Terrorist violence is down, and the attacks that are being made are using smaller and less sophisticated bombs. The terrorist groups are not doing very well. In the north, where the bombings were the worst over the last year, efforts to dry up terrorist funding (from sources in Syria and Jordan, as well as local scams, like stealing oil from pipelines and trucking it out of the country) have succeeded. The gangs that provided the bomb makers and other technical help, are now out of work. Many of these guys have turned (or, in some cases, returned) to crime. Extortion, kidnapping and burglary are up sharply. Police are arresting men who had previously been terrorism suspects. Increased security along the Syrian border has kept out most of the terrorist volunteers (commonly used as suicide bombers). Those that are already in Iraq, finding no one to set them up for a glorious suicide bombing attack, are going home, or trying to get to Afghanistan (where there is still a demand for their skill set.)
Things have become so quiet that the parks are packed and the rivers and lakes are full of pleasure boats again. For the first time in years, outdoor movie theaters are operating. There will still be more terrorist bombings, but there is a widespread believe that the Sunni Arab terror supporters outside the country have lost heart, not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars spent to support a six year terror campaign that failed. Those terrorism supporters who are still willing to provide cash, are being urged to direct their charity towards Afghanistan or Somalia, where the odds of success are better. But donors, who are largely from the Persian Gulf area, don't like the idea of admitting defeat in their own neighborhood. Meanwhile, back in Iraq, many Sunni Arabs believe that they will eventually regain control of the country, with the help of Iraqi exiles in Syria and Jordan, and fellow Sunni zealots in Arabia.
December 3, 2009: In the northern city of Tikrit, a suicide bomber killed a crack counter-terrorism commander (police Lt. Col. Ahmad al-Fahal), and four other people. Fahal had a formidable reputation, and was believed responsible for deaths of nearly 200 Sunni Arab terrorists, and the arrest of many more. Such targeted assassinations are typical of al Qaeda and other Sunni Arab groups. But Fahal, and his American allies, have been more successful in their own campaign against terrorist leadership.
December 1, 2009: November was the least violent month in Iraq since the 2003 overthrow of the Sunni Arab dictatorship. There were 122 terrorist deaths in November (88 civilians, 22 policeman and 12 soldiers). In addition, two American troops died in combat last month. If you include victims of ordinary crime, the Iraqi deaths just about double. With terrorism on the skids, police are concentrating more on the dozens of major criminal gangs (many of whom switched between terrorism and more mundane thuggery, depending which paid the most.) In October, there were 410 terrorist deaths. This is a big drop from 2006-7, when most months saw at least 2,000 (and sometimes over 3,000) Iraqis dying.
November 30, 2009: After three days, the mysterious "Saddam TV" channel, available on an Arab language satellite broadcasting service, shut down. A shadowy group in Syria took credit for the channel, which showed news clips and old Saddam era propaganda videos round the clock. Broadcasting began on the third anniversary of Saddam's execution. Saddam still has a lot of fans in Iraq, and the Middle East. The region is largely ruled by despots, and over-the-top rulers, especially those skilled at manipulating foreign media, are much admired.
November 25, 2009: For the second time in the last few weeks, men in army uniforms entered a Sunni neighborhood and killed numerous people. This time it was a village outside Baghdad and the victims were an entire family of six. The earlier attack, also near Baghdad, saw 13 men rounded up and murdered. The police are trying to downplay these attacks as a return of the Shia death squads, but Sunnis are nervous because these appear to be payback for recent Islamic terrorist bombings of Shia targets.