Terror attacks in Baghdad over the last week have caused over 400 casualties, including over a hundred dead. The attacks were the work of diehard Sunni Arab radicals, determined to terrorize their way back into power, or die trying. The remaining terrorist cells are largely fueled by cash from Sunni groups (al Qaeda and Saddam loyalists) outside the country. Most of the effort to carry out these attacks is technical (building the bombs, planning transportation, recruiting and training suicide bombers, or, increasingly, remote detonation teams), and many of these technicians are still around, and for hire. The goal of the bombings is to trigger a civil war between the Sunni minority and the Shia majority. This did not work in the past, although after 2005, it did lead to Shia use of death squads against the Sunni minority, which reduced them from 20 percent of the population, to 15 percent (mostly through population displacement, about half the Sunni Arabs fled their homes). If the current bombing campaign succeeds, and the Shia death squads return, the Sunni Arab minority will become still smaller. Many Iraqis want all the Sunnis Arabs driven from the country, which would make it impossible for the Sunni Arab terrorists to operate in Iraq.
The Sunni Arab terror campaign is similar to the one carried out by Algerian Islamic terrorists in the 1990s. That was an extremely savage campaign, often killing entire families, in an attempt to intimidate people into supporting (or at least not opposing) the Islamic radicals. The effort failed, as the increasing civilian deaths simply turned the population more firmly against the Islamic radicals. In Iraq, the situation is different in that nearly all the terrorists come from the Sunni Arab minority, which gives anti-terrorist anger a bigger target.
April 2, 2010: In Mosul, 23 terrorists escaped from prison. Police are investigating if bribes were involved, as they often are in cases like this. The police have been increasingly effective in finding and arresting key terrorist personnel in the north, where most of the remaining violence has been taking place. The sad part of all this is that such violence is so common in Middle Eastern nations. The concept of settling disputes by negotiation has not caught on in a big way, and terrorism is still seen as a legitimate political tool. No one likes to admit this, but look around and start counting bodies, and it's pretty clear how the locals roll.
March 31, 2010: With all the votes counted, former prime minister Ayad Allawi's largely secular coalition got two more seats in parliament than current prime minister Nuri Kamal al Maliki. Allawi is seen as a less divisive figure. But more surprising was the extent to which the voters tossed out many politicians that had been criticized for corruption and incompetence. It was no secret that this might happen, as Iraqi sidewalk conversation has, for months, been full to demands that the poorly performing politicians be voted out of office. When it came to pass, and many Maliki supporters were not re-elected, Maliki demanded a recount. The Election Commission refused, and now the horse trading to form a coalition government begins. This could take a while. There is also unease that pro-Iranian Shia parties won 91 of the 325 seats in parliament. These groups are accused of taking their orders, and lots of cash and weapons, from Iran.