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.
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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid