With about 80 percent of the votes counted, president Maliki's coalition and the pro-Iranian Sadr group both got about 18 percent of the vote. The Kurds and Sunni Arabs both got a similar percentage. The only change from last election is that the Sunni Arabs turned out in force this time, and that Sadr got more votes (bought and paid for by Iran, and Iraqis disgusted by the corruption in the government.) But the Sadr voters were also those who hated the Sunni Arabs the most. Thus it appears Maliki has a good chance of rebuilding his current governing coalition. The vote also showed the Shia Arab majority split between secular and religious blocks. Most Shia are secular, but some of them vote religious because of the promises to fight the corruption. But most Iraqis Shia note that three decades of religious rule in neighboring Iran has not done much for diminishing corruption over there.
So far this year, fifteen American troops have died in Iraq. That's less than half the number for the same period last year, and about one-sixth the losses in the same period in 2008. Most of the combat casualties are now in Afghanistan.
March 16, 2010: Police captured eight senior al Qaeda leaders, after an investigation lasting months, and capped by tips from Iraqis, giving the exact location of the suspects. Al Qaeda has been having increasing difficulty maintaining leadership in the field. The senior guys spend a lot of time in Syria, but it's been getting harder to cross the border (as Iraqi border forts and guards increase along the Syrian frontier.) The Sunni Arab terrorists were much diminished in 2007-8, and have not been able to recover. The current voting, which showed the Sunni Arabs out in force for the first time, is an indication of how unpopular the Sunni Arab terrorists are.
March 15, 2010: The U.S. has turned over the second of three prisons it controls. These facilities contain terrorist suspects arrested by American troops. These suspects prefer to be in American custody, as their treatment is much better. Many Iraqi guards have friends or family who were killed by the Sunni Arab terrorists, or, even earlier, when many of these same terrorists worked for Saddam's security services. Torture and bad treatment have long been standard in Iraqi prisons, but that was mostly to terrorize and intimidate. Now, it's all about revenge.
The U.S. will turn over its third prison in July. The U.S. is keeping custody of about a hundred "high security" prisoners, in a special facility.
March 13, 2010: In the northern city of Mosul, a car blew up, apparently prematurely, killing three passengers. No one else was injured. Accidents like this, or bombs that are placed and then don't go off as they should, are increasingly common. That's because many of the skilled Sunni Arab bomb makers are dead, arrested, in exile or retired (in order to stay alive and free). This is one of the reasons there are so few bombings anymore. To compensate, the terrorists target high visibility (to international media) targets. Killing people is secondary to getting on the network news shows.
March 9, 2010: In Mosul, police caught five al Qaeda terrorists, including a team that had been firing mortar shells at polling places. As is increasingly common, the men were located because of tips from Sunni Arab civilians.
March 7, 2010: Some 62 percent of the 19 million registered voters turned out for parliamentary elections. All the security was supplied by Iraqis (the U.S. provided some intel and air reconnaissance support).
March 6, 2010: Iraqi oil exports last month reached record number (2,069,000 barrels a day, more than Iraq was shipping in 1990, when Saddam's invasion of Kuwait stopped exports.) Daily production is expected to reach 2.15 million barrels a day this year, and in the next decade, the government would like to push it to ten million barrels a day. This is seen, by oil production experts, as improbable, with five million barrels a day more likely.
A car bomb went off in the Shia shrine city of Najaf, killing three people.