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Iraqi Politics - 2013

2013 was the deadliest year in Iraq since 2008, according to the United Nations, with some 7,818 civilians and 1,050 members of the security forces killed in unrest. One year after U.S. troops left Iraq, the fragile network of Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds was unraveling. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Iraq in late 2012 and early 2013, rallying against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Many of the Sunni protesters accused their Shi'ite prime minister of marginalizing their sect and consolidating power. Rising anti-government protests, mostly by Sunnis, rocked Iraq since December 2012. Many Sunnis were calling for Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down. They also wanted the release of detainees they say are being held without trial -- and the suspension of an anti-terrorism law they say targets Sunnis unfairly. Maliki’s Shi'ite supporters also took to the streets, in what was becoming escalating sectarian strife.

Protests began in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province after the army arrested the bodyguards of Sunni Finance Minister Rafa al-Issawi. He was the most high profile Sunni Cabinet member since Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was dismissed from office, accused of running death squads.

The UN mission in Iraq said that 456 people were killed in March 2013. Half of them were security personnel. That was more than double the number of victims compared to 2012. While there had always been attacks prior to Iraqi elections, the number had significantly declined in recent years. But since US troops withdrew from Iraq at the end of 2011, the number of attacks has been rising continuously.

On 20 April 2013 Iraqis voted to decide the make-up of provincial councils in much of Iraq. More than 8,000 candidates were running for nearly 450 provincial council seats in the April 20 vote. An estimated 15.5 million Iraqi citizens are eligible to vote, and election authorities said 50 percent of eligible voters took part in the poll -- a similar rate to the last vote for provincial councils in 2009. But only 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces took part. Baghdad delayed voting in the three provinces of the autonomous Kurdish region, the disputed city of Kirkuk, and the Sunni-majority Anbar and Nineveh provinces.

In the days leading up to the 20 April 2013 vote a wave of deadly bombings and political assassinations threatened to destabilize the entire country. The surge in violence came amid a long-running political crisis and the failure of security forces to stem a rejuvenated Al-Qaeda and contain the spillover of violence from neighboring Syria. At least 50 people were killed and 300 people injured on 15 April alone, when a string of around 30 bombings and a shooting were carried out in 12 different areas of the country. It was the deadliest violence in nearly a month.

Ethnically mixed northern regions such as Nineveh Province and the city of Kirkuk remain the center of a dispute between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan authority. Sunnis, feeling sidelined after the rise of the Shi'ite-led government, have held huge rallies to protest what they say is government persecution. And a power struggle within the Sunni community pitted Sunni insurgents against secular Sunni politicians.

By 27 April 2013, with 87 percent of the votes counted, the rule-of-law-coalition, headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, won in eight of the 12 provinces in the regional ballot. His rival, Muqtada al-Sadr, only carried Misan province. His Ahrar party lost votes everywhere else, especially in the southern city of Basra. In the two Northern provinces, Dijala and Salah ad Din, al-Maliki's and Sadr's Shiite parties hardly stand a chance. Ijad Allawi dominates this area with his Sunni alliance, Iraqia.

Rising inter-sectarian tensions posed a major threat to stability and security in Iraq. During early 2013, two main issues dominated internal political developments in the country: the continuing political crisis exacerbated by the widespread demonstrations in the predominantly Sunni governorates; and the governorate council elections, which were held on 20 April in 12 governorates and on 20 June in Anbar and Ninewa governorates.

By july 2013 the demonstrations had entered their seventh month without an immediate solution in sight. The demonstrators and their demands had been highly politicized by some Sunni political leaders and parties. Central to many of these demands were calls for the amendment of the Anti-Terrorism Law (No. 13 of 2005), the release of detainees held without charge or trial, the release of female detainees or their transfer to detention facilities in their home governorates, the amendment of the Accountability and Justice Law (No. 10 of 2008) and the enactment of a general amnesty law.

While the Government has been engaged in responding positively to several demands, the growing fragmentation within political coalitions, both close to and opposed to the Government, contributed to the complexity and duration of the crisis. On 25 March, a cross-party committee headed by the former Prime Minister, Ibrahim Aleshaiker Al-Jaafari, agreed upon the replacement by a new law of two orders of the Governing Council (Nos. 76 and 88) concerning the property of former senior Baath Party members, in addition to the amendment of the Accountability and Justice Law. On 26 March 2013, the Council of Ministers also gave its approval. Consequently, ministers from the Al-Iraqiya bloc officially ended their boycott of the meetings of the Council of Ministers. The Council of Representatives remained paralyzed by repeated boycotts by most of the political blocs.

The United Nations said April 2013 was the deadliest month in Iraq since June 2008. The UN mission in Iraq reported 712 people were killed during April, with another 1,633 wounded. It said most of the dead - 595 - were civilians, while 117 were members of the Iraq security forces. Nearly a third of those killed or wounded were in Baghdad province. The other most affected areas included Diyala, Salahuddin and Kirkuk. The wave of violence has raised fears of a return to the sectarian fighting that left tens of thousands dead in 2006 and 2007.

More than 1,700 people had been killed in the April and May 2013, further stoking fears of all out sectarian war as resurgent al-Qaida and Sunni fighters challenge the Shi'ite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Sunni armed groups appear invigorated by the Sunni-led revolt in neighboring Syria, where rebels are seeking to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad. There had been numerous reports of Iraqi fighters from both sects crossing the border to fight in Syria's civil war.

The United Nations said more than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq in May 2013, making it the country's deadliest month since 2008. The data from the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq said another 2,400 people were wounded since the end of April 2013, and said nine out of 10 fatalities were civilian. The number of people killed in militant attacks across Iraq reached 761 in June 2013, lower than the multi-year high hit the previous month.

July 2013 was the deadliest month in Iraq since 2008, with the United Nations reporting 1,057 people killed, and many more wounded. The violence, escalating for months, was largely sectarian and analysts say was further fueled by a political deadlock in Baghdad and a spillover of al-Qaida from the conflict in Syria. As the violence worsens, Iraq's politicians are deadlocked. The political parties in Iraq are doing almost nothing. To the security situation, to the services for the people, to the political process, they are in constant conflict between each other.

More than 800 people were killed in violence in Iraq during the month of August. The United Nations reported on 01 September 2013 that a months-long surge in violence in Iraq was continuing, although the figure for August was slightly lower than for July. UN official Jacqueline Badcock told AFP that nearly 5,000 civilians had been killed and 12,000 wounded since the beginning of the year.

Violence continued to rise month-over-month in Iraq, with the latest figures from Antiwar.com’s Margaret Griffis showing 1,370 killed in October 2013, another increase over the 1,271 reported killed in September 2013. Both tolls were higher than the “official” UN tolls, which for each month were exactly 979, though UN figures are usually quite a bit lower than media reported deaths and don’t include slain insurgents.

In meetings in Washington with senior US officials at the end of October, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed the resurgence of al-Qaida in Iraq on the civil war in neighboring Syria. He said the Sunni militant group was able to exploit the unrest spawned in 2011 by the Arab Spring movement that toppled several Middle East dictatorships. He said the uprisings failed to provide immediate post-protest leadership, and said al-Qaida used that leadership vacuum to gain strength.

But some U.S. officials are linking Iraq's killing surge to the failure of Maliki's Shi'ite dominated government to share power with Sunni Muslims, and a group of influential U.S. senators is urging caution. Led by Senator John McCain, a group of six senators want Mr. Maliki to come up with a political and security strategy to stabilize the country. They are calling for increased counterterrorism support for Iraq, but only as part of a comprehensive plan that unites Iraqis of every sect.

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Page last modified: 05-01-2014 19:00:36 ZULU