The terrorist violence, while much less than four years ago, is directed mainly at the battle between Kurds and Sunni Arabs for control of northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk. Most of the remaining attacks are in the capital, Baghdad. Terrorists from the Sunni Arab minority (15 percent of the population) are fighting to more quickly achieve what most Sunni Arabs believe will eventually happen, that the Sunni Arabs will regain control of the government. The majority Shia (63 percent) view these Sunni Arab killers as more a nuisance than a threat. Many Shia believe the only solution to the "Sunni Arab problem" is to expel all Sunni Arabs, and kill those who resist. But most Shia leaders see the Sunni Arabs as an essential ally against Iranian attempts to take control of the country (or annex southern Iraq, where most of the oil, and Shia holy places, are located.) The Shia are split between a violent, pro-Iran, Islamic conservative minority (the Sadr coalition) and the more secular, but politically divided majority that opposes Iranian control. The Kurds (22 percent) want to gain control of Kirkuk and nearby oil fields and become more independent of Arab Iraq. The remaining minorities (mainly Turks and Christians) are persecuted and ignored. In effect, Iraq is all too typical of so many Middle Eastern states, where different ethnic and religious groups are all too prone to not get along with great violence. Meanwhile, the government remains corrupt and ineffective, another common characteristic of the region. More Iraqis are protesting against this. They are also protesting the continued attacks, and threats, against minorities (especially Christians). This violence has been going on for over a century, and has gotten worse in the last decade. The middle class is protesting the high crime rate (directed mainly at them, because the rich can hire security and the poor have nothing to steal). More and more of the middle (and educated and skilled) class are simply leaving, making it difficult to find a dentist, doctor, lawyer or accountant when you need one.
May 19, 2011: In the northern city of Kirkuk, three terrorist car bombs killed 30 and wounded 90. These attacks were aimed at police.
May 18, 2011: North of the capital, police captured four al Qaeda, including the chief military commander for all of Iraq.
May 14, 2011: Overnight, Turkish troops intercepted two groups of PKK (Kurdish separatists) rebels trying to cross over from Iraq. Twelve PKK men were killed by the Turks, triggering Kurdish demonstrations in support of the PKK. Turkey has long tried to get the Kurdish government to shut down PKK operations in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq. But the PKK goal of a larger Kurdish state (Kurdistan) incorporating Kurdish populated areas of Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria, is still very popular among Kurds, especially young ones. Kurdish leaders know better (that attempts to form Kurdistan would just get a lot of Kurds killed) and try to maintain as much peace as they can.
May 7, 2011: In an Interior Ministry compound in the capital, al Qaeda tried to break 200 of their members out of a high security prison. Some of the prisoners had inside help, but the attempt failed after several hours of shooting. Six police (including the general in charge of counter-terror forces) and 11 prisoners were killed. Al Qaeda later asserted that this jail break took weeks to plan. The government said that jail personnel were bribed so that al Qaeda could smuggle two pistols and explosives into the jail.
May 5, 2011: Al Qaeda allied terror groups in Iraq have proclaimed their intention to stage more attacks to avenge their recently killed leader (Osama bin Laden). This was more propaganda than anything else.
South of the capital, a car bomb exploded outside a police station, killing 21 cops. Terrorists, and sometimes criminal gangs, stage attacks like this to intimidate the police.