News / Middle East

Iraqi Attacks Reveal Clues About Perpetrators, Motives

People gather at the scene of a bomb attack in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Iraq, Monday, July 23, 2012.People gather at the scene of a bomb attack in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Iraq, Monday, July 23, 2012.
x
People gather at the scene of a bomb attack in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Iraq, Monday, July 23, 2012.
People gather at the scene of a bomb attack in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Iraq, Monday, July 23, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
An examination of Iraq’s deadliest single day of attacks in more than two years has revealed a series of clues about the identity of the perpetrators and their motives. Analysts say the wave of bombings and shootings is the latest in a series of mass casualty incidents that illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of al-Qaida-linked militants and Iraqi security forces.
 
Monday’s attacks happened during a period of several hours in more than 15 towns and cities across the country, killing at least 110 people.
 
Toby Iles, a Middle East editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London, said the casualties included a relatively large proportion of Iraqi security personnel, and many of the attacks targeted predominantly Shi’ite areas, such as the Sadr City and Hussainiya districts of Baghdad. “Hitting both of those targets would fit with [the perpetrators] being al-Qaida in Iraq,” Iles said. 
 
Al-Qaida is a Sunni extremist militant group that has repeatedly tried to provoke majority Shi’ites who lead the Iraqi government into a sectarian war with minority Sunnis. 
 
Ranj Alaaldin, a senior analyst at the London-based Next Century Foundation, said attacks such as those of July 23 require planning, resources and experience. 
 
“Al-Qaeda in Iraq would therefore be the obvious and primary suspect, given the organization’s unparalleled record in Iraq,” he said. “But given the loosely organized structure of AQI, it could very well be some elusive offshoot group.”
 
Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Sunni jihadist groups tied to al-Qaida have a variety of motives for carrying out large-scale operations. 
 
“Part of these (goals) are to attack and kill Iraqi officials, part of them are to create high visibility attacks which get a lot of coverage and convince people that the government cannot provide security, and [another objective is to] bring back the kind of ethnic and sectarian fighting that took place earlier in the mid-2000s and was essentially a civil war,” he said.
 
An Iraqi Kurdish newspaper editor in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk said it is notable that the attacks coincided with talks by major Iraqi government factions aiming to resolve long-running disputes.  
 
Haji Kirkuki said the militants behind the violence were trying to disrupt the negotiations involving the Sunni-backed Iraqiya Alliance of Ayad Allawi and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shi'ite National Alliance.
 
Al-Qaida’s Iraqi wing, which calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq, has claimed responsibility for a series of high-profile attacks in recent years. In a statement posted on a militant website Saturday, the group warned of a new offensive to return to strongholds from which it was ousted by U.S. and Iraqi forces.
 
Cordesman, a former U.S. Defense and State Department official, said attacks by Sunni jihadists in Iraq have improved steadily in sophistication and coordination.
 
“Insurgents, we have to remember, now have something on the order of eight years of experience in finding the areas where the security forces are weak and in finding the areas which produce the biggest political and media impact when they do organize attacks,” he said.
 
But Cordesman identified several weaknesses in militant capabilities, saying attacks happen only at intervals, take time to organize and rarely hit a critical target. “Very often, they don't produce significant tactical effects.”
 
Iraq’s average monthly civilian death toll was just above 300 in the first half of this year, a slight decrease from 2011 and 2010. The casualty rate also is significantly lower than at the height of Iraq’s sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007, which saw monthly death tolls exceeding 2,000.
 
Alaaldin, also an Iraq specialist at the London School of Economics, said al-Qaida in Iraq has “some way to go” before it can repeat the atrocities of 2006 to 2007. 
 
“Back then, al-Qaida had the benefit of a security vacuum and a sectarian war, which provided it with ample room to flourish, which does not exist at the moment,” he said. “Now it lacks the ability to take on a very organized and effective Iraqi army.”
 
The ISI statement also claimed that most Iraqi Sunnis are waiting for al-Qaida’s return. But EIU expert Iles said the reality is different.
 
“There's an element of wanting more stability in Iraq among the citizens. And that's one of the key determinants for why the government manages to stick together even despite all its disagreements.”
 
Cordesman said Iraqi government forces have earned the support of many Shi’ites who no longer see the need for militias as an alternative to a Shi’ite-dominated military.  
 
Alaaldin said the Iraqi government also has won the cooperation of Sunni tribes who prefer to work with the state rather than al-Qaida. “In the past, their affiliation with AQI cost them dearly,” he said.
 
But Cordesman said Iraqi security forces lack the capability to gather intelligence on impending attacks and suffer from poor coordination between police and counter-terrorism personnel. 
 
Iraq also lacks the unmanned combat aircraft, helicopters and sophisticated intelligence systems for tracking communications that existed before U.S. forces left the country last year.
 
Cordesman said the Iraqi government’s ongoing political crisis also is a cause for concern. 
 
“Given that efforts to create a national unity government have not only so far failed, but led to more and more power struggles between Prime Minister Maliki and the Sunni factions as well as the Sadrists, it is not clear that insurgents are unable to eventually divide Iraq along sectarian lines,” he said. “But that certainly is not something that has happened yet.”

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sunita from: India
July 24, 2012 1:35 PM
really... you need "motives" in Islam to kill others...???

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid