While the Islamic terrorists have many more supporters in largely Sunni Anbar province (most of western Iraq), there are also a lot of pro-government Sunnis out there and many of them belong to full and part-time security organizations. Al Qaeda has tried to deal with this “treasonous behavior” by assassinating individual Anbar Sunnis for this, with special emphasis on tribal and security force leaders. The senior people tend to be well guarded, so the Islamic terrorists lower their sights to more accessible targets. The main point of this is to avoid the bomb attacks that kill a lot of innocents. This is what turned most Iraqi Sunnis against the Islamic terrorists in 2007. Since then the Shia led government has cooperated by discriminating against Sunnis, and that has led to a new surge of angry young men willing to kill and die in an effort to create a new Sunni dictatorship.
Iraq has growing problems with Iran. Despite its own cash flow problems at home, Iran continues to supply crucial support for the Assad government and those efforts are succeeding. Iran expects Iraq to, at the very least, not get in the way. Iran has not put a lot of Iranians into Syria, but there is a constant supply of cash (in the form of dollars and euros), very effective military, security and other advisors, and some equipment and weapons. The cash and personnel tend to arrive by air on several night flights a week from Iran. These flights cross Iraq, which tries to pretend they don’t exist but American radars can spot these flights, but complaints to Iraq continue to have no effect. There is still a lot of trade between Iran and Iraq and some of the trucks from Iran continue all the way to Syria. This is a dangerous route because western Iraq (Anbar province) is largely Sunni and full of Islamic terrorists. The government has nearly 30,000 police and soldiers in Anbar and thousands of men in pro-government militias. This is keeping al Qaeda from taking over Anbar and the violence there is increasing. Many local Sunnis are supporting the government, if only to reduce the violence and economic disruption.
American pressure on Iraq to block Iranian access (by land and air) to Syria has not worked, and the Iraqis like to blame their lack of an air force or much anti-aircraft defenses. So Iraq is pushing the U.S. to hurry up with deliveries of F-16s and the training of Iraqi pilots and maintenance personnel. The Iraqis are also trying to make the U.S. understand the pressure Iraq is under from Iran, which has millions of supporters in Iraq and several armed and willing militias that are quiet now but could be ordered to attack the Iraqi government (run by more moderate but very corrupt and inept Shia). The U.S. is using this as an opportunity to try and negotiate with the Iraqis over what it would cost the United States to get more cooperation against Iran.
November 13, 2013: The governor of Baghdad province survived an assassination attempt when his convoy was ambushed. Five civilian bystanders were wounded. The mayor of Fallujah (a city in Anbar province) was not so fortunate and died after being shot by a sniper.
Terrorist attacks killed over 30 Shia Moslems today. Islamic terrorists are making a major effort to disrupt Ashura, the big annual Shia religious event. The government sends lots of additional soldiers and police to Najaf and other cities in the south that contain Shia shrines and major mosques. But there are so many Shia (about two million, including many foreigners) showing up for Ashura that the Sunni Islamic terrorists can always find some vulnerable targets.
November 12, 2013: The Syrian Kurds have declared an autonomous Kurdish state in northeastern Syria. Kurds are about 15 percent of the Syrian population. Most of the three million Syrian Kurds live in the northeast and they have received a lot of help from their Iraqi counterparts. As a result, the Syrian Kurds have been able to defeat numerous efforts by Iraqi Islamic terrorists to take control of the Kurdish areas. That’s what also happened in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq. Some 20 percent of Iraqis are Kurdish and most live in the autonomous Kurdish north.
North of Baghdad armed Iraqi helicopters were used to drive off Islamic terrorists who were attacking pro-government Sunni militiamen. The terrorists suffered several casualties and two of their vehicles were destroyed. Iraq is using its helicopters more frequently for combat missions, and this is made possible by the increasing number of Iraqi pilots who have a lot of hours in the air, especially in combat situations.
November 10, 2013: Turkey and Iraq are patching up their differences. Iraq has been very critical of Turkish support for the autonomous Kurdish north but now appears ready to overlook that in return for better trade relations and counter-terrorism cooperation with the Turks and diplomatic support against Iran. The Iraqi Kurds fear that this might mean less support from the Turks. But the Turks simply reminded the Iraqi Kurds that as long as they cooperated with Turkey in dealing with Turkish Kurdish separatists (the PKK) and Kurdish nationalists (who want to unite Kurds in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria to form a Kurdish state) all would be well.
November 9, 2013: A Hungarian oil company revealed that it had found oil deposits within the Kurdish north. While small by regional standards, this oil field could produce 10,000 barrels a day. That’s about a million dollars of oil a day and over $350 million a year. The Iraqi government considers such oilfield development illegal but are unable to stop the Kurds.
November 8, 2013: Al Qaeda released another video condemning the ISI (Islamic State in Iraq), one of the main al Qaeda groups in Iraq, for causing animosity and fighting between Islamic terrorists in Syria. ISI has become stronger and bolder because of all the terrorists it has sent to fight in Syria and has become more active in Iraq as well. All this ISI-sponsored violence has brought in more contributions to al Qaeda for operations in Iraq and Syria and made the Iraqi al Qaeda leaders more ambitious and aggressive. That has increased the risk of a complete break with al Qaeda senior leadership. Earlier this year the head of ISI defied orders from the al Qaeda supreme leader (bin Laden successor Ayman al Zawahiri) to stop poaching members from the Syrian Jabhat al Nusra (JN). That was because Zawahiri declared the April “merger” of the new (since January) Syrian JN with the decade old ISI as unacceptable and ordered the two groups to remain separate. The reason for this was that the merger was announced by ISI without the JN leadership agreeing to it. The merger formed a third group; Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS). That was the problem, as many JN members then left their JN faction to join nearby ones being formed by ISIL. Most JN leaders saw this as a power grab by ISI, especially since most of the JN men who left to join ISIL were non-Syrians. Many of these men had worked with ISI before and thought they were joining a more powerful group. But ISIL was apparently just an attempt by ISI (which had been having a hard time raising cash) to grab some glory, recruits, money, and power by poaching JN members. JN appealed to Zawahiri for help and got it then and now again. Zawahiri is publicly criticizing ISI/ISIL again and is closer to declaring ISI/ISIL something that pro-Islamic terrorism donors should not support. But as has often happened in the past, orders from al Qaeda supreme headquarters are being ignored. That’s not the first time al Qaeda has been called on to slap down misbehaving Iraqi Islamic terror groups and it won’t be the last. In 2005, al Qaeda leadership escalated and quietly ordered the assassination of the rebellious Iraqi al Qaeda leaders in Iraq. That tactic may be tried again, because it worked last time. In any event, the Iraqi branch (ISI) is now technically at war with the Syrian branch (JN) and al Qaeda has declared that JN is the sole legitimate leader of Islamic terrorists in Syria. This has led to a growing number of deadly battles between Syrian and Iraqi branches of al Qaeda. ISI/ISIL has also made it clear that it intends to unite Iraq and Syria in a new Islamic state under Iraqi leadership. The fighting in Syria has made it easier for Islamic terrorist groups to raise money (illegally of course) in the oil producing Arab Gulf states. The idea of Islamic terrorism in support of Sunni Islam is still popular with many Sunni Arabs, especially if the bombs go off somewhere else. ISIL now has over 5,000 armed men in Syria and is still getting enough donor cash to keep the terror attacks going in Iraq. The Iraqi terrorists are not popular in Syria and often find themselves fighting government forces and other moderate and Islamic radical rebels at the same time. Now al Qaeda has made it almost an obligation for Islamic terrorists to attack ISIL. For many Sunni Syrians the ISIL is disliked mainly because most of its men are foreigners, who tend to be overly eager to kill any civilians who get in the way. JN men are more careful in this respect and most Syrians have taken notice.
November 7, 2013: The government revealed that recent attacks on al Qaeda bases in Iraq were made possible by Americans sharing what they knew about al Qaeda bases in Iraq. The U.S. was usually reluctant to share this information with the Iraqi government because the Islamic terrorists had so many government officials bribed or coerced into passing on information like that to the terrorists. Iraq is seeking intelligence assistance from the United States in order to make Iraqi security forces more effective against Islamic terrorists. The U.S. is willing to help if Iraq will cooperate in halting Iranian assistance for the Assad dictatorship in Syria. That would be difficult for Iraq because Iran still has thousands of armed supporters in Iraq and keeps the Iraqi government cooperative by not encouraging the pro-Iran Iraqis to attack the Iraqi government.
November 1, 2013: In October, 979 people were killed by terrorism related violence in Iraq. That’s about the same number who died in September. The Sunni Islamic terrorists have killed over 7,000 people so far this year and the government is under a lot of popular pressure to stop the mass murder. Terrorist deaths are still much lower than they were during the peak years of the violence but have doubled since 2011. Back then terrorist deaths went from 29,000 in 2006 to 10,000 in 2007 and kept falling until 2011 (when there were 4,100 deaths). Then came the Arab Spring and the Sunni uprising against the Shia minority government in Syria. This energized Sunni radicals and led to a big jump in Sunni terrorism in both Syria and Iraq. At the rate things are going this year, 2013 will have twice as many terrorist deaths as 2011. So far the terrorists have managed to find ways to work around each new security measure and the Sunni minority still refuses to turn on the terrorists (as they did in 2007). The additional security measures have forced the terrorists to rely more on car bombs and remotely detonated ones at that because the terrorists are apparently running out of suicide bombers. The Sunni terrorists (mostly the local al Qaeda and Sunni nationalists who are not eager to have a religious dictatorship that al Qaeda wants) continue to strive for a civil war between Shia and Sunni. This would be disastrous for the greatly outnumbered (4-1) Sunnis, but most Sunnis are still bitter over the loss of power and income after the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein. The 2007 peace deal, arranged by the United States, brought with it a sharp drop in terrorism and a halt to the Shia death squads that were randomly killing Sunnis. But after the Americans left in 2010, the Shia dominated government reneged on the terms of that deal, mainly by not supplying the promised jobs and share of the oil income. Sunnis also accused the Shia government of not supporting them in the north where Kurds were trying to reclaim property Saddam had stolen in the 1980s and given to poor Sunnis from the south. Then came accusations that some Sunni politicians (including several senior elected officials) were supporting Sunni terrorists. Some of these accusations appear to be true, but for most Sunnis it was the last straw and the Sunni terrorists found themselves with more fans and recruits. While many Sunni leaders oppose the terrorism, speaking out can get you killed by Sunnis who consider any peace proposals treason against the Sunni community. Now the Sunni uprising in Syria has further encouraged the Sunni terrorists, despite the lack of any real progress in Iraq and the growing risk of a devastating Shia backlash.