Still no new government, four months after the elections. Greed and irresponsibility continue to block compromise. Some factions are blaming the United States, for urging the feuding parties to compromise and form a government. Without a new prime minister, and other ministers, the government is on automatic, and not getting a lot done. Corruption continues unabated, with government funds disappearing and decisions only getting made if you can afford the bribe demanded.
While the government has been stalled, the Sunni terrorist groups took the opportunity to increase their attacks. This made July the bloodiest month (535 dead, 74 percent civilians, 26 percent security forces) since May 2008 (when 563 were killed). Only one American soldier died in combat during July, with three others dead from non-combat causes. There are still 65,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, with 15,000 set to depart by the end of the month.
The Sunni Arab terror attacks are largely defensive. That is, they are often against fellow Sunnis (working for the government) or soldiers and police operating in Sunni neighborhoods. This means killing more Sunni Arabs, often innocent bystanders to bombings and shootings. The few thousand Sunnis still involved in the fighting are either hard core Sunni Arab nationalists (intent on restoring the centuries of Sunni Arab domination of Iraq), or men wanted for crimes under the Saddam Hussein government. For these guys, the battle is a matter of life and death. Iraqi Kurds and Shia will never forgive them for the atrocities committed during three decades of Saddam's rule. Even fleeing into exile, as many Saddam henchmen have done, only provides temporary refuge. War crimes prosecutions, and Kurdish and Shia death squads, will always be there. The only true salvation is to restore the Sunni Arab dictatorship. That is very unlikely, but this is the Middle East, where the unlikely is often mistaken for the inevitable.
The Sunni Arab terrorists still try and attack Shia Arab neighborhoods, especially during large religious gatherings. Many Sunnis believe Shia are heretics and should be slaughtered. This is a particularly popular attitude among al Qaeda and radical Iraqi Sunni Arabs. The Iraqi Shia reciprocate, and some of the best security in the country is found in Shia neighborhoods. This has forced the Sunni Arab terrorists to use mortars, fired from safer areas, into heavily guarded Shia areas. The Sunni Arab terrorists also have to worry about increasingly capable Iraqi police and counter-terrorism forces. While these guys, unlike the Americans who taught them, can be bribed, the bribes demanded are often either too large, or, to the shock of the terrorists, brushed aside. Many of the police and counter-terror troops are Kurds or Shia who lost kin to Saddam's secret police or terrorist supporters. So their job is a matter of payback, a family affair that cannot be sidetracked by a bribe. Or at least not by a small one.
The U.S. was reminded of how strong religious and tribal loyalties were when four senior Sunni Arab terrorists escaped from a prison, just days after it was turned over to Iraq in mid-July. This was the last major prison under American control, and the Iraqi warden was a smart, capable, Sunni Arab from Ramadi (Hamis Hamadi al Duleimi), who had the support of most American officers he worked with. This despite the fact that Duleimi discriminated against Shia and was always looking for ways to make more money. Duleimi disappeared after the four Sunni Arabs escaped. In fact, it was believed that Duleimi was paid a large bribe to drive the four men out of the prison. Duleimi and the four prisoners are being sought, but it is feared they may have already fled to Syria, which is still a sanctuary for wealthy Sunni Arab terrorists and their supporters.
The Iraqi economy continues to flourish and grow. Despite the pervasive corruption, Iraqis know how to do business despite the corruption. But much potential economic growth is lost because of the corruption, and there is more crime and fewer government services (like utilities and garbage pickups) because of it. But for the moment, most Iraqis are living better than they did under Saddam. This is not the case with the Sunni Arab minority that supported Saddam. This gives a distorted image of Iraq to the outside world, because a disproportionate number of Sunni Arabs speak English, and tend to be much better educated (and this more are journalists). Foreign journalists find it easier to get stories from Iraqi Sunni Arabs, who have fallen into poverty because of their past misbehavior, and are always ready to complain about it, and how it's not their fault.