Monday, July 22, 2013

Iraq’s Insurgents Picking Up Attacks During Ramadan

Ramadan began at the start of July 2013, and so has a new wave of attacks by Iraq’s insurgency. June saw a decline in deaths, but that was apparently because militants were preparing for the holy month to begin. In the first half of July there has almost been twice as many killed as the same time period in June. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) knew that such an offensive was coming, but have proven hapless at stopping it, because of their institutional deficiencies. July is looking to be one of the deadliest of the year highlighting the rebirth of the insurgency, and the weakness of the government to prevent it.

Site of a car bomb in Nasiriyah July 15. This is part of Al Qaeda’s on going bombing campaign in the south (AFP)

Iraq Body Count has recorded a decided increase in violence in July. For the first seventeen days of the month it has reported 480 deaths, compared to 280 in June for that same number of days. As usual, Baghdad has seen the most carnage with 108 deaths, followed by 83 in Diyala, 70 in Salahaddin, 66 in Ninewa, and 48 in Tamim. There has also been a wave of bombings in the south. That led to 14 killed in Basra, 9 in Karbala, 5 in Dhi Qar, and 2 in Maysan. Car bombs and suicide bombers have accounted for the most fatalities, 176 and 123 respectively. After that have been Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), 86, and small arms fire 72. A final sign of how bad July has been is the number of days where 30 or more people were killed. So far that has happened six times, with the deadliest day being July 14 when 66 people were killed. For all of June and April there were 7 such days, and July has already surpassed January, February, and March. Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was responsible for the vast majority of this violence. Car and suicide bombings are a trademark of their operations. They have also been carrying out attacks in southern Iraq since December 2012. IEDs and small arms are more likely the work of other groups such as the Baathist Naqshibandi, the Islamic Army, Ansar al-Sunna or tribes, all of which have become more active this year. That followed the government raid upon the Hawija protest site in April, which was exploited by militant organizations to try to turn people away from peaceful demonstrations and towards violence.

Deaths By Province, July 2013 – Iraq Body Count
Baghdad – 108 killed
Diyala – 83 killed
Salahaddin – 70 killed
Ninewa – 66 killed
Tamim – 48 killed
Anbar – 29 killed
Babil – 24 killed
Basra – 14 killed
Wasit – 12 killed
Karbala – 9 killed
Dhi Qar – 5 killed
Maysan – 2 killed
Unknown – 10 killed

Forms of Attack, July 2013 – Iraq Body Count
Car bomb – 176 killed
Suicide Bomber - 123 killed
IED - 86 killed
Small arms – 72 killed
Bodies found - 16 killed
Mortar – 7 killed

Deadliest Days, July 2013
7/1/13 43 killed
7/2/13 59 killed
7/11/13 59 killed
7/12/13 49 killed
7/13/13 37 killed
7/14/13 66 killed

For the last several years insurgents have picked up their activities during the summer, so the government knew what was coming, but it has not been able to stop it. On July 1, the Anbar Operations Command said it had a new security plan for Ramadan for example. Two intelligence officials warned the press that Al Qaeda was preparing for a “Battle of Baghdad,” the police in Salahaddin stated that there was going to be a “Battle of Ramadan,” while a member of the Human Rights Commission told the press that there was a plan to increase attacks during the holy month. The government has tried to portray itself as being successful in countering this threat with claims that it killed four top AQI leaders in Anbar at the beginning of July. The reality of the situation is much different. The tactics of the army and police are predictable such as setting up checkpoints or carrying out raids. When the ISF launches an operation it only lasts a few days, and then they leave, allowing militants to move right back in. The intelligence agencies don’t provide actionable reports, and have few sources along the border with Syria, where fighters are now travelling back and forth at will. Finally, the border guard and ISF do not have control of the border area either. Baghdad finds itself in a hopeless situation right now. Just as the insurgency is re-emerging, the government is incapable of countering them. The ISF has become a reactionary force, responding to threats rather than attempting to prevent them as it once did. The failure of these tactics is apparent in July as the police and army prepared for Ramadan, but has not been able to secure the country.

The Iraqi insurgency is making a comeback. It has been able to carry out operations far longer than it has for several years now. This was partly of the government’s own making as it used excessive force against demonstrators, which made many of them and their supporters to give up on peaceful means to influence Baghdad, and have now turned to the use of force. That along with the security forces no longer carrying out counterinsurgency tactics have all contributed to the current rising violence in the country. July is just one of many deadly months that are going to occur in the foreseeable future.


Ahlul Bayt News Agency, “Al Qaeda will launch a battle as the “Battle of Baghdad” unconventional weapons may be used,” 7/3/13

Ahmed, Saif, “Iraqi security forces foil attacks across Anbar,” Al-Shorfa, 7/3/13

Iraq Body Count

Al-Mada, “A security source: the armed forces at their worst moral because of the dismissal lists dozens of officers,” 7/16/13

Al Nuaimi, Ahmed, “”Anbar” demanding perpetuation of military operations in desert,” New Sabah, 6/25/13

Al Rayy, “Anbar Operations announces a plan especially the Holy Month of Ramadan,” 7/1/13

Shafaq News, “Human rights reveals terrorist plan to target religious rituals in Iraq,” 7/15/13

Al-Tamimi, Iyad, “Security and Defense: a huge shortage of guards the border with Syria, and there is no intelligence in hot spots,” Al-Mada, 7/16/13

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