By Tom Walker, Director, Assaye Risk
This reporting period has been somewhat quieter in Iraq with a significant drop in the number of high impact attacks and shootings. There remains a daily churn of violence that affects predominantly the northern and central belts yet the intensified bombing campaigns would appear to have slackened, possibly due to the upcoming end of Ramadan celebrations.
July was however a terrible month for Iraqis. More than 1,000 Iraqis were killed in sectarian violence in July, the highest monthly death toll since 2008, the United Nations said on Thursday, as Sunni Islamist groups have stepped up stepped up their insurgency emboldened by ineffective governance and an ISF that is stretched and often outmatched.
Most of the 1,057 victims were civilians killed in a relentless campaign of bombings and shootings however in the latter part of July the ISF have also experienced growing casualties as the ISI and other Sunni groups deliberately target the ISF, especially in the northern belts, where the security forces have less traction. "We haven't seen such numbers in more than five years, when the blind rage of sectarian strife that inflicted such deep wounds upon this country was finally abating," Gyorgy Busztin, acting UN envoy to Iraq, said in a statement. He called on Iraqi leaders to take immediate and decisive action to stop the "senseless bloodshed" and prevent a return to the "dark days" of 2006-07, when the number of people killed per month sometimes exceeded 3,000.
In recent years violence has fallen and a steady rise in oil production has made the country richer, but the transnational and regional influences of the conflict in neighboring Syria have set alight the sectarian tensions across the region and invigorated Sunni insurgents in Iraq, including al Qaeda.
July's toll brought the number of people killed in militant attacks since the start of the year to 4,137.
The worst affected governorate was Baghdad, where 238 people were killed in July, followed by Salahuddin, Nineveh, Diyala, Kirkuk and Anbar.