May 21, 2012: Terrorist violence is down considerably this year, in large part because so many Islamic terrorists have gone to Syria, where helping overthrow the Assad dictatorship might provide Sunni Arab terrorists a sanctuary. Then again, maybe not. But prospects for Islamic terror groups look better in Syria, as they keep getting worse in Iraq, where the security forces are hunting down these groups more quickly.
May 20, 2012: The Kurdish government in northern Iraq announced that they will begin exporting oil via a pipeline through Turkey by 2013. The Iraqi government insists that only it can approve oil production and exporting activities but does not have the military capability to impose their will on the northern Kurds. This is an Arab/Kurd conflict, part of a struggle that goes back thousands of years. The Kurds are relying on Turkish support and in return are cooperating with Turkish efforts to deal with Turkish PKK Kurdish separatists, who have bases in northern Iraq. While the PKK goal of a separate Kurdish state is popular with most Kurds (even in northern Iraq), the survival of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq is considered more crucial, for now. The northern Kurdish leaders also publicly threaten to reveal documents that would greatly embarrass Iraqi prime minister Nuri Maliki. This could be big trouble for Maliki, who is accused of trying to establish a Shia dictatorship in Iraq, just as a Sunni dictatorship was established in the 1950s, when Sunni soldiers murdered the royal family and shut down the parliament of the constitutional monarchy that had existed from 1932-58. The constitutional monarchy was an imperfect democracy but in hindsight it was better than the decades of Sunni Arab corruption and violence that followed.
Iraq is producing three million barrels of oil a day, more than the Saddam ever achieved. Iraqi oil production had been stuck at 2.5 million barrels a day since the 1980s (production had peaked in the late 1970s at four million barrels a day). Iraqi has 9 percent of the world's oil reserves, but decades of war and mismanagement had prevented necessary maintenance and construction in the oil fields. For the last few years the oil regions have been safe for foreign oil production companies to bring in their experts, and cash, to get the job done, so Iraqi production has been steadily increasing. The goal is ten million barrels a day by the end of the decade. The Kurds plan to start exporting 80,000 barrels a day in two years, largely with the help of Turkish investors. The remaining problem is how to deal with the corruption that has diverted so much oil income into the pockets of thieving politicians and government officials. In Iraq corruption is like the weather: everyone talks about it but not enough people do anything about it.
May 19, 2012: The trial for some of the bodyguards of Sunni Arab vice president Tariq al Hashimi, and the missing Hashimi himself, for the murder of six judges has hit a snag as the judge refused to allow defense lawyers to present evidence that might exonerate Hashimi. As a result of that ruling, and several others that hurt the defense, the lawyers walked out. It does appear that the Hashimi trial is more for show than an effort to determine true guilt or innocence. Last December Hashimi was accused of running a death squad and other terrorist activities. While Hashimi fled the country, 73 of his employees and followers were arrested and 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.
May 18, 2012: Three bombs went off in a market in a Shia neighborhood of Baghdad. Five were killed and 37 wounded.
May 13, 2012: Two terrorist bombings (in Ramadi and Baghdad) left three policemen and a civilian dead.
May 12, 2012: Iraq is expected to be producing more oil than Iran before the end of the year. Iran is having a hard time maintaining its oil industry because of international sanctions.
May 10, 2012: Turkey refused to extradite Sunni Arab Iraqi vice president Tariq al Hashimi. Iraq obtained an Interpol arrest warrant yesterday, which Turkey believes was obtained under false pretenses (Iraqi government lies about evidence against Hashimi).
May 7, 2012: A court released Hezbollah terrorist leader Ali Musa Daqduq, without trying him on charges of organizing attacks on Iraqi and American troops in Iraq. In 2007, Daqduq was captured by U.S. troops and confessed to training terrorists as an agent for Iran. Hezbollah is a Lebanese terrorist militia founded and funded by Iran. Daqduq was turned over to the Iraqi government last December on the understanding that he would stand trial for his crimes. The U.S. provided lots of evidence for the trial but the Iraqi court released Daqduq for "lack of evidence." This was apparently done as a favor to Iran and the Iraqis seem to believe that any outrage in the United States will die down before Iraq faces any diplomatic or economic punishment.
May 6, 2012: A new law allows one rifle or pistol per household, for self-defense. The weapons must be registered or else the owner is subject to arrest. While many oppose legalizing any weapons at all, the government believes the measure will make it easier to find and seize larger stores of weapons and ammo.