The total number of officially reported hostile incidents nationally increased very slightly from 112 to 115. Once again hostile activity in Baghdad accounted for approximately half of all incidents, making Baghdad by far the most dangerous part of the country for five weeks running. Assassination attacks against Iraqi Security Forces and Government of Iraq personnel continued to blight the security situation, though there was a decrease in targeting of United States Forces.
The number of hostile incidents in the north central region remained relatively low again this week, as Al Qaeda in Iraq and Associated Movements are still likely to be re-grouping following heavy Iraqi Security Forces attrition. However, the assessment that their capability will be restored in the near future remains pertinent.
Hostile incidents in the south east region increased this week and included the first indirect fire attack against Basra Contingency Operating Base since 22 August. Activity in the south central region largely focused on U.S. Forces, with the number of incidents remaining consistent with expected activity levels. Insurgents in the northern region continue to be frustrated by national security forces activity as the discovery of a vehicle borne improvised explosive device in Mosul illustrates.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s success in winning over key factions of the Iraqi National Alliance, namely the Iranian influenced Sadrists was confirmed on 01 October, as Falih al-Fayadh, an INA lawmaker announced Maliki’s nomination for the position of Prime Minister by the INA at a news conference. However, Maliki did not secure support from all of the INA factions, notably the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and the Fadhila Bloc rejected the nomination, as the head of the latter group, Hassan al-Shimari, stated “this announcement does not represent all INA parties… This is a deal between Sadrists and the State of Law.” Iraqiyyah have been quick to cite this lack of overall consensus across the INA factions as a sign of weakness. Senior Iraqiyyah member Osama al-Nujaifi referred to the fate of the INA stating, “It’s finished… It is disassembled,” seeing an opportunity provided by Maliki’s nomination for Iraqiyyah to join up with INA dissenters who are reluctant to support the incumbent.
Regardless of Iraqiyyah’s claims to a constitutional right to rule derived from their success at the polls, the odds are now stacked in Maliki’s favour. Iranian support of his candidacy for the role of Prime Minister, embodied in the Sadrist Bloc’s backing, has given Maliki command of somewhere between 124 – 135 seats. He needs to secure 163 seats for his extended tenure to reach ratification. The Kurds will now come into play in their role as kingmakers as their support could give Maliki the seats he requires to rule and no other bloc would be able to provide these seats.
The only chance the opposition has of obstructing Maliki’s rule will be to assemble a credible alliance between Iraqqiyah, the Kurds, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and/or Fadhila. These groups combined would number about 158 seats, requiring them to win over some fence sitters to make up the rest. This anti-Maliki option faces some significant difficulties. It would be difficult to achieve an alliance between Iraqqiyah and the Kurds due to underlying issues between the two, whereas the Kurds are part-way to accepting a humbled Maliki. There is now both Iranian and U.S. pressure on members of this alternative bloc, namely the Kurds and the ISCI to link up with the Maliki bloc. Should Maliki succeed, Iran’s role in Iraq will definitely expand throughout the country, including in the Kurdish Regional Government area. This will subtly affect regional dynamics and could potentially stall some Gulf investment in Iraq.
The political negotiations are now in endgame, though the agreements may take another month to reach ratification, possibly even longer. Following on from ratification will be the ministerial negotiations which may be drawn out, but the government formation process is reaching conclusion now.
The number of officially reported incidents in Baghdad remained at 59 for the second consecutive week. There were no mass casualty attacks in Baghdad during the reporting period, although attacks could have been planned. A cache of suicide vests were discovered in the Adamiyah district on 28 September and open sources reported the discovery of several vehicles prepared as vehicle borne improvised explosive devices in Tarmiyah on 29 September. The review period was characterised by a series of targeted assassinations utilising under vehicle improvised explosive devices and small arms fire, which accounted for more than half of the attacks.
The threat from close quarter shootings has steadily risen in recent months and the use of silenced weapons has become more prevalent. Open source reporting has even claimed that the problem is so severe that a representative of Grand Ayatollah Sistani addressed the issue in a recent sermon. Such attacks are difficult to prevent as pistols and silencers are easy to smuggle through check points. There is a possibility that these attacks are not being perpetrated solely by Al Qaeda in Iraq and associated movements. Assassination attacks against the national security forces and government personnel require target selection and reconnaissance and traditionally Al Qaeda in Iraq and associated movements are far less discriminating. It is therefore assessed that these attacks may be perpetrated or aided by the disaffected members of the Sunni community and former Ba’athist elements.
The number of improvised explosive attacks against the U.S. Forces dropped significantly, as have attacks on the International Zone during the reporting period. Only one known indirect fire attack took place against the International Zone on 29 September. The decrease in attacks is probably due to a combination of factors; Shia insurgents may be awaiting a re-supply and secondly the U.S. Forces have increased air patrols. While continued indirect fire attacks against the International Zone are expected, in the short term it is unlikely that they will reach the frequency achieved between 19 – 25 September this year. The success of the Shiite blocs in forming the next government should also see a decline in Shia insurgency, as the cause for their resistance will be diminished.
The number of incidents in south east region increased to ten in this reporting period. On 01 October Contingency Operating Base Basra was targeted with two rounds of indirect fire. One round impacted within the base; however no casualties or damage to assets was reported. The indirect fire attack consisted of two 107mm rockets and the point of origin was located approximately five kilometers to the south east of the base where one metal rail, two tubes and a digital timer were found. One individual was also detained in connection with the attack. Although this was the first attack against the base since 22 August, rockets on rails were discovered on two separate occasions during September and were believed to be targeting the base.
Basra’s police chief has been subject to interrogations following a series of security incidents in the province. Basra council will make a decision regarding the Chief of Police by 04 October, following a session held on 30 September where General Adel Daham submitted his answers to the committee. Vice President of Basra council, Ahmad al-Salieti, said they were questioning the Basra Police Chief in light of the lack of protection afforded to the council members during demonstrations held in protest at the lack of electricity.