July 16, 2010: There is still no new government, four months after a new parliament was elected. The reform parties only won by a slim majority, and the incumbents want to retain as much power (and access to government cash) as possible. Negotiations have made progress, and at least one more month of bargaining is believed necessary before a new government can take over. This long delay is going to cost a lot of politicians votes in the next elections, as more and more Iraqis demand that their politicians be held accountable.
The terror attacks continue, killing several hundred civilians a month. Most of the victims are Shia, as the largely Sunni Arab terrorists continue to try and trigger the civil war that they fervently believe will put them back in power. In reality, another round of civil war would see the Sunni Arabs (only 15 percent of the population), slaughtered in large numbers and the survivors driven from the country. But such is the power of faith and self-delusion. Meanwhile, Iran has ordered its militias (Shia Iraqis paid for by Iran, and determined to establish a religious dictatorship in Iraq) to increase their terror attacks against the current government (dominated by moderate and secular Shia) and U.S. troops. Iran cannot, and will not, tolerate a democracy next door. Both the Sunni and Shia terrorists also deploy death squads to kill individuals they feel are a threat. This mainly involves police and military commanders who have been too successful. Judges and other government officials are also targeted. This is all about intimidation. So far this year, the death toll has been several hundred a month, and only fifteen percent of them have been soldiers or police. The Sunni Arab groups don't really want to take on the security forces, as the terrorists have been running out of money and just want the police to leave terrorist groups alone. The Sunni Arab terror organizations are spending more of their time committing crimes like robbery, extortion and kidnapping, in order to raise badly needed money. These terrorist groups have payrolls and other expenses, and without sufficient income, they will disappear. The Saddam era cash is gone, as are donations from foreign Sunni Arabs who approve of the effort to put the Sunni Arabs back in charge in Iraq.
July 15, 2010: The U.S. has turned over to Iraqi control of the last prison U.S. troops have been running. Since 2003, the U.S. took over and refurbished most Iraqi prisons, and have been gradually giving them, and their prisoners, back to Iraqi control. The last one to be returned, at Camp Cooper, is a maximum security facility holding 1,700 very dangerous people. The U.S. retains custody of 200 Iraqi prisoners, in American military prisons, including several senior Saddam officials and Islamic terrorist leaders.
Turkey continues to conduct air raids in northern Iraq, and send ground troops in occasionally. The Iraqi Kurds don't like it, but it's preferable to going after the Turkish Kurdish separatists hiding in northern Iraq. Turkey had demanded that Iraq hand over 248 Kurdish separatists believed hiding out in Iraq. That is unlikely to happen.
July 11, 2010: In the last week, nearly a hundred Shia pilgrims have been killed by Sunni Arab terrorists. Individual suicide bombers, some of them women, were the main weapon. Security has been tight, and vehicles are not allowed to move freely.
July 4, 2010: Iraq began a five year, $186 billion, economic reconstruction program. Most of the money will come from oil revenue. It will be interesting to see how much of this cash will be stolen, and how much will actually get invested in the economy. For example, a major obstacle to investment and growth is Iraq's only sea port; Umm Qasr. Corruption and inept officials have prevented cargo to move efficiently through the port, or to allow the port to be expanded. It's an open secret what the problems at Umm Qasr are, but no one has been able to do anything about it. This is particularly annoying for China, which has been very enthusiastic about investing in Iraq. Chinese "expediters" can be seen all over Umm Qasr, bribing and cajoling port officials to let Chinese materials and equipment in.
July 1, 2010: Eight American troops were killed in Iraq last month, and 39 for the first six months of the year. That's a rate of about 50 dead per 100,000 troops per hear. That is less than a tenth of the casualty rate three years ago.