With official results due in the next few days, electoral manoeuvres defined Iraq’s political environment this week, with party leaders seeking to form alliances and build coalitions to advance their own interests. Ultimately, the ability of political figures to navigate this system, more than the poll results, will determine the shape of Iraq’s next ruling coalition and government. Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, has been multiplying calls to reinvigorate an alliance inclusive of the main Shia parties. These manoeuvres may result from a strategy to extract concessions from the State of Law coalition, which likely received the most votes, though certain groups such as the Sadrists seem to have invested too much in anti-government actions and rhetoric to side with Nouri al-Maliki in the aftermath of the elections. Fighting between government forces and Sunni insurgents in the northern and central provinces continued to reflect extreme polarisation in the political sphere, with coalition leaders increasingly appealing to their own sectarian bases. While Maliki poses as a Shia champion against the insurgency, Usama al-Nujaifi, leader of the largest Sunni bloc, described Maliki’s campaign as an all-out war against Sunni Arabs. The negotiation of alliances, and subsequent government formation, will indeed be complicated by a lack of unity stemming from personal disagreements and diverging views on the country’s political trajectory. Following relatively peaceful elections on 28 and 30 April, largely due to increased security measures and checkpoints around key polling stations, incident levels witnessed a considerable uptick over the reporting period, with a return of VBIED attacks in Baghdad and surrounding governorates. As upcoming results are unlikely to appease radical Sunni elements and government policies will most certainly continue to be driven by electoral interests, violence is likely increase across Sunni-dominated areas, with series of car bombs to be expected in restive districts over the next weeks.
As levels of violence increased across the north, Nineveh and Salahuddin continued to concentrate most of the complex attacks and incidents. On 10 May, at least 25 Iraqi police and army personnel were killed and 13 injured in the provinces of Nineveh and Diyala. On 11 May, militants ambushed a military convoy and killed 20 soldiers near Ain al-Jahash, Nineveh, in the deadliest execution-style attack against the ISF. On 12 May, seven civilians and two soldiers were killed when a car bomb detonated near a checkpoint in Tikrit. Series of IEDs and small arms attacks continued to mirror the worsening security situation in northern governorates, with poll results likely to fuel the insurgency. The increase of violence levels, both in frequency and intensity, largely results from the establishment and consolidation of militant bases in Nineveh, Salahuddin and Diyala, which have allowed insurgents to stage complex attacks against the ISF. While Kurdish provinces remained free from major security incidents, Erbil is likely to attract increasing political attention over the next weeks. While Kurdish authorities are still embattled with Baghdad over budget allocation and oil exports, the poll results due in the next days will measure the leverage earned by Kurdish parties against the leading coalition, impacting on the trajectory of bilateral disputes.
Following an unusual absence of car bomb attacks in Baghdad last week, VBIED incidents returned to the capital, with six detonations causing dozens of casualties across northern and eastern Shia-dominated districts. The timing of the attacks, on 10 and 12 May, could mean that additional VBIEDs are due this week in Baghdad, with the civilian death toll set to increase. After a relatively peaceful election period facilitated by the concentration of government resources on the capital, Sunni radicals will capitalise on the re-deployment of troops to neighbouring provinces to strike Baghdad with further assaults on civilians and ISF assets. Meanwhile, the situation in Anbar continues to be stagnant, with the fighting reportedly intensifying in Fallujah and key areas of Ramadi still under insurgent control. On 06 May, two car bombs targeted two army checkpoints, while renewed shelling on civilian neighbourhoods of Fallujah contributed to an uptick in civilian deaths across the province. On 11 May, Iyad Alawi, leader of the Wataniya Alliance, denounced the government’s treatment of the Anbar crisis, while Sunni tribal leaders met in Erbil to discuss options likely to promote dialogue. The absence of concrete measures undertaken by the government, which appears increasingly disengaged from the Anbar front despite the impact of the insurgency on the economy, will do little to improve the situation and levels of violence should be sustained over the next weeks.
Despite an elevated level of threat maintained across the southern provinces, the intensity and frequency of violent incidents remained consistent with previous weekly averages and the majority of attacks were confined to Babil. While ISIL militants mainly targeted ISF elements through the use of roadside bombs against army convoys, the nature of attacks recorded in Babil contrasted with the type of incidents occurring in the south-eastern governorates of Basra and Maysan, which witnessed drive-by shootings consistent with the methods used by Shia militias against their political rivals. Though VBIED expeditionary attacks cannot be ruled out as security measures are reduced, most incidents against south-eastern locations should rather involve actions against local political figures, with the situation likely to remain tense as lenghty post-election negotiations continue to reflect disagreements over unity amongst various Shia groups.