The national total number of officially reported hostile incidents remained at 119. There was no change to the modus operandi of assassinations in Baghdad during the reporting period; however the seniority of the targets increased and included senior figures in key government ministries. Attacks against the United States Forces – Iraq were minimal; however there was at least one indirect fire attack against the International Zone.
Hostile activity in the north central region was on par with last weeks figures. Balad Ruz in Diyala Province was targeted with a mass casualty attack which killed at least twenty one people. In the northern region activity was consistent as hotspots such as Mosul witnessed the most activity with two vehicle borne improvised explosive device attacks, although they were largely ineffective. The south east’s incident levels remained the same as the last reporting period though there was evidence of an uptick in insurgent intent to launch attacks against security forces in Basra. Explosively formed projectiles and improvised explosive device attacks were aimed at U.S. Forces and private security company targets respectively and a U.S. soldier was wounded in a small arms fire attack in al Amarah, Maysan province. There were very few incidents in the south central area with most of them being improvised explosive device finds. The operational tempo of Sunni insurgents in the western region was rather muted this week.
The deadline set by the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court for the conclusion of the open session of parliament will have lapsed at the end of this week, by which time a parliamentary speaker should have been elected. In an effort to resolve the crisis politicians have been organising an increasing number of meetings, hoping to produce something resembling an official agreement.
Neither of the king makers, the Sadrists and the Kurds, are committed to any one option from the government contenders, with both appearing malleable to the possibility new offers. The Sadrist bloc has made it clear to Prime Minister Maliki that they would be willing to support Adel Abd al-Mahdi should he garner enough support from the Shiite movements and that they wish to see the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and Allawi’s Iraqiyyah included in the final construction of government. The Kurds are currently looking to the highest bidder for their support, which seems to be the ISCI at the moment, though the National Alliance and Iraqiyyah are not far behind. For Iraqiyyah however, a few of the Kurds main demands, for example, that the Presidency be set aside for them, are undesirable. Members of Iraqiyyah apparently released statements declaring their willingness to “settle” for the post of President instead of Prime Minister, stating they would not stand in the way of Maliki’s extended tenure. A government containing Iraqiyyah, ISCI and Adel Abd al-Mahdi might be more rewarding for the Kurds than one with the National Alliance as the latter are less likely to deliver on their promises despite their current enthusiasm for the Kurdish “shopping list” of demands.
So where does this leave our timeline for the government formation process? The process of seating a new government will take a long time and it is now looking likely that it will not be completed by 2011, despite recent developments in the negotiating process. This is partly due to a number of upcoming religious festivals that will stall administrative proceedings. If a parliamentary speaker is elected at the end of the week Maliki’s position would be strengthened as his “caretaker government” would be more constitutionally sound and could therefore remain in power in the absence of an alternative. In response to this Maliki’s opponents might try to pursue the dissolution of parliament but this would jeopardize all MPs income, something unanimously undesirable. What is clear is that many of the key influences on the government formation process are touting unachievable aims that are either constitutionally impossible or merely implausible. As these wildly variant demands enter negotiations the goal of a government of everyone becomes increasingly unattainable, leaving Maliki’s extended tenure as the most plausible option.
The number of officially reported incidents in Baghdad remained at 49 last week. There was no change in modus operandi as assassination attacks utilizing improvised explosive devices and under vehicle improvised explosive devices made up the bulk of the insurgent operations. On 25 October the Director General of the Electricity Ministry was shot dead in the south west of the city on his way to work. The following day Mahdi al Allaq, the Undersecretary of the Iraqi planning Ministry escaped assassination when an improvised explosive device detonated against his convoy in central Baghdad. Two days later the deputy assistant of the Interior Minister General Hussein Mahdi Goumaa was wounded when an improvised explosive device struck his motorcade in the al Jihad district. An Iraqi Police Colonel was killed by a under vehicle improvised explosive device in Sadr City on the same day.
Besides these high profile targets several other government ministry workers were killed and injured. Once again the rank and file Iraqi Security Force members in Baghdad were targeted with improvised explosive device and small arms fire attacks while on patrol and static at check point locations with civilian collateral damage occurring. There were many attacks against the Iraqi Security Forces throughout the city in the review period; however, there was little evidence of insurgent targeting of U.S. Forces. There was one indirect fire attack reported on the International Zone on 26 October. There were also unconfirmed reports of Baghdad International Airport being targeted with indirect fire; however the validity of these reports could not be corroborated.
High profile violent robberies continued during the reporting period possibly indicating insurgents’ lack of funds. An armed group attacked a vehicle carrying the salaries of the Education Directorate in the east Rusafa area of Baghdad. The group got away with $1.2 million.
On 26 October insurgents ineffectively targeted a U.S. Forces vehicle with an explosively formed projectile on route Minden to the east of Basra City. The Iraqi explosive ordnance disposal team initially stated that the device was an improvised explosive device; however U.S. Forces later reported that the device was a poorly constructed explosively formed projectile. Another explosively formed projectile was found three days later close to an Iraqi Security Forces check point on route Topeka near the cloverleaf junction. The device was reported to have been well constructed. The following day a private security company was targeted by an improvised explosive device to the north east of Az Zubayr which resulted in minor damage to a vehicle.
The increase in hostilities this week can possibly be attributed to the lack of progress in the government formation process. The Sadrist bloc had expressed its support for Maliki’s second term in office providing their demands were met. A deadline for the demands has now passed and an increase in Shia insurgent activity may well be resultant from this. It is likely that indirect fire attacks against Basra Contingency Operating Base will recommence soon due to the frustrations felt at political negotiations.
On 28 October an under vehicle improvised explosive device targeted a Southern Oil Company engineer in the centre of Basra City. The man was seriously injured and it is believed that the attack was related to a tribal dispute rather than targeting of oil workers. This was the first under vehicle improvised explosive device attack in the city since June and follows two under vehicle improvised explosive device finds in the past two weeks.