Weekly Security Update for 23rd September 2010

National Overview
The national total number of officially reported hostile incidents dropped drastically from 140 to 75 this week – the lowest number of incidents recorded in a week this year. The Eid Festival which saw heightened security measures in parts of the country seems to have been the main factor in the reduction of the operational tempo. The number of incidents was lowest at the beginning of the reporting period but increased towards the end of the Eid/Ramadan religious period.

The south central and south east regions were the only areas of the country that saw a rise in hostile activity this week. An increased number of low level intimidation and criminal incidents in the south east made up the majority of the incidents although there was evidence of attacks against United States Forces - Iraq in Basra, Maysan and Muthanna.

Incident levels in Baghdad and the north central areas are likely to continue increasing as they did towards the end of the reporting period. Given the notable intent to stage a mass casualty attack seen in the north central region it is possible that such an attack will occur in the near future. Successful Iraqi Security Forces operations in the western region led to a huge fall in successful insurgent operations. The heightened state of the security forces during Eid will probably wane in the coming week and lead to a rise in officially reported incidents across the country.

Political Overview
The reporting period did not witness significant progress towards the formation of a new government as the main blocs remained at loggerheads over who should rule.

The Shiite “National Coalition” set a deadline for the decision on who should represent the coalition in the competition for the prime minister’s post for next week. The Coalition members however neglected to mention how the decision making process will be conducted. The Shiite blocs conceded that talks with other parties would have to be suspended until the deliberations had concluded, after which point they would attempt to form a government of “national unity” with them.

Iraqiya’s belief in its right to rule has remained steadfast, with Allawi rejecting the viability of Maliki’s hold on the position of prime minister.

Asked in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat this week whether Iraqiya would form the next government, Allawi stated, “Yes, we will if we proceed on the basis of the electoral and constitutional right. If we proceed along external wishes, then others will form the government. That will be the problem, we will not accept to have a foreigner impose his will on us.”

The Iraqiya leader predicted turbulence if Maliki is allowed to remain at his post and a rejection of the electoral system as a whole by the Iraqi people. He also referred to the sectarian quota system as a source of political troubles, eschewing sectarianism in politics as divisive and unbalanced. As a purportedly secular party with the most votes, Allawi defended Iraqiya’s unique position of legitimacy in the competition to rule the country.

Open source media reports suggested that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden warned of a possible military intervention by the Iraqi Army if political negotiations continue to stall, causing members of Iraqiya to warn against a military coup. At the moment this option seems a long way off and the press tends to over analyse comments made by the U.S. administration, eager to reveal some indication of Washington’s position on Iraq’s political dilemma. Maliki’s control over the Iraqi Army is of concern to Iraqiya which might explain the latter’s warning against such action. Iraqiya has also rejected international intrusions as anti-sovereign and counter-productive, probably due to anxieties over Maliki’s established relationship with the U.S. administration and possibly Iran.

Officially reported incidents in Baghdad fell from 52 to 28 in the review period. Although the number of attacks in the Baghdad area was lower than normal, incident numbers did begin to rise towards the end of the reporting period. It is assessed that the number of hostile incidents will greatly increase in the next seven days as insurgents regroup following the conclusion of Eid. Iraqi Security Forces and Government of Iraq employees will continue to be heavily targeted. Mass casualty attacks targeting Iraqi civilians are occurring at a rough rate of one per fortnight, suggesting that an attempt might take place within the next couple of weeks.

On 18 September an Indirect Fire attack intended for the International Zone impacted within the Karradah area injuring three Iraqis. Attacks commonly target the U.S. Embassy and tend to be launched from Sadr City in the east and Zafaraniyah in the south east. Following the drawdown of U.S. Forces from Iraq the rate of attempted Indirect Fire attacks aimed at the Green Zone could begin to accelerate as insurgents seek to diminish the authority of the national security forces.

Improvised Explosive Devices remain the most prevalent method of attack in the capital particularly where insurgents target U.S. Forces and Government of Iraq representatives. Last week Improvised Explosive Attacks were seen south of Abu Ghraib and in east Baghdad and also in the north of the capital were an attack was launched against the Deputy Minister of Work and Social Affairs in Waziriyah.

Government convoys are sporadically attacked with Improvised Explosive Devices in the east of Baghdad, invariably by Sunni insurgents. Due to the increased security or inaccessible location of senior officials’ residences, the use of Under Vehicle Improvised Explosive Devices has become less tenable than deployment of roadside Improvised Explosive Devices, thus explaining their frequency.

The number of incidents in the south east region increased to ten last week despite an uptick in Iraqi Security Forces’ operational activity.

Arrest operations throughout Basra continued with over 40 wanted individuals being detained. Among those arrested were two criminal gangs, four individuals in possession of weapons, explosives and observation equipment and numerous others on terrorism charges. The continuing success of such operations demonstrates the national security forces increasing ability to conduct operations without relying on the support of U.S. Forces.

There were two incidences of politically motivated attacks in Basra during the review period. A member of the State of Law political bloc and a deputy chief of the municipal council were targeted at their homes with Improvised Explosive Devices. Attacks against political figures in the south could witness an increase as public impatience grows at the lack of progress in forming the national government and subsequently in improving local services.

One Indirect Fire attack was reported in the south east last week, on 16 September against Camp Bucca in Umm Qasr. Insurgent activity near Umm Qasr, including Indirect Fire attacks, has remained low over the past three months. However, increased Iraqi Security Forces operations in and around Basra City could have restricted insurgents’ freedom of movement, making it more difficult to target Contingency Operating Base Basra at the relatively high operational tempo levels of July and August 2010.

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