By Tom Walker, Director, Assaye Risk.
The past week in Iraq has been dominated by the worsening political crisis that continues to engulf the Al-Maliki administration at both the international and domestic level. With inflammatory political discourse, a possible Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) secession and divisive Al-Maliki politics leading both the international and domestic news spectrums the ramifications are openly visible as growing unrest and targeted political violence continues to rumble across the country, with no sign of abating.
Whilst the week saw a small spike in violence there has been little change in the areas where it is occurring. In terms of incidents there have been no great changes in the mode or method with a familiar blend of IED, Suicide IED and small arms being omnipresent. As with previous weeks the main targets remain ISF or civillians targeted as a direct result of grievances and conflict that fall within the political spectrum. Of note are also the deaths at the hands of the ISF that have occurred during protests in Fallujah, Al Anbar Province, which is a legacy flashpoint point that continues to foment.
Whilst the overwhelming majority of incidences involve sectarian insurgent elements, reporting has identified a criminal element associated with hostage taking, kidnap and murder in and around Mosul who appear to be occupying an operating vaccum left since the conclusion of an ISF operation to clear insurgent elements. The increasing levels of violence and unrest are not however representative of the country as a whole. As with previous weeks the overwhelming majority of violence is focused in key flashpoint areas (that mirror the political divides) and as such visitors should not apply a blanket security threat state to a province and can afford to be more selective about where they choose to travel to.
In the north of Iraq various themes continued through the week ranging from continued Turkish military activity against PKK elements on the northern border to the familiar pattern of incidents playing out along the Tigris River Valley and contested regions around Kirkuk. Of note was the Vehicle borne IED in Kirkuk which killed 36 people and wounded 105 on 03 February which plays toward an increasing attempt to counter Turkish influences against central government in Baghdad.