Monday, May 2, 2011

Iranian Backed Special Groups Pick Up Attacks Upon U.S. Troops In Iraq

On April 29, 2011 the latest U.S. casualty in Iraq was reported. The press was quick to dub the month a deadly one for American troops. In total, eleven soldiers lost their lives in April, which was the highest total since November 2009. Half of those were due to enemy action and occurred in southern Iraq and Baghdad, and were likely the work of Iranian backed Special Groups. Tehran times militant attacks to coincide with important political events taking place within Iraq. Currently, that is the discussion over whether Baghdad should allow U.S. soldiers to remain in the country past the December 2011 withdrawal date, which the Iranian regime opposes.

April marked an up-tick in deadly attacks in Iraq upon U.S. forces. There were four such incidents last month, that cost the lives of five U.S soldiers. The last was on April 29 when a soldier in southern Iraq was killed by hostile fire. There were four other violent deaths that month from an IED in Maysan province, and two cases of indirect fire, probably from mortars or rockets in Baghdad and Babil. That was the most fatal attacks upon the Americans since June 2009, when there were seven. Those occurred before the U.S. withdrew from Iraq's cities on June 30, 2009. The recent spate of security incidents were all likely the work of Iranian backed Special Groups since they occurred in Baghdad and southern Iraq where they operate. On April 30, a U.S. Army spokesman blamed the League of the Righteous for recent missile attacks, and said that they, and the Hezbollah Brigades were supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Qods Force. Tehran has supported attacks upon the Americans that coincide with important political events. Currently, U.S. and Iraqi officials are discussing whether American troops should stay in Iraq past the December 31, 2011 withdrawal deadline. Iran and the Special Groups are opposed to any such extension. Not only that, but they want to claim responsibility for the U.S. pulling out, and are therefore increasing the number of mortar and katyshua rocket attacks upon bases, and planting more roadside bombs hoping to catch a convoy. The Hezbollah Brigades for example, brag about their assaults on their website and post videos on Youtube of them.

Hezbollah Brigades’ Youtube Videos Of Attacks Upon U.S. Bases, April 2011

Hezbollah Brigades video of rocket attack upon U.S. base in Baghdad, dated April 16, 2011

Hezbollah Brigades rocket attack upon U.S. base in Basra, dated April 11, 2011

Rocket attack upon U.S. base in Hillah, Babil, dated April 2, 2011

The fact that Shiite militants increased their attacks in April can be seen by comparing last month to previous ones. In March there was only 1 deadly attack leading to one U.S. fatality in Samawa, Muthanna on the 30th. That might have marked the beginning of the Special Groups recent offensive. That's because in February there were no violent deaths. In January, five Americans were killed, but four of those happened in Ninewa and Salahaddin in northern Iraq, and were likely the work of Sunni insurgents. From October to December 2010 there was only one U.S. death per month.

Overall, the number of violent deaths for American troops in Iraq has fluctuated up and down since they pulled out of the country's urban areas. From July 2009 to February 2010 there was a steady decline in deaths from 5 in July to zero in December, two in January 2010, and one in February. Then in March and April there were three deaths each, mostly in Sunni areas, before declining again for the next three months. There were then three casualties in August and four in September, five of which were done by insurgents. Then there was just one death per month from October to December as noted above, before the five in January 2011, none in February, and one in March, before reaching April's five.

In comparison, far more U.S. soldiers and airmen have lost their lives in non-violent incidents since June 30, 2009. From July 2009 to April 2011, there were 52 Americans killed by militants. In contrast, 78 died in accidents, vehicle and helicopter crashes, and other non-combat activities.

As long as Washington and Baghdad are publicly discussing the U.S. withdrawal, there will likely be more attacks upon U.S. bases and convoys by Iranian backed groups. When those talks end, the rocket, mortar, and IED incidents will occur in less frequency. That is until the end of the year, when U.S. troops are supposed to be out of the country. Then Iran and Shiite militias will probably step up their activities once again because of the publicity it causes. In between U.S. casualties will go down, but will not end as Sunni and Shiite militants still lob ordinance at U.S. bases occasionally and look for targets of opportunity when they present themselves.

U.S. Casualties In Iraq June 2009-April 2011
MonthViolent Deaths Non-Violent Deaths Total Deaths No. of Deadly Attacks 
Apr. 11 5 6 11 4 
Mar.  1 1 2 1 
Feb.  0 3 3 0 
Jan.  5 1 6 3 
Dec. 10 1 0 1 1 
Nov.  1 1 2 1 
Oct.  1 1 2 1 
Sep.  4 3 7 2 
Aug.  3 0 3 3 
Jul.  1 3 4 1 
Jun. 2 6 8 1 
May 2 4 6 2 
Apr.  3 5 8 3 
Mar.  3 4 7 3 
Feb.  1 5 6 1 
Jan.  2 4 6 2 
Dec. 09 0 3 3 0 
Nov.  2 9 11 2 
Oct.  2 7 9 2 
Sep.  4 6 10 1 
Aug. 4 3 7 3 
July 5 3 8 3 
June 10  5 15 7 

Breakdown Of U.S. Deaths June 2009-April 2011

6/2/09 1 death, IED, Baghdad
6/4/09 1 death, grenade, Kirkuk, Tamim
6/4/09 1 death, grenade, Balad, Salahaddin
6/5/09 1 death, non-violent, Anbar
6/13/09 1 death, IED, Samarra, Salahaddin
6/16/09 1 death, IED, Samwa, Muthanna
6/16/09 1 death, non-violent, Mosul, Ninewa
6/19/09 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
6/24/09 1 death, accident, ?
6/25/09 1 death, no-violent, ?
6/28/09 1 death, IED, Baghdad
6/29/09 4 deaths, IED, Baghdad
6/30/09 U.S. withdraws from Iraq’s cities

7/8/09 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
7/13/09 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
7/16/09 3 deaths, indirect fire, Basra
7/19/09 1 death, hostile fire, Anbar
7/24/09 1 death, non-violent, Salman Pak, Baghdad
7/25/09 1 death, hostile fire, ?

8/4/09 1 death, suicide, ?
8/10/09 1 death, non-violent, ?
8/17/09 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
8/19/09 1 death, Rocket, Diwaniya, Qadisiyah
8/23/09 1 death, IED, Babil
8/28/09 2 deaths, IED, Baghdad

9/3/09 2 deaths, accident, Baqubah, Diyala
9/8/09 4 deaths, IED, Baiji, Salahaddin
9/12/09 1 death, accident, Baghdad
9/19/09 1 death, helicopter crash, Balad, Salahaddin
9/20/09 1 death, non-violent, ?
9/29/09 1 death, non-violent, Kut, Wasit

10/1/09 1 death, mortar attack, Baghdad
10/6/09 1 death, suicide, Basra
10/18/09 1 death, accident, Mosul, Ninewa
10/19/09 1 death, IED, Ninewa
10/27/09 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
10/28/09 1 death, non-violent, Talil, Dhi Qar
10/29/09 1 death, non-violent, ?
10/30/09 1 death, non-violent, Babil
10/30/09 1 death, non-violent, Babil

11/2/09 1 death, non-violent, Iskandiriya, Babil
11/4/09 1 death, small arms, Salahaddin
114/09 1 death, non-violent, Diyala
11/8/09 2 deaths, helicopter crash, Tikrit, Salahaddin
11/9/09 1 death, non-violent, Anbar
11/16/09 1 death, accident, Tal Afar, Ninewa
11/19/09 1 death, non-violent, ?
11/22/09 1 death, small arms, Numaniya, Maysan
11/27/09 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
11/29/09 1 death, non-violent, Basra

12/8/09 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
12/10/09 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
12/11/09 1 death, non-violent, ?

1/1/10 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
1/6/10 1 death, IED, Baghdad
1/6/10 1 death, non-violent, Balad, Salahaddin
1/8/10 1 death, accident, Baghdad
1/20/10 1 death, accident, Mosul, Ninewa
1/28/10 1 death, hostile fire, Talil, Dhi Qar

2/10/10 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
2/16/10 1 death, non violent, ?
2/21/10 2 deaths, helicopter crash, Qayara, Ninewa
2/23/10 1 death, accident, Fallujah, Anbar
2/25/10 1 death, hostile fire, Salahaddin

3/8/10 2 deaths, accident, Kut, Wasit
3/13/10 1 death, hostile fire, Tikrit, Salahaddin
3/14/10 1 death, mortar attack, Balad, Diyala
3/15/10 1 death, accident, Mosul, Ninewa
3/17/10 1 death, RPG, Baghdad
3/29/10 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad

4/4/10 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
4/7/10 2 deaths, IED, Mosul, Ninewa
4/17/10 1 death, accident, Tikrit, Salahaddin
4/18/10 1 death, non-violent, Basra
4/22/10 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
4/27/10 1 death, IED, Khalis, Diyala
4/27/10 1 death, indirect fire, Iskandiriya, Babil

5/3/10 1 death, non-violent, Mosul, Ninewa
5/4/10 1 death, non-violent, Tikrit, Salahaddin
5/20/10 1 death, non-violent, Kirkuk, Tamim
5/21/10 1 death, small arms, Ninewa
5/24/10 1 death, IED, Numaniya, Maysan
5/30/10 1 death, non-violent, Dohuk

6/2/10 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
6/4/10 1 death, accident, ?
6/11/10 2 deaths, IED, Jalawla, Diyala
6/15/10 1 death, non-violent, Baqubah, Diyala
6/17/10 1 death, non-violent, Mosul, Ninewa
6/21/10 1 death, non-violent, Balad, Salahaddin
6/26/10 1 death, accident, Diwaniya, Qadisiyah
7/2/10 1 death, non-violent, Asad Base, Anbar
7/2/10 1 death, non-violent, Balad, Salahaddin
7/2/10 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
7/21/10 1 death, IED, Muqtadiya, Diyala

8/7/10 1 death, hostile fire, Iskandiriya, Babil
8/15/10 1 death, grenade, Baqubah, Diyala
8/22/10 1 death, indirect fire, Basra

9/7/10 2 killed, small arms, Tuz Kharmato, Tamim
9/15/10 1 death, controlled detonation, Joint Base Balad, Salahaddin
9/16/10 1 death, pulmonary emoblis, Iskandiriya, Babil
9/24/10 2 deaths, small arms, Fallujah, Anbar

10/16/10 1 death, non-violent, Amarah, Maysan
10/24/10 1 death, small arms, Baghdad

11/19/10 1 death, non-violent, Joint Base Balad, Salahaddin
11/21/10 1 death, small arms, Tikrit, Salahaddin

12/8/10 1 death, sniper, Numaniya, Maysan

1/2/11 2 deaths, IED, Taji, Salahaddin
1/15/11 2 deaths, small arms fire, Mosul, Ninewa
1/15/11 1 death, RPG, Baghdad
1/17/11 1 death, non-violent, Tikrit, Salahaddin

2/15/11 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
2/17/11 1 death, non-violent, Asad Air Base, Anbar
2/17/11 1 death, accident, ?

3/16/11 1 death, non-violent, southern Iraq
3/20/11 1 death, IED, Samawa, Muthanna

4/2/11 1 death, indirect fire, Babil
4/2/11 1 death, indirect fire, Baghdad
4/3/11 1 death, non-violent, Mosul, Ninewa
4/4/11 1 death, non-violent, Baghdad
4/4/11 1 death, non-violent, Mosul, Ninewa
4/10/11 1 death, non-violent, Kirkuk, Tamim
4/19/11 1 death, non-violent, ?, ?
4/22/11 2 deaths, IED attack, Numaniya, Maysan
4/27/11 1 death, non-violent, Babil
4/29/11 1 death, hostile fire?, southern Iraq


Agence France Presse, “April deadliest month for US in Iraq since 2009,” 4/30/11

Alsumaria, “US Army: Iranian Quds Force has investment projects in Karbala and Najaf to support armed groups in Iraq,” 4/30/11

Hanna, Michael Wahid, “The New Reality In Iraq,” New Republic, 2/26/09, “Iraq Coalition Casualties: Military Fatalities”

Al-Rafidayn, Al Mowaten News, Al-Mada, “Al-Maliki Has ‘Private Opinion’ About U.S. Military Withdrawal From Iraq,” MEMRI Blog, 4/28/11

Washington Post, “April a deadly month for U.S. troops in Iraq,” 4/30/11

Weitz, Richard, “Global Insights: Decision Time for Iraq on U.S. Military Presence,” World Politics Review, 4/26/11


Freeman said...

Long followed your blog, but first time commenting, so first off thanks for the great analysis and coverage you do of Iraq on this blog.

I think your right about Iranian backed Shia groups being behind the recent violence. The number of IDF attacks taking place in Basrah on US forces is astounding. However, this is not about Iraqi politics. It is about Bahrain. Saudi and UAE troops entered Bahrain on 14 March; the complaint coming from Shia groups is that the US is supportive of Sunni-based revolutions, but support Sunni regimes in repressing Shia.

Joel Wing said...

You're correct that groups like the Hezbollah Brigades on their website are claiming that their increased attacks are in support of the people of Bahrain. That being said, I can't help but think that's mostly propaganda. Hezbollah pretty much takes orders directly from Tehran, and I would think that they have their eye more on the U.S. troops in Iraq than what's happening in Bahrain right now.

Freeman said...

Interesting way to look at it. I think orders coming from Tehran means they are more likely to be be acting in response to Bahrain and the regional events, not less. Also, I don't see statements like this as mere propaganda, but reflecting of a grievance that resonates with their supports and motivates them to conduct attacks. I think you underestimate the depth of Shia angst over Bahrain and the apparent favoritism US policy is showing towards Sunnis.

Joel Wing said...

Freeman sorry it took so long to reply to your last comment. Work came down on me and I was super busy. Anyway I would say that for Iran, seeing the U.S. leave would be of more importance to them than what's going on in Bahrain. That's why I would say that the Special Groups attacks might be talking about Bahrain, but were more aimed at claiming responsibility for the withdrawal. Also, unless you read something like Hezbollah Brigades' website, the purpose would be missed because the U.S. and others would assume its about seeing the U.S. leave.

Here's an example, an AP story about how the recent uptick in attacks are linked to the upcoming pullout date with comments by U.S. officers in southern Iraq.