August 6, 2009: Terrorist violence was down by a third last month, with 275 Iraqis dead from such violence in July. This was the first month that Iraqi security forces had complete control of the urban areas, and responsibility for preventing terror attacks. There are over 700,000 Iraqi soldiers and police on duty, in addition to 128,000 U.S. troops (who mostly offer training, air reconnaissance, air support and intelligence assistance). Of the 275 Iraqis who died in July, 19 percent were soldiers and police. Some 400 terrorists were captured or arrested, and 41 killed last month.
Iraqi and American analysts believe that there is no longer any unified terrorist organization carrying out attacks. The attacks now are usually carried out by criminal gangs, political parties, or even family based groups with a grudge. The number of attacks continues to decline, and Iraqi police believe it will take a few more years before such terrorism is entirely crushed. In the meantime, blast walls will be removed from central Baghdad starting next month, and eventually from neighborhoods throughout the city.
Calls for a census to settle many local disputes over who is where and in what numbers, have been largely ignored. While most Iraqis embrace democracy and voting, fewer are as enthusiastic about the reality of a census. The Middle East is full of ethnic and religious factions, most of whom believe they are more numerous than they actually are. At the same time, these groups seem to sense that they are clinging to a fantasy, and vigorously oppose an actual census. The truth is too much to bear, and fantasy is easier to live with. Welcome to the Middle East.
August 4, 2009: The deputy commander of Kurdish al Qaeda group Ansar al Islam, was arrested in Baghdad, along with three followers. Ansar is one of the few terrorist groups still operating in the country, and has hideouts across the border in Iran. Ansar is also one of the few Kurdish terror groups.
July 31, 2009: Six bombs went off in Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad, killing 29 and wounding 136. Crowds immediately began loudly criticizing police for not doing their job. There has been a lot less terrorist violence in the last year, and Iraqis will no longer tolerate police ineptitude when it comes to stopping terrorists.
July 30, 2009: Three American hikers in the Kurdish north, strayed across the Iranian border, and were arrested by Iranian police. The Kurdish north has become a popular tourist area for all Iraqis, and an increasing number of foreigners. The three hikers were visiting a popular national park, famous for its splendid views (and largely unmarked border with Iran.)
July 28, 2009: A government owned bank was robbed of a government payroll, with nearly $4 million taken. Eight police guards were murdered in the process. But the robbers were quickly identified and the money recovered. The gang consisted of members of the Iraqi Vice Presidents security detail. Four have been arrested, and four more are being sought. It was a telephone tip that led police to the money (in a government compound) and the robbers.
July 27, 2009: Troops and police took over a camp holding 3,500 Iranian leftist terrorists. About ten camp inhabitants were killed and nearly 300 injured (along with 60 soldiers and police.) The People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMI) have been in the camp since the 1980s, when they were driven out of Iran and given sanctuary by Saddam. The Iranians want them back, or at least their leaders, so they can be prosecuted for terrorist acts inside Iran. The Iraqi government has promised Iran that it would send the "guilty" PMI back to Iran. But the United States has promised the PMI that they could leave for a third country. Unfortunately, all the nations in the region still consider the PMI a bunch of terrorists, and want nothing to do with them. Some European nations, however, appear willing to accept the MPI members. Iraqi troops have had the camp surrounded for five months.
July 25, 2009: Elections were held in the Kurdish north, to elect local legislators. The two established parties (each representing a clan alliance) lost a lot of ground to political independents. This is going to shake things up in the north. An additional shocker was the high number of female candidates (over 30 percent, the highest ever in the Moslem world) elected.