Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Violence Continues In Iraq Despite New Security Plan

 
Deaths in Iraq dropped slightly in August 2013, but they are still far higher than what they were at the beginning of the year. It appears that the insurgency has free reign in certain parts of the country, and has been able to carry out wave after wave of car bombings despite a new security plan launched at the beginning of the month. In fact, the crackdown is likely making the situation worse with indiscriminate arrests that can only turn sectors of the population against the authorities. This unfortunately is the new status quo in Iraq with emboldened militants, and an ineffective government.

All four organizations that cover deaths in Iraq noted drops from July to August, but the level of violence is still problematic for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Iraq Body Count (IBC) went from 968 killed in July to 915 in August. The United Nations reported 804 deaths last month compared to 1,057 the month before. Agence France Presse (AFP) had casualties going from 848 in July to 693 in August, while the Iraqi government claimed there were only 365 fatalities in August, down from 989 in July. Since Prime Minister Maliki gained control of the Interior and Defense Ministries after the 2010 elections the official death count has been far below the others. The press has recently picked up on this. For example, AFP noted that on August 11, it reported 74 killed, while the Interior Ministry only had 21. Then on August 14, Interior reported only three killed in Baghdad, while the agency had 24. An Army officer told AFP that the government was only releasing partial numbers to the public. The premier’s party is called State of Law. At first, it seemed like he had the authorities under report violence to make it seem like he had achieved his goal of securing the country. Today, he is coming under increasing criticism for being unable to control the situation, and wants the ministries to under report fatalities to maintain his image. Either way it is a sad case of crass politics at work.

Deaths In Iraq 2003-2013
Month/Year
Iraq Body Count
Avg. Daily Deaths
Iraqi Ministries
Avg. Daily Deaths
United Nations
Avg. Daily Deaths
Agence France Presse
Avg. Daily Deaths
2003
4,675
19.0
-
-
-
-
-
-
2004
11,608
31.8l
11,313
30.99
-
-
-
-
2005
16,186
44.2
15,817
43.3
-
-
-
-
2006
29,144
79.8
32,622
89.3
34,452
94.3
-
-
2007
25,519
69.9
19,155
52.4
-
-
-
-
2008
9,839
26.9
9,046
24.7
11,536
31.6
-
-
2009
5,132
14.0
3,682
10.0
4,611
12.6
-
-
2010
4,109
11.2
3,949
10.8
4,855
13.3
-
-
2011
4,147
11.3
2,781
7.6
4,150
11.3
-
-
2012
4,573
12.5
2,174
5.9
3,878
10.6
1,531
(7 mo.)
7.1
Jan. 2013
357
11.5
177
5.7
319
10.2
246
7.9
Feb.
358
12.7
136
4.8
418
14.9
220
7.8
Mar.
394
12.7
163
5.2
456
14.7
271
8.7
Apr.
544
18.1
208
6.9
712
23.7
461
15.3
May
883
28.4
681
21.9
1,045
33.7
614
19.8
Jun.
622
20.7
240
8.0
761
25.3
452
15.0
Jul.
968
31.2
989
31.9
1,057
34.0
848
27.3
Aug.
915
29.5
365
11.7
804
25.9
693
22.3
2013 Totals
5,041
20.6
2,959
12.0
5,572
22.8
3,805
15.5

Days With 30 Or More Fatalities Per Month In 2013, Iraq Body Count
January 2013 – 5 Total
1/3/13 – 34 killed
1/16/13 – 46 killed
1/17/13 – 31 killed
1/22/13 – 34 killed
1/23/13 – 46 killed
February 2013 – 3 Total
2/3/13 – 40 killed
2/8/13 – 38 killed
2/17/13 – 59 killed
March 2013 – 3 Total
3/14/13 – 34 killed
3/19/13 – 73 killed
3/29/13 – 30 killed
April 2013 – 7 Total
4/1/13 – 55 killed
4/6/13 – 34 killed
4/15/13 – 62 killed
4/18/13 – 30 killed
4/23/13 – 71 killed
4/24/13 – 32 killed
4/29/13 – 34 killed
May 2013 – 10 Total
5/1/13 – 31 killed
5/15/13 – 40 killed
5/17/13 – 93 killed
5/18/13 – 33 killed
5/20/13 – 134 killed
5/21/13 – 46 killed
5/27/13 – 81 killed
5/28/13 – 45 killed
5/29/13 – 35 killed
5/30/13 – 34 killed
June 2013 – 7 Total
6/10/13 61 killed
6/16/13 49 killed
6/18/13 39 killed
6/23/13 36 killed
6/24/13 46 killed
6/25/13 45 killed
6/27/13 34 killed
July 2013 – 14 Total
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
7/19/13 36 killed
7/20/13 80 killed
7/21/13 41 killed
7/23/13 38 killed
7/24/13 37 killed
7/25/13 48 killed
7/29/13 60 killed
7/30/13 50 killed
August 2013 – 11 Total
8/31/13 – 30
8/29/13 – 41
8/28/13 – 98
8/25/13 – 55
8/23/13 – 46
8/20/13 – 34
8/15/13 – 42
8/12/13 – 37
8/10/13 – 94
8/7/13 – 34
8/6/13 - 50

In addition to the monthly death tolls, there are various other signs that Iraq is spiraling downwards. One is that Iraq Body Count, the U.N., and Baghdad have all recorded more deaths in the first eight months of this year than for all of last. IBC and the United Nations have already surpassed 5,000 killed in 2013 with 5,041 and 5,572 respectively, while the government is at 2,959. That compares to 4,573 by Iraq Body Count, 3,878 by the U.N., and 2,174 by the authorities in 2012. Two, according to IBC, the number of days in August with 30 or more killed was at 11 in August, compared to 14 in July, and 7 in June. The two deadliest days were August 10 with 94 deaths, and August 28 with 98. Those were the highest number of fatalities in a single day since 134 on May 20, and were the second and third most for the entire year. Finally, Al Qaeda in Iraq’s bombing campaign in the south has continued. On August 10, 5 died in Karbala and four in Nasiriyah due to car bombs. Then on August 20, 7 were killed in Amarah and three in Nasiriyah by vehicle delivered explosives. Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) gets blamed for the majority of this violence, but other insurgent groups are active as well. Those include the Baathist Naqshibandi, Ansar al-Sunna, and the Islamic Army. There is evidence that these groups work together sometimes, and have negotiated over finances, etc. The militants are also trying to put a populist spin on their death and destruction. AQI for example, has claimed that their attacks are retaliation for the execution of Sunni prisoners. This is part of the group’s larger campaign to convince people that it is standing up for Sunnis against the governments of both Iraq and Syria. This plays into the larger sectarian politics of the region, which is increasingly anti-Shiite, and the fears of Iraq’s Sunni population who feel that they are being repressed by Baghdad. The external and internal situations therefore are directly related in Iraq. As violence increases in Syria and other countries in the Middle East get involved they add to the tensions within Iraq. The war in Syria has not only allowed AQI a new source of recruits, supplies, and operating space, it has also inspired some Iraqis to think that they can challenge their government too. The role of the Gulf States increases sectarianism as well, because their rhetoric is about opposing Iran and its proxies, and they claim that Iraq is part of that camp. This same type of speech is regularly heard at the Sunni protest sites in Iraq. All together that is adding to the divisions within the country, which can only increase the violence.

The insurgency has been able to carry out its wave of attacks despite an on going security operation. The latest is called the Revenge of the Martyrs, and was launched after Al Qaeda assaulted two prisons in Baghdad at the end of July, and broke out several hundred prisoners. The government is also attempting to rebuild the Sons of Iraq and Awakening movements, which it neglected after the U.S. withdrawal in 2011. These plans have been ineffective for a number of reasons. First, the effort to revive the tribal security forces has been politicized in the past by Maliki, and will continue to be so in the future. The government for example, has only been willing to work with groups that will cooperate with the premier, and after demonstrations broke out in Sunni areas, those that are anti-protest movement. In Anbar for example, Baghdad tried to replace Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Jabbar Abu Risha who stands behind the activists with Sheikh Wisam Hardan. Second, the security forces’ tactics are counterproductive. As part of Revenge of the Martyrs hundreds of arrests have been reported. That probably means that the army and police are carrying out mass arrests sweeping up plenty of innocent people. This has become the focus of the Sunni demonstrations and Speaker Osama Nujafi’s Mutahidun party. Recent Friday sermons at protest sites have claimed that the security forces are carrying out sectarian cleansing in the Baghdad belt. That is undoubtedly turning people against the authorities, as a member of parliament’s security committee noted. Third, the central government doesn’t cooperate with the provinces. Baghdad Governor Ali al-Tamimi recently criticized the Baghdad Operations Command for refusing to work with the governorate council. Local officials can provide intelligence and information on the population, but the security forces insist upon monopolizing everything. Overall, the army and police remain reactive rather than preventative. They are also angering sections of the population and the provinces, which are exactly those groups which they need assistance from to counter insurgents.

Iraq is looking ahead to some very dark months in the near future. The insurgents appear to have free reign in sections of the country, and can carry out attacks almost at will. The government on the other hand has not been able to counter these militants despite continuous security campaigns. The use of arbitrary arrests, playing divide and conquer with tribes, and failing to gain the trust and cooperation of the populace and local authorities only undermine these operations. More importantly, Baghdad is looking to arrest and kill its way out of the current crisis, which is impossible. Providing political and economic concessions to the Sunni community would go a lot farther to pacify the country. Given the deadlock in the capital and the up coming elections next year, that’s not going to happen. Instead Prime Minister Maliki will try to act tough in the face of adversity, while his country descends into chaos around him.

SOURCES

Abu Zeed, Adnan, “’Baghdad Belt’ Deals With New Sectarian Tensions,” Al-Monitor, 8/28/13

Agence France Presse, “August Toll Shows Surge in Iraq Unrest,” 9/1/13
- “Iraq fights public relations battle over death tolls,” 8/26/13

AIN, “Qaeda adopts latest bombings in Iraq,” 8/30/13

Ali, Ahmed, “The Struggle of the Iraqi Security Forces: 2013 Iraq Update #33,” Institute for the Study of War, 8/21/13

Arango, Tim, “Sectarian Attacks Return With a Roar to Iraq, Rattling a Capital Already on Edge,” New York Times, 8/17/13

Edwards, Kelly, “Prison break and violence levels demand Maliki security response: 2013 Iraq Update #32,” Institute for the Study of War, 8/13/13

Habib, Musafa, “govt neglect of anti-al-qaeda movement to blame for iraq’s deadly summer?” Niqash, 8/22/13

Hasan, Harith, “Al-Qaeda Looks to Build Support Among Iraq’s Sunnis,” Al-Monitor, 8/16/13

Iraq Body Count

Karim, Ammar, “As violence worsens, Iraq again turns to Sunni tribes,” Agence France Presse, 8/25/13

Al-Mada, “Diyala Khatib al-Maliki accused of “ethnic cleansing for the year through Baghdad belt” and calls on the international community to isolate Iraq,” 8/16/13
- “Rubaie: influential Sunni figures led to the retreat of violence by 90% during the past,” 8/18/13
- “Security and Defense: hotspots residents refuse to cooperate with the government turned them into enemies..in the war on terrorism,” 8/20/13
- “The southern governorates: our intelligence fail to buy stationery..And sensitive installations without surveillance cameras,” 8/14/13

National Iraqi News Agency, “Fri-prayers preacher of Samarra criticizes security operations in Baghdad belt vicinity and calls for internationalization of the issue of the protestors,” 8/16/13
- “Iraqiya MPs call to release innocent detainees of Baghdad’s belt and compensate their families,” 8/20/13
- “MP criticizes “Random arrests” in Baghdad’s belt areas,” 8/20/13

Al-Qaisi, Mohammad, “Iraq captures al-Qaeda operatives in Syria border sweep,” Al Shorfa, 8/14/13

Al Rayy, “Zawahiri intervene to stop the fighting between the two terrorist groups in Iraq to seize financial resources in Kirkuk,” 8/24/13

Rudaw, “Iraq Bloc Accuses Baghdad of Military Crackdown in Sunni Provinces,” 8/18/13
- “Kirkuk Police: ‘We are Overwhelmed by Armed Groups,’” 8/24/13

Sabah, Mohammad, “Governor of Baghdad: Commander-in-Chief issued security and refuses to attend our meetings,” Al-Mada, 8/19/13

Sadah, Ali Abel, “Despite New Security Measures, Violence Persists in Iraq,” Al-Monitor, 8/19/13
- “Iraqi Kurdish Forces Help Defend Baghdad,” Al-Monitor, 8/16/13

Al-Salehi, Mohammed, “Iraq seeks tribesmen’s help in fight against al-Qaeda,” Azzaman, 8/20/13

UNAMI, “UN Casualty Figures for August,” 9/1/13

Wicken, Stephen, “Maliki Eyes Third Term: 2013 Iraq Update #34,” Institute for the Study of War, 8/28/13

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