Terrorist deaths so far this month indicate at least 700 will die from this violence this month. The terrorist violence in Iraq has been steadily increasing since the Americans left in 2011. In the first six months of this year over 3,000 were killed. That’s far from the 2007 carnage, where over 3,000 a month died, but it is still a big jump from only a year ago. If the current death rate continues, this year will suffer about a third of the losses inflicted during the worst years of the terror attacks (2006-7). What is likely to prevent that is growing anger among the Shia majority and the increased activity by Shia terror groups and their death squads that simply kill any Sunnis they can find. The Shia terrorists can usually find the Shia run security forces willing to look the other way. Terror attacks on Sunnis are increasing. The Shia militias were defeated by Iraqi security forces in 2008, and officially went into semi-retirement as part of the deal that got most Sunnis to stop supporting the Sunni terrorists. But in the last few years thousands of these Shia gunmen have come out of retirement. First they were used to add additional security to Shia neighborhoods that were being hit by Sunni terrorists. This would usually work because the Sunni terrorists scouted potential targets and if the security was too tight and incorruptible, they would go elsewhere. In addition, Iran has been offering good pay to go off and support the Assad government in Syria and over 2,000 Iraqi Shia have gone in the last year. This has slowed the revival of the old (2005-8) Shia death squads. Sunni terrorists are also heading for Syria to join the rebels. What many nations in the region fear is that the Sunni/Shia violence in Syria and Iraq will merge and trigger a larger Sunni/Shia war involving Iraq and Saudi Arabia. This is a worst case that gets less implausible with each passing month.
Iraqis are frustrated with their inability to end the centuries old violence between Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, and Kurds (who are mainly Sunnis but that doesn’t matter). Until 1918, when Turkish rule ended, the Sunni minority was supreme because the Turks were Sunni. Any Shia or Kurdish resistance was quickly and brutally suppressed. When the British took over from the Turks after 1918, they used the existing Sunni Arab dominated bureaucracy to run things. The current government, dominated by Shia politicians, is accused of trying to establish a Shia dictatorship that would be no better than the Sunni dictatorship established in the 1950s, when Sunni soldiers murdered the royal family and shut down the parliament of the constitutional monarchy that had existed from 1932-58. The constitutional monarchy was an imperfect democracy, but in hindsight it was better than the decades of Sunni Arab corruption and violence that followed. The British established monarchies in Jordan as well, and that worked out despite the fractious minorities there. But in Iraq the Sunni radicals were not satisfied with compromise and that led to decades of violence. There is no end in sight, even though the current Shia government, and the Shia majority it represents, is capable to destroying the Sunni Arab minority in Iraq. That is where this is headed, and neighboring Sunni nations (especially Saudi Arabia) are not (as the Iraqi Sunnis hope) going to invade to prevent the destruction of the Sunni Arab minority. Some Sunni Arab politicians recognize this danger, but they do not have enough support among the Sunni Arab population to turn off the Sunni Arab terrorism (which is the only thing that will stop the coming backlash).
The Syrian civil war has spilled over into western Iraq during the last year. This area (Anbar province) is mostly desert, sparsely populated (1.5 million), and mostly Sunni. Think of it as the northernmost part of the Bedouin desert area, which Saudi Arabia occupies most of to the south. Saudi Arabia is the Bedouin heartland and the Anbar tribesmen feel a religious and cultural kinship with the Saudis. During the centuries of Sunni Arabs dominating the Shia majority in Baghdad and to the south, the Anbar Sunnis did not get along with the Baghdadi Sunnis because the latter considered themselves as superior (by virtue of education, wealth, and power) to the mangy nomads and small farmers of Anbar. But in the last decade of Saddam’s rule, the Baghdadi Sunnis made peace with their fellow Sunnis in Anbar, the better to defeat increasing Shia unrest and rebellion. The Anbar Sunnis now see themselves as the champions of Sunni Arab resistance against the hated and despised Shia. In response to this, some 20,000 Iraqi soldiers moved to the 600 kilometer long Syrian border two months ago and began attacking Sunni terrorists and blocking their movement across the border. The main objective of this operation was to halt support for Syrian rebels by Iraqi Sunni and to keep the road to Syria open for Iranian supply convoys (for Syrian government forces and pro-government militias). The Iraqi troops are attacking known Sunni terrorist and smuggler bases along the border.
The Sunnis on both sides of the border are fighting back but these Sunnis are also fighting each other. Since Saddam fell the Sunni Arabs have always been divided into Islamic radical and Sunni nationalist factions. The Islamic radicals (best typified by al Qaeda) want a religious dictatorship, while the Sunni nationalists want a more secular Sunni dominated government (like Saddam’s). This rivalry has proved disastrous for the Sunni cause. In Iraq, the Sunni Nationalists turned on the Sunni Islamic radicals in 2007, fearing that all Sunnis would be killed or driven out of Iraq and that led to the collapse of the Sunni terror campaign. This had begun in 2004, as Saddam’s “Plan B” (in the event his government was overthrown, as it was in 2003). The terror campaign was to eventually put the Sunni Arabs back in power, but the brutality of the Sunni Islamic terrorists (deliberately killing Shia women and children in large numbers) turned most public opinion in the Moslem world against the Sunni terror campaign. The Sunni Nationalists wanted to concentrate their attacks on Shia security forces and politicians, but the Sunni Islamic terror groups just wanted to kill as many Shia as possible. This was in part because Sunni Islamic terrorists consider Shia heretics, who must be killed. In Syria the Sunni Islamic terrorists are repeating the mistakes made in Iraq by trying to impose their strict lifestyle rules and deliberately slaughtering civilians. This is causing a growing number of clashes with their allies, the Sunni nationalists (who want to replace the current Shia dictatorship with a Sunni dominated democracy).
Iraq’s main problem remains corruption and the inability to find or keep in office honest and efficient leaders. This can best be seen by the inability to increase oil production. Iraq has 150,000 million barrels of oil in the ground. Since Saddam was deposed in 2003, production has risen from one million to three million barrels a day. The government gets most its revenue from oil income, which is currently over $80 billion a year (from the exported oil). Iraqis pay no income taxes because of this, but that makes the oil fields all the more important. While GDP is $130 billion, it would be a third of that without oil. Some 95 percent of the $80 billion annual government budget comes from oil profits. But the rampant and seemingly uncontrollable corruption means that little of that oil income goes to improving roads and other infrastructure, not to mention security and all the other things you need to expand oil production. Corrupt politicians steal most of the oil income and are not very trustworthy when it comes to making business arrangements with foreign firms needed to increase oil production. Despite all the oil wealth, a quarter of the 33 million Iraqis are still very poor and unemployment is over ten percent. Many Iraqis admit the corruption is the core problem, but no one has been able to get a critical mass of cooperation needed to get most of the corrupt practices out of government and business.
July 19, 2013: North of Baghdad a bomb went off in a Sunni mosque, killing twenty and wounding at least 40.
July 13, 2013: On the Syrian border police intercepted a vehicle carrying Syrian Sunni rebels. A gun battle ensued that left one policeman and two Syrians dead. The Syrian rebels escaped back into Syria. This was one of those rare instances where Iraqi police or soldiers intercepted Sunni gunmen (Syrian or Iraqi) crossing the border (away from the official crossings).
July 11, 2013: In Anbar Islamic terrorists celebrated the start of Ramadan by making at least a dozen attacks on security forces in the last 48 hours, leaving 16 dead.
July 10, 2013: Iraq is refusing to accept Iraqis who entered Holland illegally and were ordered by Dutch courts to be sent home. Iraq demanded $10,000 per person to take them back, and the Dutch would not go that high, at least not yet.