Levels of violence neither escalated nor decreased significantly in Iraq over the past week, although thankfully conditions are currently quieter than earlier in the summer. Across the country there were no reported kidnappings or suicide bombings, which is a welcome change from normality. It is likely that militants are lying low at present, partly because of the intense heat, and partly because many will be observing Ramadan.
In the north it transpired that Kirkuk was more violent than Mosul last week, whilst usually the reverse is the case. Mosul has remained particularly quiet over recent days, which may be related to the onset of Ramadan. Seemingly undeterred by religious constraints, militants have continued to conduct attacks in Kirkuk. There were several bomb attacks around the city, particularly targeting the police and even occasionally the US military. Kurdistan remains quiet, and cross-border operations by the Iranian military appear to have died down, most likely because of the onset of the holy month of Ramadan, which often sees fighting interrupted.
Much of the violence around the country last week was concentrated in the central provinces, with Babil in particular seeing an unusual spike in attacks. Baghdad continues to see more attacks than anywhere else in the country but conditions have improved over recent weeks nonetheless. Senior members of the security forces and mid-level ministry employees should remain on their guard as targeted assassination attempts are continuing but overall there has been a decline in street violence since mid-July. Last week at least one indirect fire incident injured a politician from the Ahrar party in an attack on his home in the normally quiet district of Jadriyah. Even in seemingly secure parts of the country, there are never any grounds for complacency.
The southern region was very quiet last week, with no major acts of violence recorded throughout the region. However, the security environment should still be considered potentially hazardous, with the security forces continuing to conduct raids against suspected militants and criminals. Anti-US sentiment is still relatively high in some areas and ongoing attacks against the US military should be anticipated, with a risk of roadside bombs against high-profile convoys and indirect fire attacks on fortified facilities. Further counter-insurgency operations by US troops will also hold the potential for stoking sporadic demonstrations against the continued presence of Washington forces.
John Drake is a senior risk consultant with AKE, a British private security firm working in Iraq from before 2003. Further details on the company can be found here while AKE’s intelligence and political risk website Global IntAKE can be accessed here.