Examining Iraq: Violence Escalates. Why?

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A string of attacks ripped through Iraq’s capital of Baghdad today, killing as many as 40 Iraqis and wounding 300 more.  The attacks were most likely coordinated and conducted by Sunni Islamists in collusion with al-Qaeda in Iraq( AQI).  With every new attack, AQI is demonstrating that its capacity to wreak extensive havoc throughout Iraq still exists.  Many say that although the insurgency has been more or less defeated, it still can play a spoiler role in attempting to re-ignite the sectarian violence of 06-07.  The insurgency also has somewhat of an upper hand for the fact that Iraq has yet to form a government.  As long as this continues, Iraqi governmental agencies, especially those tied to the security forces, will become less and less effective.

The inability of Iraqi Security Forces to contain these threats has locals seething.  Many feel as if their government is doing nothing to protect them.  This rationale is hard to argue with given the fact that it has been almost 8 months since parliamentary elections, from which no government has yet been formed.  In the span of that time the Iraqi government has met for a collective total of 20 minutes, while still raking in an estimated yearly salary of $250,000 USD.  All this, while locals endure daily power outages, poor sanitation and a lack of jobs.  When one puts the security situation into this equation, it is easy to see why many Iraqis are frustrated.

After the invasion of Baghdad in 2003, in which the Coalition Provisional Authority disbanded the Iraqi Army, there was a rush to create security forces capable of dealing with the newfound threat of insurgency and terrorism.  Mounting violence against the Iraqi government and coalition forces forced the U.S. government to shelve its plans for a fully integrated security force, which led to a number of different government agencies controlling different security apparatuses.  The Prime Minister’s office even had his own security forces that answered only to him, which many saw as unconstitutional.

Infiltration and corruption have also plagued Iraq’s Security forces.  At the height of the sectarian conflict in 2006, it was a well known fact Shia militias such as the Badr Corps and the Mahdi Army had infiltrated the Offices and ranks of the Interior Ministry.  They utilized secret prisons and almost exclusively targeted Sunnis, which took the sectarian violence to new and unheard of levels.

In recent years some of these problems have been alleviated.  Yet sectarianism still comes into play.  For instance, the Sunni Awakening councils which rose up against al-Qaeda, and who were paid by the United States, were also promised salaries and inclusion in Iraq’s security forces.  This has not come to fruition.  The Maliki government has barred many of these Awakening members and refused to pay their salaries.  Many of these men may return to fighting on behalf of al-Qaeda, who is offering high rewards and safety for their return to the insurgency.

In its recent report on Iraqi Security Forces, the International Crisis group alludes to the fact that the failure to form a government only makes these security organizations more fragile.  The longer an Iraqi government fails to be created, the larger a vacuum it creates.  Terrorists within Iraq are, as we clearly can see, desperately trying to step into that vacuum and turn Iraq into hell on earth once more.

Sources:

Baghdad Blast Kills Dozens – BBC

Iraqi MPs’ lavish salaries causing public outrage – Telegraph UK

Loose Ends: Iraq’s security forces between U.S. drawdown and withdrawal – International Crisis Group


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