Monday, July 8, 2013

Security Situation Still Dire In Iraq With Insurgents On The Offensive And Security Forces Ineffective


June 2013 was another violent month in Iraq. Since the beginning of the year, attacks and deaths across the country have been steadily increasing. That reached new levels after the security forces used excessive force in a raid upon protesters in Hawija at the end of April. That led to a series of retaliatory attacks by both insurgents and tribes, and the start of a new offensive by the Baathist Naqshibandi, which ran the Hawija demonstrations. At the same time, Al Qaeda in Iraq has been stepping up its operations since December 2012 with a bombing campaign across southern Iraq along with its traditional targets. The government has tried to respond, but the security forces’ counterproductive tactics of mass arrests and raids have not been able to stem the tide, and have probably made the situation worse. That pretty much sums up the new status quo in Iraq with militants picking up their attacks, while the government is incapable of stopping them.

All four organizations that track deaths in Iraq noted a decline from May to June, but the overall numbers were still very high. Iraq Body Count recorded 622 deaths in June compared to 883 in May. The United Nations reported 761 killed down from May’s 1,045. Agence France Presse (AFP) had 614 killed in May and 452 in June, while the Iraqi government claimed only 240 deaths in June, down from 681 the previous month. As usual, Baghdad was the most violent province with the U.N. having 258 killed and 692 wounded there in June. Salahaddin, Ninewa, Diyala, and Ninewa followed, all with triple digit casualty figures. Both the U.N. and Iraq Body Count have noted more than 3,000 deaths so far this year. The United Nations already has 3,711 deaths compared to 3,878 for all of 2012. Likewise, AFP has more people killed this year, 2,264, then the last seven months of 2012, 1,531. Iraq is already heading for the deadliest year since 2008 or 2009. That shows how the security situation has dramatically changed in the country from a bad terrorist problem, which existed from 2009-2012, to a growing insurgency very similar to the one faced in 2003-2005.

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.
394
163
456
337
10.8
271
Apr.
561
208
712
493
16.4
461
May
883
681
1,045
869
28.0
614
Jun.
622
240
761
541
18.0
452
2013 Mo. Avg.
529
267
618
456
15.0
377
2013 Totals
3,175
1,605
3,711
-
-
2,264

The two main perpetrators of violence in the country are Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Baathist Naqshibandi. Signs of their increased activity are everywhere. Since December 2012, Al Qaeda has been carrying out an offensive targeting southern Iraq. The U.N. noted that Babil, Wasit, Basra, and Najaf all had double-digit casualty figures last month. On June 16 for instance, there were bombings in Najaf, Dhi Qar, Wasit, and Basra. On June 24, AQI also announced a new campaign in Anbar against the government. Officials have said that Al Qaeda is back to recruiting, and that there is a free flow of fighters moving across the Syrian border. As for the Naqshibandi, it called for a revolt against the government in January, and is said to have expanded operations outside of its traditional centers in Kirkuk ad Mosul. It is also believed to be coordinating their attacks with the Islamists. The two groups have different approaches. Al Qaeda in Iraq is part of the global jihadist movement, and connected to Al Qaeda central. It has been able to expand into neighboring Syria as well to join the fighting there as noted by its recent merger with the Nusra Front in a new organization called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The Naqshibandi in comparison is a homegrown insurgent group led by Izzat al-Duri, Saddam Hussein’s former number 2, and head of the Baath Party. The Naqshibandi likes to claim that it does not target civilians, and only the Iraqi government and security forces. The two groups have a long history of cooperation, and that is leading to the current increase in insecurity in the country.
Scene of a bombing on June 10 in a market in Diyala, the deadliest day of the month (Retuers)
The increasing number of deadly days Iraq faces, and the inability of the security forces to prevent them highlights the new status quo. According to Iraq Body Count, there were only six days from February and March 2013 where 30 or more were killed. That jumped to seven in April, then ten in May, and seven again in June. That was highlighted by 61 deaths on June 10 across Diyala, Salahaddin, Ninewa, and Baghdad provinces. In response, the government has announced one offensive after another. There have been at least four in Anbar alone since mid-May. The problem is that the security forces simply raid an area and then depart, leaving the insurgents to move right back in. During these operations mass arrests are usually carried out where not only fighting aged men are taken away, but families as well. Many of these face abuse and torture in jails and prisons. These tactics can only turn people away from the authorities, and push some towards at least implicit if not open support for the militants.

Days With 30 Or More Fatalities Per Month In 2013, Iraq Body Count
January 2013 – 5 Total
1/23/13 – 46 killed
1/22/13 – 34 killed
1/17/13 – 31 killed
1/16/13 – 46 killed
1/3/13 – 34 killed
February 2013 – 3 Total
2/17/13 – 59 killed
2/8/13 – 38 killed
2/3/13 – 40 killed
March 2013 – 3 Total
3/29/13 – 30 killed
3/19/13 – 73 killed
3/14/13 – 34 killed
April 2013 – 7 Total
4/29/13 – 34 killed
4/24/13 – 32 killed
4/23/13 – 71 killed
4/18/13 – 30 killed
4/15/13 – 62 killed
4/6/13 – 34 killed
4/1/13 – 55 killed
May 2013 – 10 Total
5/30/13 – 34 killed
5/29/13 – 35 killed
5/28/13 – 45 killed
5/27/13 – 81 killed
5/21/13 – 46 killed
5/20/13 – 134 killed
5/18/13 – 33 killed
5/17/13 – 93 killed
5/15/13 – 40 killed
5/1/13 – 31 killed
June 2013 – 7 Total
6/27/13 34 killed
6/25/13 45 killed
6/24/13 46 killed
6/23/13 36 killed
6/18/13 39 killed
6/16/13 49 killed
6/10/13 61 killed

Iraq is heading for an unstable future. Sunnis have gone from protests to the increasing use of violence. Groups such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and Naqshibandi have been able to capitalize upon this growing anger. They are now increasing in numbers, which in turn has allowed them to carry out more and more attacks. The government on the other hand has not been able to stem the tide, and is making the situation worse with its heavy-handed techniques. This is all very similar to the 2003-2005 period where Sunnis felt disenfranchised by the new Iraq installed by the Americans. The U.S. forces also had no real counterinsurgency strategy in place, and their tactics only swelled the ranks of the insurgency as well. Like the Americans, until Baghdad changes course the security situation will only continue to deteriorate.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Iraq Casualties: A Comparison,” 7/2/13

Aswat al-Iraq, “2 civilians killed, 13+ wounded in Kut,” 6/16/13
- “15 casualties in Najaf city,” 6/16/13
- “Police commander killed, 11+ wounded in Basra explosion,” 6/16/13
- “Salahal-Din governor escapes assassination attempt,” 6/26/13

Center for International Security and Cooperation, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University, “Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia,” May 2013

Iraq Body Count

Al-Mada, “Army in Anbar is facing 200 complaints and “clan-trial” after stripped citizen and entry border towns,” 6/16/13
- “Al Qaeda announces the launch of the “New Battle” for western Anbar and police decide on comprehensive curfew,” 6/24/13
- “Sources: Fighters infiltrating Anbar and the army has only two helicopters to protect the border,” 6/24/13

National Iraqi News Agency, “Nineveh governor escapes an assassination attempt,” 6/26/13

Al-Qaisi, Mohammad, “Iraqi forces capture al-Qaeda cell in ‘Zero Hour’ operation,” Al Shorfa, 6/11/13

Al Rafidayn, “”Charge of the Knights of the Tigris” with the participation of 40 thousand fighters against al Qaeda in Diyala,” 6/12/13

Al-Rayy, “Governor of Babylon: al-Qaida still exists in the north of the province,” 6/8/13
- “Governor of Nineveh province survived an assassination attempt when a roadside bomb west of Mosul,” 6/1/13
- “Najat governor of Salahuddin an assassination attempt mortar shells falling on his home north of Tikrit,” 6/1/13

Al-Salhy, Suadad and Markey, Patrick, “Al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents exploit iraq’s sectarian woes,” Reuters, 6/11/13

Schreck, Adam, “Al-Qaida’s Iraq Head Refuses to Scrap Syria Merger,” Associated Press, 6/15/13

UNAMI, “UN Releases Casualty Figures for June,” 7/1/13

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