Although greatly diminished (with less than ten percent of the manpower it had three years ago), Sunni Arab terrorists, led mainly by al Qaeda, continue to carry out attacks. This mocks government proclamations that terrorism is under control. But in the last two weeks, a dozen senior and mid-level terrorist leaders were captured and killed. It's this sort of damage that precipitated the sharp decline in terrorist activity two years ago. Eventually, the terrorists will be crushed. That's how it works in this part of the world. But the government wants to get it done without too much bad publicity over how it's getting done.
With all the votes counted, former prime minister Ayad Allawi's largely secular coalition got two more seats in parliament than current prime minister Nuri Kamal al Maliki. The incumbent has not accepted the results, and arranged to have judges disqualify enough Allawi supporters to stay in power. Allawi cried foul and called on international (Arab and Western) powers to intervene. The original vote gave Allawi 91 seats and Maliki 89. But 163 seats (of 325) are needed to form a government. So a coalition will still be necessary, because Maliki's election commission rulings only have him about 140 seats. This sort of corruption is all too common in the Arab world. The U.S. is pressuring both Allawi and (especially) Maliki to play by the rules. In the Arab world, rules are considered far more flexible than in the West, so there is a culture clash here.
The economy is expected to grow over seven percent this year. Inflation has been reduced to less than ten percent and the exchange rate of dinars to dollars has declined, in the last year, from 1,500 to 1,170. Even the gangsters are bullish about the economy, as police are hunting down and arresting counterfeiters, who have been recently turning out phony Iraqi dinars.
April 28, 2010: The widow of recently slain al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri revealed that she and her husband (they are both Egyptian) came to Iraq in 2002, having been offered sanctuary by Saddam Hussein.
So far this year, 24 U.S. troops have died in Iraq, compared to 104 in Afghanistan. There are about the same number of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but this is rapidly changing. Within four months, there will be only 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and over 120,000 in Afghanistan. Most of the casualties in Iraq, as has always been the case, are Iraqis. Up to 500 or more Iraqis are dying each month from terrorist attacks. Most of the victims are civilians, the remainder being terrorists, soldiers and police. There are believed to be about a thousand al Qaeda terrorists (and their Sunni Arab allies) active in Iraq. Most of these men are in it for the money, which continues to come in from Syria and Jordan.
April 27, 2010: In Baghdad, two suicide car bombers detonated their explosives when they were stopped at a police checkpoint. Five people died and ten were wounded.
April 26, 2010: A panel of judges, believed acting at the behest of prime minister Maliki, disqualified 52 winners of the recent parliamentary election. All 52 were supporters of Maliki opponent Ayad Allawi. It is feared that a Maliki attempt to steal the vote could lead to a civil war.
April 25, 2010: Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia (Iraq) admitted that two of their senior leaders (Abu Omar al Baghdadi and Abu Ayoub al Masri) had, indeed, been killed, but that the terrorist organization would replace them and carry on. The terrorists said that the bombs set off on the 23rd were the response to the loss of their two leaders. But those attacks were probably already in the works, and it's standard practice that if senior management get killed or captured, subordinates hustle to carry out planned attacks as soon as possible, before police can get information about these attacks from captured leaders and documents. What happens next is a sharp drop in attacks, because the senior guys are mainly in charge of obtaining cash and supplies to keep the bomb makers and placers going.
April 24, 2010: The government has closed down a secret prison (for Sunni Arab terrorism suspects) and arrested the three police commanders that ran it. The prison was under the control of the prime minister (Maliki, who denies knowing about it) and was used to hold suspects the police wanted to torture, or felt they could not get an arrest warrant for. The prison took in 431 people, released about a hundred and the rest were sent to regular prisons. The government says it had warrants for all those held in the secret prison.
April 23, 2010: Eight terrorist bombs went off, seven near Shia mosques in Baghdad and one in the home of a government supporter in western Iraq. Over sixty were killed and over 120 were wounded. Shia religious leaders promptly asked for the Shia militias, which have been largely disarmed or cowed into inactivity, come out again to protect Shia mosques from additional terror attacks. Shia leader Muqtada al Sadr calmed things down by adding that this would only be done if the government asked for help.
April 22, 2010: Another senior al Qaeda leader, Manaf Abdul Raheem al Rawi, was arrested. Rawi in charge of al Qaeda operations in Baghdad, and responsible for organizing bombing attacks in and around the city. Many mid-level al Qaeda leaders have been picked up recently as well, as al Qaeda supporters are suddenly more willing to talk.
April 20, 2010: Based on information gained during the April 18 operation, police found and killed the al Qaeda commander for northern Iraq, Ahmed al Obeidi.
April 18, 2010: Iraqi police raided the hideout of the two top terrorist leaders in Iraq. Abu Omar al Baghdadi and Abu Ayoub al Masri were both killed, along with several of their followers. Electronic and paper documents were captured, that showed the two were in direct contact with Osama bin Laden and other senior al Qaeda leaders. Al Masiri was the successor to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was killed four years ago. Al Masiri was chosen by the top al Qaeda leaders, who are suspected of having a hand in Zarqawi being located and killed. Zarqawi was unpopular with bin Laden and other senior al Qaeda because of the large scale killing of Iraqi civilians. Al Masiri tried to change tactics, but al Qaeda had already triggered the "civil war" Zarqawi sought to start, and Shia Arab death squads were murdering Sunni Arabs in large numbers. The Sunni Arab minority tried to do the same, but they were vastly outnumbered (there were six times as many Kurds and Shia Arabs), and the Americans were after them as well. By 2007, most Sunni Arabs had either fled the country, or were negotiating with the Americans (not the Shia dominated Iraqi government) to switch sides. The U.S. brokered that deal, and by 2008, terror attacks were down over 90 percent. They continued to decline, as the Iraqi security forces got better, and took advantage of information (about who terrorists were and where they were) provided by the many Sunni Arabs who had turned on their al Qaeda champions. So far this year, most of the al Qaeda middle management was killed or captured. This is what left Masiri and Baghdadi so vulnerable. They had lost their supporting players. Worse, the missing mid-level leadership was the pool from which replacements for Masiri and Baghdadi would be chosen. The actual replacements will either be inept locals, or unpopular foreigners. Neither option bodes well for the future of al Qaeda in Iraq.
April 8, 2010: After more than a dozen bombing and shooting attacks in the last week, the government has said that it will increase its efforts to hunt down and destroy the terrorist organizations, especially al Qaeda. What the government wants to avoid is a return of the Shia death squads (which often contained police and soldiers, as well as civilians) that went around terrorizing and killing Sunni Arabs wherever they could find them.