Iraqi Shia from pro-Iranian militias in Iraq have been encountered in Syria. Many of them are not there to back the Assad government but to protect Shia religious shrines. There is growing fear that the Syrian rebels, especially the Sunni radical groups, will attempt to destroy Shia holy places in Syria. Sunni radicals frequently do this sort of thing. Lebanese Shia from Hezbollah have also been seen in Syria as well as Shia volunteers from some other nations. Despite this help, the Assad government is on the defensive and losing ground. Despite the declining fortunes of the Assads at the hands of the Sunni rebels, Iraq still tries to limit the activity of Iraqi Sunnis trying to help the Syrian rebels. Iraq officially limits the number of Syrian refugees (most of them Sunni) from entering Iraq. Iranian arms shipments to Syria (via Iraq) are technically illegal but continue anyway. Iraq pretends to halt these shipments, to keep the Americans and the Sunni neighbors happy.
Most Iraqi Shia (over 60 percent of the population) don’t trust Iran. This is largely the result of ethnic differences (Iranians are Indo-European, not Semitic and have long openly despised and abused Arabs) and a long history of Iranian aggression. There is still religious unity but, again, many Iraqi Shia are not comfortable with Iranian efforts to replace the Sunni Sauds as the protector of the Islamic holy places in Mecca and Medina. After all, over 80 percent of Moslems are Sunni and the Shia would just like to be left alone. That is unlikely to happen, not with Iran lusting after Iraq (as it has in the past) and the Sunni world increasingly seeing Iran as a religious and military threat.
Within Iraq Sunni terror groups continue to thrive. These terrorists have killed over a thousand people in the last four months. The Sunni terrorists survive because many Iraqi Sunni Arabs tolerate or support them. Nearly all the violence is directed at Shia (especially government officials and the security forces) and Kurds (who, although Sunni, are hostile to Sunni radicals, be they Arab or Kurd). There continues to be attacks on pro-government Sunni Arabs. Many, if not most, Sunni Arabs back the new democracy and that’s what keeps the government from allowing the Shia militias to resume their terror campaign against Sunni civilians. Up until 2007, these Shia groups used death squads to murder and terrorize the Sunni population. This was a major reason for many Sunni tribal leaders turning against Sunni terror groups. Since then many Sunni Arab leaders have changed their minds and come to back the Sunni terrorists, or backed off from actively opposing them. Many Sunni Arabs believe they will eventually regain control of the country because that’s the way it is supposed to be. Some Iraqi Sunnis don’t want to wait.
The U.S. now has to deal with the fact that any military equipment they sell to Iraq will be made available for examination by Iranian military officials. The Iraqi security forces are dominated by Shia officers, many of them pro-Iranian (to one degree or another). Then there is the corruption. Iran can always buy cooperation if they can’t get it for free. At the same time Iraq is asking the United States to speed up deliveries of weapons.
October 21, 2012: Over 6,000 Turkish pilgrims were allowed to proceed to Saudi Arabia. The Turks had been held at the border (between Kurdish and Arab Iraq) for three days because Iraq refused to recognize the transit visas issued by the Kurdish government in the north. This was all part of a dispute with Turkey, which refuses to extradite fugitive Iraqi politician Tariq al Hashimi. Last month Iraq halted new Turkish businesses from being established in Iraq in an attempt to get Hashimi. When the Turkish government protested, the Iraqis said it wasn't really about Hashimi but administrative problems. The Turks know better. On September 9th a court in Baghdad sentenced Sunni Arab vice president Tariq al Hashimi to death for organizing over 100 terror attacks from 2005 to 2011. The Hashimi trial appeared to be more for show than an effort to determine true guilt or innocence. Last December Hashimi was first accused of running a death squad and other terrorist activities. In response Hashimi fled the country while 73 of his employees and followers were arrested. Many confessed that their group committed 150 assassinations and bomb attacks over the last three years. Since then Hashimi has received asylum in Turkey, which is, for the moment, ignoring an Interpol arrest warrant. This has caused anti-Turk demonstrations in Iraq but not in the Kurdish north, where a lot of the investments in new businesses have come from Turkey. The Turks and their money are welcome in the Kurdish north.
October 16, 2012: In the Yemen capital two gunmen on a motorcycle killed an Iraqi general, who was acting as an advisor to the Yemeni security forces. The Iraqi general had a lot of experience in fighting al Qaeda.
October 12, 2012: Al Qaeda took responsibility for the September 27 jail break that saw 102 prisoners escape, including 47 condemned to death. This is why Iraq continues to execute a lot of Islamic terrorists, instead of sentencing them to long prison terms. The prisons are not secure, but graves are.
The air force is buying 28 Czech L-159 jet trainers for a billion dollars. This includes training, maintenance equipment, spare parts, and lots of bribes. (The L-159 normally sells for less than $20 million each or $30 million if you include training, maintenance equipment, and spare parts.)
October 11, 2012: Turkish F-16s bombed several suspected PKK camps in northern (Kurdish) Iraq.
October 10, 2012: The Turkish parliament approved a continuation (for another year) of cross-border raids into Iraq against Kurdish separatists. Iraq protests these air raids and occasional ground troop incursions but is unable to do anything about it.
October 9, 2012: Iraq agreed to buy $4.2 billion worth of Russian weapons and military equipment. All details were not released, but among the major systems mentioned were 30 Mi-28NE attack helicopters and up to fifty Pantsir-S1 (SA-22) mobile anti-aircraft systems. There has also been mention of MiG-29M2 jet fighters. Although MiG-29s have acquired a reputation for being unreliable and expensive to operate, the new M2 model is supposed to have addressed those problems and is being offered at less than half the price of a comparable (on paper) F-16.
October 8, 2012: Turkish F-16s bombed several suspected PKK camps in northern (Kurdish) Iraq.