. Then there is also the question of Kurds demands for more autonomy and control of northern oil fields. But the Kurd disputes are not as incendiary as those involving the Sunni Arabs who, according to most Iraqis, have centuries of sins to account for.
Iran and Iraq have agreed to meet and negotiate the exact location of their mutual border. That doesn't mean there will be a quick agreement. Several oil fields lie astride the border, meaning billions of dollars in oil revenue hangs on where the border is finally agreed to be.
January 7, 2010: In the town of Hit, west of Baghdad, bombs were planted next to the homes of five police commanders. When the bombs were detonated, eight people died. The attacks were apparently part of an effort to discourage the police from seeking out and arresting or killing Sunni Arab terrorists. Sometimes this works, sometimes it just makes the police angrier and more brutal.
January 1, 2010: With all of the non-American foreign troops now gone, the U.S. has renamed foreign forces in Iraq from Multi-National Forces - Iraq, to United States Forces - Iraq. Over the next eight months, U.S. forces in Iraq will decrease from 110,000 to 50,000. December was also the first month, since U.S. troops entered Iraq in 2003, that there were no American combat deaths in the country (there were three non-combat deaths.) For the entire year, American combat deaths were cut by more than half, to 149, compared to 314 in 2008. Iraqi civilian deaths, almost all from Sunni Arab terror attacks, were much fewer in 2009 (4,500, compared to 9,200 in 2008.)
December 31, 2009: A British civilian computer consultant, Peter Moore, was released by Iraqi Shia terrorists, after 30 months captivity. Moore was believed held captive, part of the time, in Iran (as the Shia group that took him were pro-Iranian.) Moore's four British bodyguards were also murdered over the last 30 months. Moore was apparently taken in order to pressure the British to get pro-Iranian terrorist leaders, held by the Americans, freed. Some of these men were eventually released, apparently in a deal to get Moore freed, but the U.S. refused to give into the terrorist demands for a long time.
December 30, 2009: Two terrorist bombs went off in Ramadi, 100 kilometers west of Baghdad, killing 30 people. Sunni Arabs are still split between those who want to make peace with the Shia dominated government, and regain control of the country in the long term, and those who want that power sooner, via more terror attacks.