Iraq: July 17, 2005


There were 133 car bombings in June, which was  fewer than in May (151) and April (nearly 170), the two worst months since operations began in Iraq. The rate for July has so far averaged about three per day, which, if continued, would give a monthly rate considerably lower than even June. This despite the recent spike in attacks.

What this suggests is unclear. Security measures may account for some of the reduction in the number of incidents, as well as more effective offensive operations, which are killing bomb makers and uncovering bomb factories. Another possibility is that the insurgents may be holding back car bombs and bombers, in anticipation of a major offensive designed to disrupt the ratification of the new Iraq permanent Constitution. This is supposed to be submitted for ratification some time before mid-October. 

The spike in bombings over the last two days (fifteen car bombs), were relative failures, with ten car bombs killing only 25 people. The car bombers have been unable to get near large concentrations of people. The car bombers have also become the main cause of U.S. Army casualties, replacing roadside bombs. But the casualties are down, because the car bomb attacks are less effective than the roadside bombs. The battle of technology and tactics between the bomb makers and American forces is currently being lost by the terrorists. That could change, but the U.S. Department of Defense has been putting a lot of effort into defeating terrorist bombs, especially those detonated on the roadside, and suicide bomb in cars and carried by pedestrians. In Iraq, commanders are increasingly aware that the major weakness of the terrorists is the vulnerability of the bomber support groups that build the bombs and arrange for the delivery. More effort has gone into nailing these groups, and that is paying off. The constant raids by American marines and Iraqi commandoes north and west of Baghdad are hitting a lot of the bomb workshops and rounding up the bomb builders and people who train the bombers and guide them to their targets. One theory of the use of ten bombs on one day recently, was the desperation of several bomb workshops, fearful of being raided, and deciding to use all their car bombs first. 

Iraqi police are getting better at catching car and pedestrian suicide bombers alive. Three of these have been caught in the last week, which provides more intelligence than just analyzing the pieces after the bomb goes off (which is actually very useful, but its easier to examine the live bomber and unexploded bomb). This is because two years of training police, both inside Iraq and out (mainly in Jordan, which has some of the most efficient police in the Arab world). Over a hundred thousand Iraqi soldiers and police are now considered reliable. This means they can reliably perform at least basic tasks, and wont desert on mass if under pressure. Another hundred thousand troops and police are still undergoing training. Actually, its the shortage of well trained leaders (officers and NCOs) that make the difference, and these take longer to select and train. But meanwhile, several thousand Iraqi police and army commandoes have been executing raids that, previously, only coalition (mainly American and British) troops could be trusted to do. Iraqi military and police intelligence troops, and thousands of local cops are making many Sunni Arab areas unsafe for terrorists. This has long been the case for northern (Kurdish) and southern (Shia Arab) Iraq. But bringing law and order to central Iraq, where the Sunni Arab Iraqis live, has been a battle, the battle, that the media concentrates on. This battle is killing (over the last five months) about 800 Iraqis a month, which is more than ten times the number of Americans getting killed each month. Moreover, most of these deaths are concentrated in an area with only about a third of Iraqis population, giving that population an annual death rate of about 100 per 100,000 population. Its still more dangerous to be an American soldier or marine, who are suffering an annual death rate of close to 500 per 100,000 people. That is a lot lower than any other war in American history, while the rate among the Iraqis is about the same as the rate in areas where terrorists, bandits or undisciplined militias in places like Africa or South America are operating. This rate of violence gets the attention of the population affected, and the Iraqi Sunni Arabs are increasingly motivated to try and do something about it. This is the reason for the increase in Sunni Arab police informers, volunteers for police and army jobs, and leaders trying to negotiate peace deals with the government. These activities, seem dimly through the strident media coverage of the explosions, represents the battles that matter the most.


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