Iraq: Al Qaeda Dies In The Desert


May 20, 2014: Although some voting was interrupted by Sunni terrorist violence in parts of Anbar province, the parliamentary elections took place on April 30 and t he coalition of incumbent (since 2006) president Nouri al Maliki won, despite a dismal record of corruption, mismanagement and inability to halt in the increasing terrorist violence. Maliki was the favorite because he used his control of the government to persuade voters and politicians (with bribes, jobs, promises or threats) to support his effort to gain enough members of parliament to form the new government and rule for at least twelve years. There is growing anger against Maliki, corruption and inept government, but it remains to be seen if this can be translated into real change. The elections were the fourth opportunity to change the parliamentary balance since the Sunni dictatorship was overthrown in 2003. There were more than 9,000 candidates participating to see who would win the 328 seats. Whichever of the dozen major party coalitions could put together a majority of parliamentary seats could form the next government. Maliki put together a coalition of 170 seats, which was 52 percent of the 328 member parliament. Malikis own State of Law party took less than a quarter (92) of those seats. While Maliki will be the new prime minister, electing a president requires a two-thirds majority and that may be difficult to attain.

Maliki was aided by more government income and a growing economy. GDP is expected to grow by nearly six percent in 2014. Because of that the government expects to have over $145 billion to spend this year. This is a record budget and up 22 percent from 2013. There are growing calls in Iraq for the government to build the kind of oil-furled welfare state that exists next door in Saudi Arabia. But Iraq has more people and pumps less oil income than Saudi Arabia, so there is more incentive for Iraqis to take any job and hustle in a way that Saudis have not had to for generations. But that’s not enough. Iraq has less of a problem with the education system but Iraqis with skills tend to flee the country because of the corruption and high crime rate. Not enough educated Iraqis, who occupy most of the management jobs are willing or able to address the damage done by rampant corruption. Too many people are willing to gut an essential logistical or maintenance task in order to steal some money meant to get that task done. This is especially true in the government bureaucracies, and that includes the military. Some Iraqis understand how this works, but the officials who are more interested in stealing than getting things done are not interested in the proposed solution, like (stop stealing money for essential support functions). There’s a popular realization that the corruption is a key problem but so far there have not been enough senior government leaders willing to risk assassination to move decisively against the corruption. This corruption has a direct impact on the growing of Islamic terrorist violence.  

Islamic terrorist groups in Iraq have grown more powerful since U.S. troops left in 2011 and the reason why is rather too embarrassing for politicians or the media to touch. It got so bad that by 2013 Iraq was asking the U.S. for help. The U.S. sent some ammo and intel on the Islamic terrorists, as well as some advisors to report back on what had gone wrong since the Americans left in 2011. The problems were easy to find and came down to the fact that without the Americans to do the work Iraqis have been unable to operate the logistical (supply and maintenance) system required to keep most military equipment functional. As a result Iraqi security forces became much less effective. Thus the growing requests for American operated and maintained equipment. For example Iraq has asked for some American electronic reconnaissance aircraft but since the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan these electronic recon aircraft became available for duty in Afghanistan and along the Chinese coast and in Africa. These EP-3 and RC-135 aircraft are getting old and will eventually be replaced by UAVs but for the moment they are the best tool the U.S. has for sniffing out things like gaps or vulnerabilities in a potential enemies radar coverage or air defense systems.  The main reason for all that popularity is that the EP-3s and RC-135s are very good at what they do and have been much in demand since September 11, 2001. The RC-135 in particular is a flying vacuum cleaner of electronic signals. Built on the same airframe as the KC-135 tanker and Boeing 707 airliner, it carries two dozen people to operate all the electronic gear. Exactly what kind of electronic signals the RC-135 can pick up is classified but apparently includes any electronic device the enemy in Afghanistan is currently using and most of what China has.

In Anbar ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) is still struggling to deal with increased pressure from government forces and pro-government tribal militias. ISIL forces are trapped in Fallujah, with the siege of the Islamic terrorists growing tighter and tighter. To the west ISIL is trying to establish a road connection between Anbar and Syria, where it controls Raqqa, the largest city in eastern Syria and the only provincial capital to be captured by the rebels. The revived (by Iranian Shia mercenaries recruited in Lebanon and Iraq) Syrian government is turning its attention to its Sunni eastern areas and the Shia dominated Iraqi government is increasingly aggressive attacking ISIL on both sides of the Syrian border. Both Iraq and Syria believe that ISIL is intent on creating a Sunni religious dictatorship out of eastern Syria and western Iraq. This is a largely desert and thinly populated region. ISIL is actually suffering more casualties in Syria, where its main foe is other rebels, especially large Islamic terrorist groups like al Nusra.

A British government investigation into Iraqi claims that British troops tortured and murdered at least twenty Iraqis in 2004 concluded that the claims were false and basically a scam to obtain money via the British courts. The investigation took a year and cost $39 million. The Iraq plaintiffs were suing in British courts for cash compensation for the alleged murders. The investigation could not find any evidence to back up the claims but did find ample evidence that the Iraqis were lying deliberately and frequently. All this is nothing new, although it was a bold move to take this scam to Britain. All this is nothing new. Foreign troops in Afghanistan and Iraq quickly found that the locals could be incredibly corrupt, often to an astonishing degree. That’s because Iraqis, and especially Afghans, consider stealing from foreigners to be a laudable goal and this is a tradition that goes back thousands of years. One of the more common scams had to do with false claims for compensation because foreign troop actions caused deaths or injuries. Many of these scams succeeded again and again. Eventually the foreign troops caught on, often with the discreet help of friendly, and a lot more honest, locals. After that many details of attempted compensation fraud documented.

May 17, 2014: In the north (Babel) police cornered and killed a senior ISIL leader.

May 16, 2014: For ten days the military has shelled and bombed Fallujah, killing at least 55 people and wounding several hundred. Another 6,000 city residents have fled. The fighting in and around Fallujah has killed about 300 people since it began in late December 2013.

May 15, 2014: In Baghdad Islamic terrorists used two suicide bombers in a failed attempt to enter a court compound. The explosions killed ten and wounded 40.

The U.S. and Iraq announced a billion dollar arms deal involving armored vehicles, aircraft, ammo and lots of tech support for Iraq.

May 14, 2014: In the west (outside Ramadi) troops clashed with ISIL and killed 64 terrorists.

May 12, 2014: Iraqi troops tried to advance into Fallujah but ISIL resistance was too strong and the advance failed. So the shelling and bombing continued. The army has been trying to get ISIL out of Fallujah for five months.

May 11, 2014: In a remote area of the north Sunni Islamic terrorists attacked a small base containing troops who man a nearby checkpoint and guard a stretch of oil pipeline. The entire garrison was killed or fled. Eleven soldiers were apparently captured, tied up, interrogated then killed. This is the third such attack in northern Iraq and the army now has to increase the troops in these bases and motivate them to be more alert and determined to detect and defeat such attacks.

May 7, 2014: Risk Management researchers have a new list, of countries that are the most violent, which lists Iraq as one of the three worst, in terms of random violence. The other two nations are Syria and Central African Republic. Risk Management is a business tool developed in the 20th century to measure and rank various types of risk so that managers can make more effective business decisions. International Risk Management firms arose to deal with the risks of investing in other countries.  

May 6, 2014: Saudi Arabia revealed that a month earlier it had broken up an ISIL operation inside Saudi Arabia. This group had 62 members (59 Saudis, a Yemeni, a Pakistani and a Palestinian) who were planning several attacks and assassinations in Saudi Arabia. So far 35 of the 62 have been arrested and the rest are being sought along with new suspects revealed after interrogating those already in custody.

May 5, 2014: In the east (Deir al Zor province) fighting by ISIL and al Nusra Islamic terrorists near the Iraq border left over 60 rebels dead. This is a continuation of a week long battle between the two groups that has left nearly 200 dead so far. Over 60,000 civilians have fled their homes to avoid the fighting.

May 4, 2014: In Syria al Qaeda affiliate al Nusra said it would comply with al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri’s May 1st order that al Nusra stop fighting ISIL. Some ISIL factions have agreed to a ceasefire but it is unclear if this will hold. Over 4,000 Islamic terrorists have died this year because of the war between ISIL and most of the Syrian rebels. Over 2,000 ISIL men have died in western Iraq during the same period. Several times this year Zawahiri has publicly criticized ISIL for fighting with al Nusra and recently declared ISIL an outlaw organization. But as has often happened in the past, orders from al Qaeda supreme headquarters were ignored. While al Nusra will stop attacking ISIL, they will defend themselves against ISIL attacks. This is not the first time al Qaeda has been called on to slap down misbehaving Iraqi Islamic terror groups and won’t be the last. In 2005 al Qaeda leadership got tired of being ignored and quietly arranged the death of the rebellious Iraqi al Qaeda leaders. That tactic may be tried again, because it worked last time. But in 2005 it was the Americans who were after al Qaeda leaders and were quietly passed location info on Iraqi terrorist leaders were effective at doing the deed once they knew where there target was. In any event the ISIL has been war with al Nusra since early in 2014 and al Qaeda has declared that al Nusra is the sole legitimate leader of Islamic terrorists in Syria. ISIL has also made it clear that it intends to unite Iraq and Syria in a new Islamic state under Iraqi leadership. ISIL now has thousands of armed men in Syria and is still getting enough donor cash to keep the terror attacks going in Iraq. The Iraqi led ISIL is not popular in Syria and often find themselves fighting government forces and other moderate and Islamic radical rebels at the same time. Now al Qaeda has made it almost an obligation for Islamic terrorists to attack ISIL. For many Sunni Syrians the ISIL is disliked mainly because most of its men are foreigners, who tend to be overly eager to kill any civilians who get in the way. Al Nusra men are more careful in this respect and most Syrians have taken notice.

May 1, 2014: The government reported that terrorist related deaths for April were 1,009 (87 percent civilians, including terrorists and the other 13 percent security forces). About a third of the civilian deaths were believed to be terrorists. Because the Islamic terrorists do not wear uniforms, and pro-government militiamen do not either, it’s sometimes difficult to tell which bodies are actually those of terrorists. The spike in terror related deaths in April was largely to do with terrorist efforts to disrupt the April 30 national elections. This effort failed but hundreds of people died in the process. In March at least 592 Iraqis died from Islamic terrorist violence. Soldiers and police were 18 percent of that and most of the rest were civilians. It’s believed at least 200 Islamic terrorists died. The March death rate was down from February, when there were about a thousand deaths. In the last two months a third of these deaths were in Anbar, where there has been major fighting with ISIL since early January. Deaths in January where over 1,500 and over half of those were in Anbar. In 2013 the death toll was 8,900 for all of Iraq and only ten percent of those were terrorists while the majority were Shia civilians. ISIL is believed to have lost heavily in the Anbar fighting and lost even more men in Syria. Over 4,000 Iraqis have died so far this year from terrorist related violence.

Oil production continues to increase, with average April production 2.5 million barrels a day.

April 30, 2014:  Despite strenuous efforts by Iraqi Sunni terrorists to stop it, the parliamentary elections are held. These are the first such elections since the Americans left in 2011.

April 27, 2014: In Baghdad police found and killed a senior al Qaeda leaders. In the west army helicopter gunships destroyed eight tanker trucks trying to enter from Syria with oil from wells now controlled by Islamic terrorists there. When the destroyed trucks were searched eight bodies were found. 




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close