The national level of hostile incidents increased in this reporting period from 126 to 140. The number of incidents peaked towards the start of the reporting period but declined as the Eid Festival approached. The number of incidents during 2009 Ramadan was higher than for the same period this year, although the August/September period has seen a significant rise in officially reported incidents compared with the months of June and July. However, some of this activity can be attributed to insurgents increasing their attacks against U.S. Forces as they reduced their numbers and withdrew from bases. The increase in the number of attacks would then help create the illusion that U.S. Forces were withdrawing due to insurgent pressure.
Baghdad saw another rise in the number of incidents which included a failed mass casualty attack utilising a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device and suicide vests. The actions of Iraqi Security Forces and U.S. Forces ensured that casualties were limited to seven deaths, which is much lower than it would have been had the attack gone unchecked. The north central region also witnessed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQIZ) / Al Qaeda in Iraq and Associated Movements (AQIZAM) headline grabbing attacks. Among the increased number of incidents were two beheadings, which serve as a clear reminder of the threat to those who take a stand against the resurgent Al Qaeda cells in the area.
The level of insurgent attacks over the next fortnight will illustrate the extent of Al Qaeda’s strength. If they can maintain the operational tempo of the past seven days then the national security forces will face a tough challenge that could provide insight into how well they will cope in the coming months with reduced U.S. support.
The key political groups have still not managed to reach a compromise on a number of key issues, namely the competition for the leading roles, as the public bickering has persisted. Almost six months have passed since the votes were counted and little progress has been achieved. Much of the blame has been laid on incumbent Prime Minister Maliki for clinging onto his position too tightly, causing Iraqiya and the Iraqi National Alliance to fight against him. Iraqiya’s leader Allawi, as the leader with the most votes, is challenging Maliki’s incumbency and the Iraqi National Alliance refuses to accept Maliki due to his history of purging the Sadrists in southern Iraq.
The Iraqi National Alliance announced their own prime ministerial candidate on 03 September as Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, to compete against Maliki and Allawi. Key members of Iraqiya have much maligned the actions of the State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance in their attempt to form the winning bloc, claiming the formation of the “National Coalition” is in itself unconstitutional and that the coalition’s disagreement over who should be Prime Minister is the main cause of the absence of government. A fourteen member “arbitrators” committee, which includes representatives from the State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance, has been set up to decide upon a method to choose a single candidate to represent the “National Coalition,” a process which will be overseen by a representative from Iraqiya. Despite evidence of concessions being made between the parties, it is clear that the different aspirations held by the leading factions will continue to be difficult to reconcile within a comprehensive governance package. The leaders will need to give up certain goals in order to achieve cohesion.
Critics have expressed their concerns that none of the political leaders are dutiful enough to execute such negotiations, each trying to stake their claim at the cost of good relations with their peers.
It has been suggested that America are intervening in the political process again through Vice President Joe Biden, who has been in Baghdad to oversee the U.S. military withdrawal. Reputed “insider” sources have outlined the U.S. strategy as one that sees Maliki remaining in power with a number of restrictions on his authority put in place to prevent autonomous rule. No official sources have confirmed this plan and the U.S. is likely to want a stronger role for Allawi’s Iraqiya, to counter act Iran’s influence in Iraq and to be seen to support the democratic option.
There was an evident up tick in activity in Baghdad over the reporting period with up to four Suicide Vehicle Improvised Explosive Devices and one Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device occurring near the old Ministry of Defence building in Rusafa. As one Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device detonated targeting the building, two assailants wearing Suicide Vest Improvised Explosive Devices were killed by Iraqi Security Forces as they tried to detonate their vests. A further two assailants wearing Suicide Vest Improvised Explosive Devices were pursued by the Security Forces and detonated their vests when cornered. The incident resulted in up to seven people being killed and a further 29 injured.
This attack follows the effective Suicide Vest Improvised Explosive Device attack on the same location on 17 Aug, when potential Iraqi Army recruits were targeted. Attacks of this kind take planning, preparation and time to conduct, from recruiting and indoctrinating the suicide attackers, to constructing the Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices and Suicide Vest Improvised Explosive Devices. For the resource consumption, this was a relatively ineffective attack, largely due to the reactions of the Iraqi Security Forces and co-located U.S. troops. Reports indicate that the Suicide Vehicle driver was shot and that the device was probably remotely detonated. The last two Suicide Vest bombers were cornered in a building where they detonated their devices, reducing their effectiveness. Without the action taken by the Iraqi Security Forces the toll could have been significantly higher. The attack bears the hallmarks of Sunni insurgents who perpetrate mass casualty attacks against Iraqi Security Forces and the Shi’a population.
The number of incidents in the south east region dropped to five in the review period, with only one significant hostile incident occurring in Basra province. On 08 September an effective Small Arms Fire attack was carried out against a Private Security Company on Route Aspen, 50 kilometers north of K-Crossing in south western Basra province.
Iraqi Security Forces in Basra have seemingly been rewarded for their recent intensified security efforts as Eid passed without major incident. Their efforts resulted in a number of arrests and on 08 September, the discovery of several Improvised Explosive Devices close to Umm Qasr. This will go some way to restoring public confidence in Basra’s security forces following the 07 August bombings, though the longevity of their success will depend on their ability to maintain a good operational tempo.