Monday, May 6, 2013

Will Iraq’s Insurgency Find New Life? Insight Into April’s Increased Violence


April 2013 saw a dramatic increase in the number of deaths in Iraq. This was due to an on-going offensive by Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and a series of retaliatory attacks by insurgents for a government raid upon protesters in the town of Hawija. The former has been going on since December 2012, and is likely to end within a month or two. The latter however, could lead to increased support for the insurgency. What lays ahead for Iraq is likely a rise in attacks and casualties for at least the short-term depending upon whether militants can sway the demonstrators to their side or not.

All four organizations that track Iraqi deaths saw increases in April. Iraq Body Count had 561 deaths, up from 407 in March. That was the highest amount since 619 were killed in August 2009. The United Nations reported an even higher jump from 456 in March to 712 in April, the most since June 2008. Agence France Presse had 271 fatalities in March, going up to 460 the next month. Even the Iraqi government, which is always reluctant to acknowledge insecurity in the country said there were 208 deaths in April, compared to 163 in March. Violence always goes up and down in Iraq depending upon the season. Last month, the large jump in casualties was due to Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Hawija incident.


Deaths In Iraq 2011-2013
Month
Iraq Body Count
Iraqi Ministries
United Nations
Avg. Monthly Deaths
Avg. Daily Deaths
Agence France Presse
Jan. 2011
389
259
265
304
9.8
N/A
Feb.
252
167
267
228
8.1
N/A
Mar.
311
247
268
275
8.8
N/A
Apr.
289
211
279
259
8.6
N/A
May
381
177
319
292
9.4
N/A
Jun.
386
271
424
360
12.0
N/A
Jul.
308
259
381
316
10.1
N/A
Aug.
401
239
455
365
11.7
N/A
Sep.
397
185
405
329
10.9
N/A
Oct.
366
258
416
346
11.1
N/A
Nov.
279
187
264
243
8.1
N/A
Dec.
388
155
313
285
9.2
N/A
2011 Mo. Avg.
345
217
338
300
9.8
N/A
2011 Totals
4,147
2,615
4,056
-
-
-
Jan. 2012
524
151
500
391
12.6
N/A
Feb.
356
150
254
253
9.0
N/A
Mar.
377
112
294
261
8.4
N/A
Apr.
392
126
320
279
9.3
N/A
May
304
132
332
256
8.2
N/A
Jun.
529
131
401
353
11.7
282
Jul.
469
325
338
377
12.1
278
Aug.
422
164
292
292
9.4
278
Sep.
396
365
398
386
12.8
253
Oct.
290
144
189
207
6.6
136
Nov.
239
166
330
245
8.1
160
Dec.
275
208
230
237
7.6
144
2012 Mo. Avg.
381
181
323
294
9.6
218
(7 mo.)
2012 Totals
4,573
2,174
3,878
-
-
1,531
(7 mo.)
Jan. 2013
357
177
319
259
8.3
246
Feb.
358
136
418
242
8.6
220
Mar.
407
163
456
342
11.0
271
Apr.
561
208
712
493
16.4
460


Since December 2012, AQI has been carrying out its latest offensive. This has been characterized by headline grabbing attacks, and bombings in southern Iraq. On April 15, for instance, 55 people were killed in bombings and shootings in Tamim, Diyala, Ninewa, Dhi Qar, Anbar, Baghdad, and Salahaddin. All of those provinces are where militants are most active with the exception of Dhi Qar. Only during offensives does Al Qaeda reach out to the south. Other examples were a car bomb at the entrance to Najaf city on April 25, two car bombs in central Karbala, another two vehicle delivered explosives in Amarah in Maysan province, a car bombing in Diwaniya all on April 29, and an attack upon a municipal building in Wasit province the following day. The last time the south was attacked was during the Islamists’ last offensive, which lasted from June to September 2012. That went on for four months, while the current one has gone on for five. That likely means that in May or June, the group will run out of steam, and reload for the summer. The monthly death counts will go down as a result.

Another cause of the increase in violence was the government raid upon Hawija. Following the crackdown on the protesters there, militant groups like the Naqshibandi and others carried out a series of strikes in Anbar, Salahaddin, Diyala, Ninewa, and Tamim, which continue to this day. This is a far more dangerous situation. After Hawija, protest groups in that town and Mosul, both of which are connected to the Baathists, said they were giving up on peaceful demonstrations and turning to violence. In Fallujah, clerics announced the creation of the Pride and Dignity Army to defend the demonstrators, and there was a similar call made in Samarra in Salahaddin. If this continues, the insurgency could see a broad new source of support, funding, and recruitment. More importantly, it could mark a sea change in public opinion amongst young Sunnis who have mostly stayed away from violence in recent years, because of the bitter taste left from losing the civil war. If that memory is overcome, there could be increased instability in northern and western Iraq where groups like the Naqshibandi operate.

April 2013 witnessed a perfect storm of the tail end of an Al Qaeda offensive, and outrage turned to violence after the excessive use of force by the security forces in Hawija. That accounted for the large increase in deaths reported in the press. Until AQI ends their current operations monthly casualty statistics will remain high. For the longer-term however, the main issue is whether the anger over Hawija will reinvigorate the insurgency, or whether calmer heads will prevail, and the government can offer some kind of talks and concessions to appease the activists. Otherwise overall violence will go up in the country.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Iraq casualties from violence (2013),” April 2013

AIN, “2 car bombs detonated central Karbala,” 4/29/13
- “AIN reveals details of Maysan double bombing,” 4/29/13
- “Gunmen burn official building in Wasit,” 4/30/13
- “Urgent… Car Bomb explodes in Najaf,” 4/25/13

Iraq Body Count

Al-Kadhimi, Mustafa, “Iraqi Security Forces Cannot Stop Terrorism,” Al-Monitor, 4/16/13

National Iraqi News Agency, “Najaf explosion victims up to one killed, 25 wounded,” 4/25/13

Al-Rafidayn, “Killed in violence in April the highest in Iraq since the end of 2012,” 5/1/13

Schreck, Adam, “Iraq Attacks Kill 55 Less Than a Week Before Vote,” Associated Press, 4/15/13

United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, “UN Casualty Figures for April: Highest Level since June 2008,” 5/2/13

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