The total number of officially reported hostile incidents nationally increased, returning to the expected rate during this reporting period. 112 incidents were recorded last week compared to 75 the week before.
Hostile activity in Baghdad accounted for approximately half the total number incidents, more than double the number of incidents recorded in Baghdad in the last reporting period. Elsewhere the north central region, which normally follows closely behind Baghdad with high hostile incident levels – showed relatively subdued activity levels. This is probably the result of Iraqi Security Force operations reducing insurgent capability during the previous reporting period. However, due to the proven resilience of the Al Qaeda in Iraq insurgency in the region it is assessed that their operational strength will be resumed within a couple of weeks.
Hostile incidents in the south central and south east regions largely focused on targeting the United States Forces – Iraq with the number of incidents remaining consistent with previous recordings. Despite only one recorded successful attack, insurgents in Dhi Qar province are showing increased intent which may lead to elevated incident levels in the coming weeks. Incident levels in the northern region were in line with expectations, although they would have been higher were it not for Iraqi Security Forces action that prevented two mass casualty attacks. A number of successful arrest operations will have further restricted insurgent movements in the region.
The political deadlock is beginning to approach endgame and it appears likely that there will be a step forwards in terms of government formation by the end of October or perhaps sooner. There are two possible outcomes. The most likely outcome is that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will be re-nominated as prime minister by a bloc that consists of Maliki’s State of Law Alliance (SLA), most elements of the pan-Shiite Iraqi National Alliance (INA) and the Kurds. There are signs that Maliki – possibly with backing from Iran – has won the support of the Iranian-influenced Sadrist movement and the Iranian-controlled Badr list, two key elements of the INA. The other major part of INA – the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) – is still holding out, largely due to the personal antipathy of ISCI and its leader, Ammar al-Hakim, towards Maliki. Sources within the Iraqi government state that Hakim has even imperiled his party’s longstanding ties with Iran in an attempt to block Maliki’s re-election. Under this scenario, the government would be a re-run of earlier years, with an Iranian-influenced pan-Shiite bloc governing the country with Kurdish support, The Iraqiyyah movement led by Iyad Allawi, representing most Sunni voters, would be left on the outside of the government. This would likely exacerbate the security situation in the Sunni provinces and western Baghdad, and would also result in even more significant Iranian penetration of Iraq’s security organs.
An alternate and less likely scenario is the long-awaited formation of an anti-Maliki coalition. The persistence of rumours concerning this possibility could simply be the wishful thinking of Maliki’s key opponents – Allawi and Hakim – and the possibility has been consistently supported and boosted by Saudi-owned media. Under this scenario, Iraqiyyah, ISCI and the Kurds would enact their fears about a second Maliki government to support the INA’s alternative candidate to Maliki – the easily-manipulated Adel Abd’al-Mahdi, an ISCI politician who is acceptable to most factions and countries but is purely a compromise candidate with no personal support base and little leadership potential. In theory, Allawi would let Abd’al-Mahdi be prime minister, Allawi would take the presidency and the Kurds would shift their powerbase to the parliamentary speaker’s chair. Supporting the effort to ensure this outcome, Allawi and the Gulf Arab media has moved into overdrive on the theme of Maliki as Iran’s chosen candidate. If Iraqiyyah were at the centre of a new government instead of on the outside, there could be fewer negative security effects for Iraq. On the downside, certain areas such as Basrah could witness more violence as a result of strained relations between ousted Maliki supporters still embedded in local governments and the security forces. However, these issues may be largely academic as there are many pointers to suggest that the time for an anti-Maliki alliance has well and truly passed.
Shia’a insurgents were responsible for eleven separate indirect fire attacks against the International Zone during the reporting period. The number of indirect fire attacks has risen each month since June, and September looks set to record the highest monthly number for such attacks this year. Indirect fire attacks on the International Zone tend to occur during high profile visits such as the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on 04 July, though this rise in attacks may be related to discontent caused by the stalled political situation.
Al Qaeda in Iraq or their associated movements conducted a coordinated mass casualty attack in Baghdad on 19 September. Two vehicle borne improvised explosive devices detonated at approximately 1015hrs in the Mansour and Khadimiyah areas of the city. The attack in the western Mansour district killed at least ten and wounded 58, while the attack in Khadimiyah killed 19 and wounded 53. The attacks had the desired effect of making headlines and undermining confidence in the ability of the government of Iraq to keep its citizens safe. If the Al Qaeda in Iraq and Associated Movements supply chain remains sufficiently robust then similar attacks are likely in the next two weeks.
Elsewhere the usual pattern of assassination attacks against off duty national security force and government of Iraq employees continued unabated. Drive by shootings and under vehicle improvised explosive devices were the most common modus operandi in these attacks, designed to intimidate and deter Iraqis from participating in the state administration.
The various Shia’a and Sunni insurgent groups will have had time to regroup over the Eid period and a higher rate of incidents resulted as predicted. However, trends show that after a week of high incident levels there usually follows a much quieter period, partly due to reactive Iraqi Security Forces action but more likely as a result of the time it takes to re-supply an insurgent grouping. Incident numbers are therefore likely to decrease slightly next week.
On 19 September Forward Operating Base Minden was targeted with two rounds of indirect fire from the direction of the Shatt al Arab river. This attack was the first against Forward Operating Base Minden since September 2009 and is the second indirect fire attack against a small U.S. Forces base in Basra since 16 September when Camp Bucca was targeted. On 26 September two 107mm rockets were discovered on launch rails to the north of Basra Contingency Operating Base. This diversification of targeting may be a result of successful Iraqi Security Force operations that have seen the capture of indirect fire teams engaged in attacks against Basra Contingency Operating Base during July and August.
A small arms fire incident was reported close to the Provisional Joint Co-ordination Centre in Basra City on 21 September. The details of the incident remain unclear but it is possible that this was an attack against a U.S. Forces vehicle visiting the base. Criminal attacks involving small arms fire continue to blight route Aspen. Two attacks this week were assessed as criminal activity, either hi-jack attempts or retaliation attacks by associates of a criminal gang that were killed by U.S. Forces while attempting to hi-jack a convoy on 05 September. Despite 05 September show of force by U.S. Forces, this area will continue to witness incidence of criminal activity for the foreseeable future.
Basra’s Iraqi Security Forces continued to find improvised explosive devices and mount search and arrest operations throughout the province leading to the detention of dozens of suspected insurgents and criminals. These actions combined with a marked improvement in the posture of Iraqi Army soldiers manning checkpoints in the city are helping to improve the reputation of the national security forces thus increasing public confidence.