Terrorism related deaths jumped to a record 450 last month (half civilians, including terrorists, and half police and army). This was a big jump from February, when 136 died (88 civilians, 22 soldiers, and 26 policemen) and 177 dead in January. The spike in March was the terrorists way of reminding everyone that it has been ten years since an American-led coalition invaded and removed Saddam Hussein and his Sunni dictatorship from power. This ended centuries of Sunni dominance and put a lot of Sunnis out of work and into poverty. At the time Sunnis were 20 percent of the population but grabbed most of the oil income and much else besides. The Sunnis refused to accept this change and over the last decade have caused the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqis (most of them Shia civilians) hoping to enrage the other Sunni states (at the plight of their poor Sunni brothers in Iraq) in the region to come to their aid. That will never happen, but for many newly impoverished Iraqi Sunnis, who can remember the good old days, regaining control of the government is something to die for.
Previously the highest recent death toll was last September. That was the worst in two years with 365 killed (182 civilians and terrorists, 88 police, and 95 soldiers). This was more than twice the number of deaths in August (164). Deaths were 326 in July and 282 in June. The sharp decline in October, November, and December was due to several factors. First, the increased terrorist activity has resulted in a lot of police action and the terrorist groups have suffered heavy losses. The Sunni terrorist groups could not sustain the level of violence they began in January 2012 (when 225 died). Second, pressure from the government (in reaction to public anger) produced more tips from citizens, more neighborhood self-defense groups, and more effective performance by the police. Third, some Sunni Islamic terrorists have gone to fight in Syria, where the Sunni majority is rebelling against the Shia minority dictatorship.
The Sunni Arab terrorists have made a comeback because of the success of Sunni Arab terror groups in Syria and growing discontent among Iraqi Sunni Arabs in general. This has also led to frequent anti-government demonstrations in western Iraq. But the Shia majority is getting angrier and Shia militias are believed to be reforming the death squads that killed thousands of Sunni civilians in 2004-8 and eventually persuaded most Sunnis to turn on the Sunni terrorists. The government has offered jobs and financial aid to many Sunni Arabs in an effort to make peace. But there are still many Sunni Arabs who believe fighting on is the way to go, or will quietly support the Sunni terrorists. Moreover, a lot of the Sunni Arab terrorist violence is directed at pro-government Sunni Arab politicians (but not their followers, as that would hurt popular support in the Sunni Arab community). All this mayhem has caused many Sunni Arabs to flee Iraq, which is why Sunni Arabs are now only about 15 percent of the population. With Shia terrorists becoming more active, the Sunni Arab population is likely to shrink some more.
April 8, 2013: Al Qaeda in Iraq announced that it had merged with several of the largest Islamic terror groups fighting in Syria. The Iraqi terrorists also admitted that they had played a role in forming those Syrian Sunni Arab terror groups. The grand plan here is for Syrian Sunni Arabs (the majority in Syria) to take control of Syria (something most Syrian Sunnis oppose) and then aid their brethren in Iraq to restore Sunni Arab power to Iraq. That effort could get very messy.
Iraq executed seven convicted Sunni Arab terrorists. So far this year there have been 29 such executions. Because of corruption in the prison system, 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. Moreover, the families of the many Shia civilians killed by Sunni Arab terrorists get some comfort in seeing the murders die.
April 5, 2013: Iraqi Kurds sold their first shipment of Kurdish oil (produced in oil fields developed by Kurds in Kurdish controlled territory). The oil is trucked across the border to Turkey but this will be supplemented by a pipeline. The first sale was for $22 million. The Iraqi government opposes this independent oil operation but the Iraqi armed forces are not powerful enough to overcome the Kurds.
March 30, 2013: The government has rejected an Egyptian request for a $4 billion loan. The new Islamic government of Egypt has mismanaged the economy and Arab governments are reluctant to lend any more money because of the risk of default. Getting turned down by Iraq was a surprise to the Egyptians because Egypt has recently restored diplomatic and economic relations with Iran after a three decade break (because of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and the militant Shia clerics who have run Iran ever since). Egypt is majority Sunni and the Sunni conservatives running the Egyptian government are being criticized for this, as well as their economic mistakes. While Iraq cooperates with Iran (a potential ally if Sunni Arab countries get too aggressive), Iraq is not an Iranian puppet. Iraqi Shia are Arabs and Arabs fear Iranians and have done so for thousands of years.
March 29, 2013: Bowing to foreign pressure (especially from the United States, the ultimate guarantor of Iraqi democracy and the Shia majority running the government) Iraq has agreed to make more inspections of Iranian aircraft and trucks crossing Iraq to reach Syria. This is not expected to halt Iranian weapons shipments to Syria, but Iraq is acknowledging where its loyalties should lie.
March 28, 2013: Turkish warplanes hit PKK (Turkish Kurdish separatist) rebel camps in northern Iraq.