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

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs