Iraq's Insurgency and Civil Violence

Developments through Late August 2007

The attached report examines how changes in the American military posture in Iraq and the build up of US troops to 160,000 military personnel in June 2007 has impacted the Sunni and Shi’ite insurgency. There were both positive and negative developments. Violence in Anbar Province decreased, and US and Iraqi forces inflicted serious damage to Al Qa'ida and extremist Shi'ite militia forces while increase the security of large areas in Baghdad.

However, large-scale bombings with mass-casualties continued in other areas. Operation Phantom Thunder drove many insurgents out of highly patrolled areas, and increased activity in areas that were previously relatively quiet, particularly in the north.

The continued implosion of the British presence in southeastern Iraq reduced British forces to three token enclaves in the Basra area. The end result was to turn the four provinces in southeastern Iraq over to feuding Shi’ite factions whose actions were mixed with corruption, extortion, and links to criminal activity. The result was to create Shi’ite zones in the south, Sunni zones in the west, and Kurdish zones in the north, with tension, violence, and insurgency in mixed areas in central and northern Iraq.

The report covers the current stalemate in the Iraqi government and its implications. The ISF did perform well in some areas, and the Iraqi Army did show a steadily increasing capability to operate with reduced US support. However, the security forces in many areas were still not capable of independent operations, and some had clear sectarian allegiances.

The report covers the impact of the rising Sunni tribal resentment and anger against al-Qa’ida and the most extreme elements of the Sunni Islamic extremist movements. US American military officials were able to pursue local alliances with tribal and sectarian groups to fight against al-Qa’ida in Iraq. There were also signs that such alliances could be expanded from Anbar to cover other parts of Northern and Central Iraq and Shi’ite, as well as Sunni tribes.

In addition, the report focuses on those aspects of the Shi’ite extremist threat that continued to increase. Some Shi’ite militia elements did “stand down” as a result of the “surge,” and did not clash with US troops. Less violent forms of Shi’ite sectarian cleansing continued, however, and Sunnis continued to be pushed out of mixed areas, including Baghdad. Coalition encounters with the Mahdi Army in northeast Baghdad increased, raising tensions between Coalition forces, Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Maliki government. According to one calculation by U.S. military officials, 52 % of violence in Iraq was caused by al-Qa’ida and other Sunni insurgent groups, while 48% was due to Shi’ite militias.

The report also describes the the increasing flow of Iranian arms and more sophisticated weapons into Iraq, and the implications of this development. More Iranian personnel infiltrated into Iraq, and Iran stepped up its training of the various Shi’ite militias in Iran. These actions were confirmed by both the interception of weapons and the interrogation of Lebanese Hizbollah operative Ali Musa Daqduq, who was arrested in March.

Elizabeth Detwiler