June 8, 2012: The continuing violence in Syria has sent over 2,000 Syrian Kurds fleeing to the autonomous Kurdish province in northern Iraq. There, the local Kurds have established refugee camps. To the south the Shia led Arab government has been less hospitable to Sunni Arabs fleeing from Syria. The largely Sunni Arab population along the Syrian border has unofficially welcomed the refugees but the Iraqi government has not. The Iraqis government is on good terms with Syria and tries to respect the Iranian desire to keep the Syrian Shia dictatorship in power. The government has sent more troops to help protect crossings on the Syrian border. These roads are often the scene of fighting between Syrian rebels and Syrian soldiers. Lots of aid is flowing into Syria, for Sunnis, from Iraq. Most of this is food and other goods but there are also hidden weapons, which the border guards will not search for (as an act of self-preservation, if they are Shia, or religious brotherhood if Sunni).
Prime minister Nuri al Maliki faces growing opposition from parliament because of his corruption and efforts to enrich his friends at the expense of his enemies. Maliki is kept in power mainly by Shia factions. The largest of these is the Moqtada al Sadr led religious party, which is openly pro-Iran and in favor of establishing a religious dictatorship in Iraq. Now Malikis many opponents are trying to force him out of power with a vote of no-confidence, which would trigger new elections for parliament. This is not exactly an anti-corruption movement but one that seeks to share out the loot more widely. Many Iraqis are afraid that democracy will never work in an Arab state. Corruption is too much a part of the culture. The Islamic conservatives, who are the loudest opponents of corruption, consider democracy un-Islamic and call for a religious dictatorship. But many Iraqis, especially those who have lived in the West, or have kin there, know that democracy and much less corruption is how the West became more prosperous and safer. The problem is how exactly do Arabs get democracy to work quickly. The traditional way is to take several decades to reduce the corruption and improve the legal system. This approach is not very popular in the Arab world.
The violence in Iraq is ethnic as well as religious. Arabs and Kurds still strive to drive each other out of areas along the border of the autonomous Kurdish region in the north. Kurds are only a fifth of the population but are better armed, equipped, and trained and have maintained better relations with the U.S., other Western nations, and Turkey. The Kurds continue to push for more terrain, especially the city of Kirkuk and its nearby oil fields. Iraqi Arabs have made it clear that they would go to war over Kirkuk, even if they were sure to lose. Meanwhile, Sunni Arab Iraqis (about 15 percent of the population) are still causing most of the terrorism and most of the attacks are directed at Shia (both local and the millions of foreign Shia who come as pilgrims each year). Few of these pilgrims are hurt but enough are to keep the hatred between Sunni and Shia at a high pitch.
Iraqi military officials believe al Qaeda is losing ground. Terrorist deaths continue to decline and the quality of these attacks (and bombs used) is declining as well. Moreover, many Islamic terrorists have headed for Syria, where there is more glory and less danger for terrorists than in Iraq. Others believe this, as the U.S. Congress cut $850 million in aid for Iraqi police training.
June 4, 2012: The U.S. CIA announced that it would remove most of its 700 personnel from Iraq in the next few months. This is in recognition that the Islamic terrorism problem, especially support for international attacks, has greatly diminished in Iraq.
In Baghdad a car bomb went off outside a government building killing 23. This was the worst terror attack since March 4th, when an attack in western Iraq left 25 policemen dead.
June 1, 2012: Terrorist deaths rose again in May, for the second month in a row, to 132 (90 civilians, 20 policemen, and 22 soldiers). The civilian dead included suicide bombers. There were 126 deaths in April and a record low of 112 in March. In February 150 died, which was then a new record low. In January 151 died. Despite all the high profile (to attract the attention of local and foreign media) terror attacks in the last few months, 2011, terrorism related deaths were down 27 percent from 2010. This was a continuation of the decline from the 2007 peak of 18,000 deaths. Last December had the lowest death toll (155) since 2003. Terrorism deaths continue to decline this year. While the Sunni Arab terror groups are being beaten, as long they can still carry out their attacks, which mainly kill civilians, the entire Sunni Arab community will keep feeling the hate.