The national total number of officially reported hostile incidents increased slightly from 116 to 119. Although the Baghdad region accounted for most of hostile incidents it was for a smaller number than the three previous weeks. The modus operandi of assassinations utilising under vehicle improvised explosive devices and small arms fire continued unabated. The absence of mass casualty attacks in the capital was prolonged and attacks against United States Forces – Iraq were minimal.
The north central region experienced a spike in activity, with Bayji witnessing a significant proportion of the hostile incidents. Activity in the northern region was consistent with expectations – with hot spots like Mosul witnessing the most incidents, such as a vehicle borne improvised explosive device attack against a U.S. Forces vehicle. After an unusually quiet period last week the south east region saw a return to regular incident levels. Shia insurgent activity picked up with improvised explosive device emplacements targeting U.S. Forces and an improvised explosive attack on a private security detail in Basra. Incidents in the south central area were in line with recent activity. The operational tempo of Sunni insurgents in the west declined this week.
The review period saw the publication of Kurdish demands in the form of a nineteen point list delivered to the two main government formation options who are attempting to woo the Kurds in their role as kingmakers. Much like the Sadrist demands on the Maliki led National Alliance, the Kurdish demands are difficult and in some cases untenable. There is much irony to be seen in the Kurds’ suggestions for constitutional change as they have acted as proponents of the 2005 constitution in the past; it is also ironic that two nationalist groupings under Maliki and Allawi are promising to meet Kurdish demands that would challenge the Iraqi state.
On 24 October the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court ruled that parliament must end its open session within fourteen days to conclude the business of government formation. It now seems that the only real obstacle is the Kurdish list of demands, though this is not insurmountable. Instead what seems likely to occur is the acceptance by both the main groupings of the Kurdish terms, resulting in a tricky post-government formation situation under whoever the Kurds nominate, that sees the ruling coalition trying to hammer out the unmanageable terms of agreement.
One of the key points to note on the Kurdish “shopping list” for political gain is the tenth on the list, the demand for the acceptance of the most recent oil and gas draft law. This would see the national government allow regional autonomy in controlling local oil and gas revenue, i.e. the signing of contracts within the Kurdish Regional Government area without the need for Baghdad’s approval. By this law all oil producing regions would be allowed such rights, which seems unlikely given the potential for vast oil wealth accruing from the south east region in particular. To take the control of oil revenue from the state would not only violate articles stipulated in the constitution, but it would require parliamentary approval which no government coalition can guarantee. Similarly any agreement on Article 140 of the constitution that demands a referendum on the status of disputed territories such as Kirkuk will need to be overseen by parliament and this process could be terminally delayed.
Despite this development in Kurdish negotiating tactics, the government formation process cannot realistically be prolonged for much longer. The key political players’ desire for a neat package of agreement that sees the top roles designated at the same time according to a quota arrangement has seen negotiations stall and is in fact unconstitutional. The United States’ influence also acts as a delaying force as they push the “government of everyone” option which is harder to attain. What would seem like the most obvious solution, an alliance between the two key government formation groupings Iraqiyyah and the National Alliance is becoming the least likely result as the Kurds take up their position as kingmakers, albeit with unrealistic demands.
The number of officially reported incidents in Baghdad decreased from 62 to 49 this week, a significant drop from the previous three weeks. Sunni insurgent activity remained focused on targeting civil servants and Iraqi Security Force members, including Awakening Council/Concerned Local Citizens members, several of whom were killed in under vehicle improvised explosive device, improvised explosive device and small arms fire attacks during the week. Recently the Baghdad Operations Command centre issued warnings regarding the importance of checking vehicles for under vehicle improvised explosive devices, though this does not appear to have been integrated into routine security checks.
Al Qaeda in Iraq and Associated Movements were linked to a series of brutal armed robberies in the Mansour area of western Baghdad on 17 October. The robbers killed two Iraqi Army soldiers and at least five others including shop owners whilst making their escape. This is the latest in a series of robberies that has been linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq and Associated Movements who have been resorting to crime to raise funds.
In what has been perceived as an act of sectarian violence, on 19 October two buses carrying Iranian pilgrims were targeted with improvised explosive devices in central Baghdad causing sixteen casualties. This attack might serve as an indicator of anti-Iranian sentiment due to the perception of increased Iranian influence over Iraq’s political affairs.
There were very few attacks against U.S. Forces – Iraq, the most significant was an ineffective explosively formed projectile attack against a night time re-supply mission. There were no indirect fire attacks against the International Zone for the second week running. The lack of activity is perhaps a signal that Shia insurgents in Baghdad are prepared to refrain from violence while potentially beneficial political negotiations are ongoing.
On 20 October at 00:15hrs, a hand grenade detonation was reported in a residential area in southern Basra City. Hand grenades attacks in Basra City are often carried out as part of an intimidation campaign rather than aiming to cause serious damage or physical harm. On 23 October a small improvised explosive device ineffectively targeted a private security company vehicle in the north of the city. It is assessed that this was an opportunistic attack and that the device was probably meant for a passing U.S. Forces convoy. There were two improvised explosive devices found and cleared during the reporting period, both east of Basra City on routes often used by U.S. Forces convoys transiting between Forward Operating Base Minden and Basra Contingency Operating Base. These attacks may have been related to open source reporting that the Sadrist Trend had put a time limit (the end of October) on its support for Prime Minister Maliki; serving as a reminder of what Shia insurgents are capable of should their demands not be met.