Thursday, June 14, 2012

Iraq Insurgents Launch Summer Offensive In June 2012


The pace of operations by Iraq’s militants is largely determined by the weather. During the colder winter months, they carry out far fewer attacks. When the weather gets hotter, the number of incidents goes way up. In 2012, the insurgency started their summer offensive in June with a series of attacks upon Shiite pilgrims and the Shiite Endowment. That was followed by a wave of attacks on June 13 up and down the entire length of the country with all of Iraq’s major groups hit. In the coming days and weeks there were will be more such events, resulting in an increase in casualties. This is not a turn for the worse in Iraq’s security situation, but rather the normal pattern of attacks that has been followed for the last nine years.

June 2012 has been marked by a series of high-profile attacks throughout Iraq. On June 4, a suicide bomber set off a car bomb outside of the Shiite Endowment in Baghdad. 26 people were killed, and nearly 190 were wounded. Later in the day, a mortar shell hit the Sunni Endowment in the capital, but there were no casualties. Beforehand, the two organizations had been arguing over control of land and religious shrines like the Askariya one in Samarra, Salahaddin. On June 11, Al Qaeda in Iraq’s front organization, the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the incident, and warned that more were coming. That same day there were nearly forty attacks throughout the width and length of the entire country. First, in Baghdad, Shiite pilgrims were heading towards the shrine of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim in Kadhimiyah. He was a great grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, and is considered a Shiite saint. These events have been favorite targets of militants. The violence started right after midnight when a bomb went off in the city. At 5 am, a truck bomb exploded amongst pilgrims in Kadhimiyah. Two mortar shells landed in the same neighborhood, killing six, and wounding 38. A car bomb detonated just outside of the area, and another blew up amongst pilgrims in Karrada. In that last incident, pilgrims were in tents outside of a mosque getting food, water, and resting after their trip. Two other bombings occurred in Mashem and on Palestine Street, both in central Baghdad. In total, the New York Times had an initial count of 29 deaths, and 80 wounded in the capital. That was just the beginning of the day’s events. In Ninewa province, there was a car bombing in front of a Kurdish party headquarters in Mosul killing two, and wounding five, and six killed, and ten wounded by roadside bombs against army and police convoys in the rest of the governorate. Four bombs struck Kirkuk in Tamim, one outside of the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Salahaddin had six incidents, including two car bombs in Balad killing five, and wounding 30, a car bomb hitting pilgrims in Taji, leaving seven casualties, an attack in Samarra, and two car bombs in Tikrit that left twenty-one killed and wounded. Diyala witnessed a car bomb in Baquba that led to 29 dead and wounded, while gunmen attacked a checkpoint in the Sadiyah district. Southern Iraq was not spared either, with two car bombs in Basra killing 10, two car bombs in Hillah in Babil, one of which was aimed at policemen that left 22 killed, and 50 wounded, and another at a Shiite mosque that left no casualty. In Wasit, car bombs struck in Aziziya, and in Karbala explosions targeted day workers there. Finally, in Anbar, three houses belonging to policemen in Fallujah were bombed leaving three dead, and 12 wounded, two police were killed at a checkpoint in that city, there was an explosion in the city of Haswa, a sticky bomb killed a government worker in Hit, and a suicide bomber in Khalidiya, which is outside of Ramadi left three dead, and six wounded. Overall, the BBC had almost 300 wounded, while the New York Times counted more than 90 dead. This was by far the bloodiest day of the year. Some reports tried to highlight the sectarian nature of the incidents. That was true of the attacks upon the pilgrims. Al Qaeda in Iraq has consistently gone after every Shiite event in the country, hoping to create tensions, and a possible retaliatory attack, which they hope would bring the country back to the brink of civil war. That has not happened yet. More importantly, June 13 showed that militants carry out attacks against all of Iraq’s major groups. Not only were Shiite Arabs struck, but so were Sunni Arabs, and Kurds. It also points to the fact that there are other groups operating in the country. Al Qaeda simply does not have the manpower to carry out all of that day’s violence, and is not really interested in incidents that do not gain major press coverage. The other groups do not get the press coverage, and usually don’t even get named, but they are the heart and soul of the insurgency, carrying out the daily routine of attacks in Iraq.
Pilgrims like these heading towards the shrine of Imam al-Kadhim in Baghdad were targeted on June 13, 2012 (Getty Images)
Security check outside of shrine June 13. More police and soldiers were deployed in Baghdad after the Shiite Endowment was bombed, but they couldn't stop the wave of attacks (Getty Images)
Man in hospital after being wounded by attack in Karbala June 13 (Reuters)
Aftermath of bombing in Baghdad's Karrada June 13 (AP)
Damage done by bombing in Kirkuk June 13 (Reuters)
Remains of a car after a bombing in Baghdad June 13 (Reuters)
Wreckage being removed from Hillah June 13 (AP)

June’s events point to the fact that Iraq is still a very dangerous place to live. Gunshots, mortar attacks, and bombings are common occurrences. At the same time, it’s important to keep the recent security incidents in context. Every year since 2003, insurgents have picked up their attacks during the summer. June therefore, is not a change in violence, but rather follows the annual pattern. The pace of militant operations is not consistent either, meaning that there could be dips in deaths and attacks in the coming months, and when the winter comes the uptick in violence will pass. Finally any talk of sectarianism or civil war that might emerge from reporting or discussion of the month will be overblown. Iraq’s militants have shown that they are equal opportunity killers, as June 13 saw Sunni and Shiite Arabs, and Kurds all amongst their victims. They also have not been able to bring about the armed response by Shiites that they have wanted, and even the breadth of their operations are not equal to what they did at their peak from 2005-2007. Unfortunately, this has become the norm for Iraq.

SOURCES

Ahmed, Rezan, “Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for attack on Baghdad’s Shiite Endowment,” AK News, 6/11/12
- “Six policemen and soldiers killed in Nineveh roadside bombings,” AK News, 6/13/12

Ahmed, Rizan, Khallat, Khudr, and Msarbat, Anwar, “22 casualties in Mosul and Fallujha: four gunmen arrested and car bomb defused,” AK News, 6/13/12

Arango, Tim, “Shiite Targets Are the Focus In Bombings Around Iraq,” New York Times, 6/13/12

Arango, Tim and Ghazi, Yasir, “Violence Spreads In Struggle For Shrine,” New York Times, 6/4/12

Associated Press, “Iraq pilgrimage security tight after mortar attack,” 6/11/12

BBC, “Iraq: wave of bomb attacks ‘kill 84,’” 6/13/12

Brosk, Raman, “Two civilians killed and 11 wounded in southern Baghdad car bombs,” AK News, 6/13/12

Brosk, Raman and Msarbat, Anwar, “Sporadic violence in Iraq,” AK News, 6/13/12

Harissi, Mohamad Ali and Hammoudi, Laith, “Iraq attacks kill 72 during Shiite pilgrimage,” Agence France Presse, 6/13/12

Mohammed, Bryar, “29 wounded in car bomb explosion in Baquba,” AK News, 6/13/12

Raheem, Kareem, “Iraq bombs kill 70 Shi’ite pilgrims, police,” Reuters, 6/13/12

Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraqi officials: Car bomb kills 23 in Baghdad,” Associated Press, 6/4/12

Al-Shamari, Yazin, “12 killed, 35 wounded in Baghdad bombings,” AK News, 6/13/12

Spindle, Bill and Nabhan, Ali, “Scores Dead in Iraq Pilgrimage Bombs,” Wall Street Journal, 6/13/12

Zangana, Wafa, “10 died in twin car blasts in Basra,” AK News, 6/13/12

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