It is estimated that 150 key figures including politicians, civil servants, tribal chiefs, police officers, Sunni clerics and members of the Sahwa militia (Awakening Council) have been assassinated throughout Iraq since the election on 07 March. This is a notably high incidence of targeted killings and highlights the current period of political instability. Uncertainty in the political arena has reflected in the security of the country, as assassination attacks are carried out on a basis of political point scoring and score settling. The 05 July suicide bomb attack on the provincial government building in Ramadi that is estimated to have killed four civilians and wounded 23 is indicative of this trend. Analysts and politicians have alluded to a tendency amongst political factions to use security as a political bargaining tool as, for instance, Maliki utilises a rhetoric of past security gains to cement his position.
Several members of Iraqiya have been killed by assassination attacks since the election, using silenced weapons and ‘sticky bombs’ (Under Vehicle Improvised Explosive Devices). Only on 02 July Abdulkarim Hattab, an Iraqiya member, was targeted with an explosive charge against his vehicle in western Baghdad but was unharmed. Iraqiya have listed a number of potential suspects for these attacks, but the current political climate of uncertainty has increased the number of possible enemies, making it harder to discern who is responsible. Allawi’s bloc suspect Iran of meddling in the political affairs of Iraq and believe this could have extended to organising targeted attacks through their Shiite militia allies, due to their desire to limit the political strength of Iraqiya in order to promote Shiite interests.
Sunni extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (AQIM) are likely to be carrying out assassination attacks to destablise Iraq whilst punishing compliant Sunnis for supporting Iraqiya. External pressure from influential countries such as America to resolve the political impasse is mounting and as such Al Qaeda and its affiliates will attempt to block any progress towards stability by launching intimidation attacks and large scale attacks, like those seen at the Central Bank and the Investment Bank in Baghdad. Institutions that represent foreign investment and economic hubs could witness more targeted attacks as will Iraq’s infrastructure as insurgents persist in their goal of weakening Iraq to prevent any positive development. The attack on a mobile phone tower in Jalawlaa, Diyala on 02 July by gunmen, causing it to blow up thus disrupting the network, is a good example of this.
In June, the number of civilian casualties fell for the first time since the election in March. In total 204 civilians were killed last month, dropping from 275 civilian killed in May; a figure that is significantly lower than that of June 2009 when 373 civilians were killed. This yearly comparison is in line with an observed decline in the levels of violence since the height of the sectarian war in 2006/2007 though it does not detract from the daily occurrence of bomb and assassination attacks. Analysts fear that the consolidation of political rule, predicted to begin after Ramadan in September, will not bring with it the security and provision of services that Iraqis desperately need. The remaining “hardcore” of the insurgency will be tough to wipe out, especially as United States Forces begin to drawdown and re-focus their energies in the theatre of Afghanistan.
Iraqiya’s Allawi has used the threat of assassination attacks against his list to argue that they are the virtuous option for the electorate amidst corrupt parties, who they publicly hold responsible for the attacks. Maliki’s supporters have countered Allawi’s claims of their involvement in assassination attacks by suggesting that he is using the rash of attacks to alleviate his bloc’s position in the struggle to form a government, whilst seeking to diminish the Shiite coalition’s viability. It is difficult to decipher the truth as the political bargaining intensifies and politicians utilise ‘dirty tricks’ to secure their role in the future government.
The power struggle for the top roles in government has persisted as the different factions within the new Shiite “Unity” Coalition, notably the Sadrist bloc and Maliki’s State of Law, stake their claims. The Sadrist bloc is insisting that Ibrahim Al-Jaafari take up the role of Prime Minister as Maliki refuses to give up his post. An increase in meetings between Allawi and Maliki has been seen as an attempt by Maliki to pressure the Sadrist Bloc into conceding to his rule, as his list achieved nearly as many votes as Iraqiya, lending it leverage with which to negotiate.
United States Vice President Joe Biden visited Iraq last week to encourage the different blocs to ease negotiations, reminding them of the importance of promoting inclusion of all factions and of seating the new government swiftly. Following meetings with Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Maliki and Iraqiya leader Allawi, Biden announced, “Iraqiya, State of Law, Iraq National Alliance, the Kurdistan Alliance all are going to have to play a meaningful role in this new government for it to work.” This statement has prompted analysts to note a potential shift in focus from facilitating an alliance between the two largest Shiite blocs to enabling a Maliki – Allawi government, the latter of which would be favourable to the United States interests.
The Sadrist bloc rejects any involvement of foreign forces in national affairs and urged Iraqi politicians not to cooperate with Biden and other United States officials. This isolationist stance will not help the Sadrists bid for government as America is wary of Iran’s influence in Iraq and thus will be keen to see a new government that excludes Tehran sympathisers. Moqtadr al-Sadr displayed his awareness of the risk of losing out to secular Iraqiya as he warned, “I advise Allawi and Maliki not to allow the occupier to intervene.” The United States administration has insisted that it is not forcing its preferred outcome of the negotiations upon the leaders, rather it is pressing for the suppression of individual agendas in order to achieve a viable solution for Iraqis. Whether the United States’ influence will encourage the formation of a coalition between the State of Law Alliance and Iraqiya or not remains to be seen, as any fixed outcome remains elusive.
Baghdad’s security was blighted by a spate of assassination attacks, mainly concentrated in the south of the City, in keeping with the national trend of targeting Sahwa members, military and police officials, civil servants and politicians. On 02 July an Improvised Explosive Device struck a Sahwa headquarters in the southern area of al-Be’ietha, Doura. One Sahwa member was killed and nine others were wounded, among whom was the Sahwa forces commander in Doura, Sheikh Mustaf al-Juburi. Police were also targeted in Doura at a checkpoint on 01 July when unknown gunmen fired silenced pistols, killing two federal officers instantly.
At 10:00 on 05 July the United States Embassy was targeted with two mortar shells, it is thought this incident could be in reaction to Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Iraq. The Green Zone also witnessed an Indirect Fire attack using two kaytusha rockets; one caused heavy damage whilst the other failed to detonate.
The closure of Joint Services Station War Eagle this month could see a further increase in insurgent Indirect Fire attacks on Camp Taji as it would become the most accessible target in terms of proximity. Indirect Fire attacks are expected to take place during the next full moon phase and for the next 30 days, most likely between the hours of 18:00 and 06:00. The threat levels for kidnapping and Indirect Fire (IDF) against the Taji base remain high in accordance with reports of insurgent movements nearby.
Three Improvised Explosive Devices were reported near Taji in this reporting period. One suspected Al-Qaeda attack to the north of Taji targeted the Iraqi Army, another found and cleared device in the south was reported to be a ‘sticky bomb’ and a further third device attached to a bicycle was found and cleared in south east Taji.
Incident levels remained low in Basra province though foreign forces continued to be subject to attacks. On 02 July a United States Forces patrol was targeted with an Improvised Explosive Device on the east of cloverleaf intersection in the north of the city. On 03 July Basra Contingency Operating Base was ineffectively targeted with Indirect Fire.
A Private Security Company reported an explosively formed projectile detonation on route Sioux Falls to the north west of Um Qasr and another explosively formed projectile detonated on a section of route Tampa south. It remains unclear as to whether Private Security Companies are being specifically targeted by insurgents, or if they are suffering collateral damage from Improvised Explosive Device / Explosively Formed Projectile incidents more often due to the increase in Private Security Company traffic on the Main Supply Routes. Further attacks can be expected along the Main Supply Routes to the west and south of the City.
There were no further civil disturbances due to electricity shortages in Basra City during the review period and reports suggest that power capacity in the City has improved recently due to the removal of illegal power lines.
US Forces and Iraq Security Forces and their associates will continue to be targeted by insurgent elements with Improvised Explosive Devices and Explosively Formed Projectile attacks on Main Supply Routes and Indirect Fire attacks against the Basra Contingency Operating Base.