June 28, 2009: Another prison scandal in Iraq, this time featuring at least 43 Iraqi policemen and prison guards accused of corruption. Offences include jailing people without a warrant, and then demanding a bribe to get them out. Jailers are accused of torture, and demanding bribes so inmates can see visitors, get food or a better cell. Most of these abuses disappeared in 2003, when the Americans took over the prison system. But now most of the U.S. run prisons are controlled by Iraqis, and the prisoners mourn the sharp decline in living standards, and fair treatment by the guards. Traditional sadism and corruption in prisons has returned. Saddam's prisons were the worst, but they simply amped up customary bad behavior. Iraqi prison guards are accused of being particularly brutal to some groups (terrorists and members of radical militias, like the al Sadr group).
But the biggest problem, with Iraqis regaining control of all these prisoners, is the risk of skilled and dedicated terrorists getting loose. The Iraqi prison guards can be bribed, or threatened, to aid the escape of prisoners. This will lead to more terrorist attacks. Currently, such attacks are down over 90 percent from their peak in 2007. Active terrorists have gone from several thousand, to a few hundred. When you reduced a terrorist movement to its hard core, it can take years to wipe out this remnant. This is what happened in Northern Ireland (IRA), Spain (Basque separatists), Germany (Red Brigades), and several other places in the last half century. If the Iraqi terrorists get reinforcements from prison breaks, it will take longer to eliminate the terrorist violence. While many pundits doubt that the government can eliminate the terrorists, such is not the case in this part of the world. The growing popular anger at the continuing terrorism, plus the tendency of the police to break all the rules the Americans have taught them, usually crushes terrorist movements. Happens all the time in this part of the world.
Meanwhile, most Iraqis are concentrating on economic issues, not sectarian and ethnic conflicts. But the sectarian and ethnic militias and political parties remain. There's still potential for some kind of civil war. What particularly worries a lot of Iraqis are the elite counter-terrorism units. While these amount to only a few thousand troops, these guys are good. They are armed and trained to American standards. In the Middle East, these are the troops who carry out, or stop, a coup.
The continuing election protests in neighboring Iran both amuses, and frightens, Iraqis. There is still a fear of Iranian invasion (after all, that's happened many times in the last 3,000 years). But there is also some satisfaction in the fact that Iraq has been able to run several fair and free national elections, while the Iranians continue to tolerate a police state form of government. For thousands of years, the Iranians lorded it over the Arabs. But now, it's the Arabs that are showing the Iranians how it's done. This is not speculation, as many Iranians and Iraqis regularly interact as merchants and those involved in the very active Shia religious tourism business. Iranians are often quite blunt in admitting their frustration in not being able to achieve the freedoms Iraqis have. The continuing (half serious) quip, for the last six years, has been "when will the Americans invade us (Iran)?" But when Iraqis hear Iranians say that, they can't help but realize that any future invasions are more likely to be Iranians coming into Iraq.
A more immediate concern is what will happens when all U.S. troops complete their pull out from the cities by June 30th. In practical terms, the American soldiers still in the cities are not doing much, being kept busy moving. So the Iraqi security forces have been pretty much on their own already. What worries Iraqis the most is corruption in the security forces. The U.S. troops kept these guys honest, and now the Americans won't be around, and there will be no one reliable to complain to.
June 26, 2009: A motorcycle bomb went off in a crowded area of downtown Baghdad, leaving 13 dead and nearly 50 wounded.
June 23, 2009: A bomb went off in a Shia market in eastern Baghdad, leaving 65 dead and over a hundred wounded. This is believed to be the work of Sunni Arab terrorists (most of them now claim to be al Qaeda).
June 22, 2009: Several terrorist attacks (using bombs or gunfire) in central and northern Iraq, left 30 dead.
June 20, 2009: In Kirkuk, a truck bomb went off next to a Shia Turkoman mosque, killing 80 and wounding over 200. Several groups (Turks, Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shia Arabs who control the national government) are trying to control this northern city, and its nearby oil wells. Attacking a mosque really inflames popular anger. Sunni Arab terrorists have long been bombing mosques, in order to trigger a civil war between the various ethnic (Kurds, Turks and Arabs) and religious (mainly Shia and Sunni Moslems) groups. This tactic failed before, and continues to fail. These attacks are seen as the last gasp of the few remaining suicidal terrorists.
June 17, 2009: Police arrested a prominent Sunni Arab militia leader, Ahmed Abid Uwaid al Luhaibi, and accused him of planning the assassination of a prominent Sunni Arab population last week. The government has long believed that many of the Sunni Arab tribal leaders who turned against Islamic terrorists in 2007, have not completely reformed. Assassination has long been a common feature of Iraqi politics.
June 16, 2009: In Kirkuk, up north, a bomb went off killing one civilian. Elsewhere in the city, a gang of armed men rushed into a store, killed the owner, and left.