Several weeks after the major political parties ended eight months of stalemate, and agreed to form a government, many ministries still don't have chiefs. But at least there's some progress each day. The process is supposed to be complete by the 15th. At that point, the new government will have to deal with demands from Islamic conservatives to enact laws to ban the sale of alcohol and restrict the activities of women. But most Iraqis just want the government to act on dozens of more mundane issues (especially the electricity shortage).
In the last month, about a hundred al Qaeda suspects have been arrested, and several safe houses and weapons workshops seized (along with over six tons of explosives). Documents and interrogations confirmed that foreign recruits were still coming to Iraq, either to bases in Western Iraq (Anbar) or straight to the north (Mosul) where Kurds and Sunni Arabs battle for control of the city and nearby oil fields. The "Battle for Mosul" has become a popular cause among Islamic radicals everywhere, and over a hundred foreign terrorist volunteers are believed entering the country a month, which is ten times as many who were entering the country each month a year ago. One reason for the continued success against the Islamic terror groups is the 50,000 American troops remaining (for about another year.) These include several thousand special operations (SOCOM) troops, who still carry out raids, but these days concentrate on intelligence collecting. Over half the SOCOM units that were in Iraq three years ago have been moved to Afghanistan.
There are a lot of wealthy Arabs in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States who are willing to contribute to groups that will fight to restore Sunni Arab rule in Iraq. Otherwise, the feeling goes, Iraq will become a client state of Iran, and a stepping stone for an Iranian invasion of oil-rich Arabia. This is a popular fear throughout Arabia, although Arabs do not like to admit it publically. So most of the terrorism in Iraq these days is attacks on Shia (the 63 percent majority in Iraq), and especially Iranian Shia on pilgrimage to the many Shia holy places in southern Iraq. This, of course, makes it more likely that Iran would get angry enough to invade, and solve the problem by killing or expelling all Sunni Arabs in Iraq. Since 2004, Iran has been supporting (with cash, weapons, training and encouragement) Shia Iraqis to kill Sunni Arabs in Iraq, and seek to establish a religious dictatorship in the country. That last part is not popular in Iraq, but Shia killing Sunni Arabs is. There is a lot of bad blood between Sunnis and Shia, not just in Iraq, but also other places where there are a lot of Shia (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and some Gulf States). It's a thousand year old conflict that flares up several times a century.
The Kurds in the north are combining light infantry forces from the militias of the two main Kurdish political parties, to form an independent army of eight divisions. Unlike the Iraqi Army of 220,000, the 80,000 strong Kurd force will have few armored vehicles and other heavy weapons (like artillery). But the Kurds do have the benefit of more motivated troops, plus Israeli and American advisors. All this is helping the Kurds to increase the qualitative edge they already have over the Arab Iraqis. The main dispute is over control of some oil fields in the north, and ancient hatreds between Kurds (an Indo-European people) and Arabs. Kurdish politicians take part in the national government, and 35,000 Kurdish troops serve in the Iraqi Army. Thousands of Kurdish entrepreneurs prosper in the south, and the Kurds are accepting Arab Christian refugees fleeing Islamic terrorist attacks in the south. But the Kurds take care of security along their border with the rest of Iraq, and internal security. There are very few terrorist attacks in the Kurdish controlled areas, which is an irritant for the Arabs down south.
Among the items publicized by Wilileaks (stolen American diplomatic messages) was confirmation that Israel was also trading with Iraqi Arabs, as well as the Kurds. The goods were shipped to Jordan (which openly trades with Israel), then quietly move to Iraq. The Israeli advice includes practical methods of running a state (like Israel) containing several different religious and ethnic groups. The Israelis have been discreetly active in the Kurdish north since the 1990s. The Kurds have kept the peace in the north for nearly two decades now, and they want to keep it that way.
November 29, 2010: Iraqi police foiled a terrorist plot to set off a car bomb in front of the French embassy.
November 25, 2010: Prime minister al Maliki was formerly ordered to form a new government in the next 30 days. He said he would do it sooner than that.
After nearly two decades of fighting and negotiating, Iraq and Kuwait have settled their border dispute. This includes establishing a one kilometer wide neutral zone between the countries. No one, or nothing, goes into the neutral zone except border police from each nation. Fifty Iraqi farming families now living in the neutral zone, will be moved and have new houses built by Kuwait.