The Daily Iraq: 22 July 2013

Iraq Body Count figures have not been updated for July 21.

At least 25 were killed, three of them civilians, in a suicide attack on an army convoy in Mosul. Another attack in a different part of Mosul killed 4 police officers. Mosul is something of a disputed city, since it has a Sunni Arab majority in the city itself, but it is also the capital of the Ninawa (Nineveh, for those who know their Hebrew Scriptures and/or Assyrian history) governate, which contains a significant number of Kurds (as well as Turkmen, Assyrians, and Armenians, among others). The Kurds want the entire province, including the city, as part of their autonomous region in the north, but the Sunni Arab population has resisted this. Mosul is Iraq’s second-largest city, so obviously it would be a prize for the Kurds if they were able to bring it under their control. The post-Saddam Iraqi constitution requires a “de-Arabization” program for the province, to make up for Saddam’s policy of deliberately resettling Sunni Arabs there so that they might balance or even outnumber the Kurds, followed by a referendum for the remaining population to decide whether it wants to join the Kurdish zone, to be invested as an Assyrian autonomous zone, or to go another direction. Iraq’s government has basically dragged its feet on the referendum, and there’s enough tension in the region to be of concern, particularly with the Kurds recently clashing with Sunni extremists in Syria and the close ties between Iraqi and Syrian jihadist groups.

As far as yesterday’s major jailbreak at Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons, coordinated attacks that killed 56 (26 guards, 20 inmates, and 10 attackers), Al-Jazeera is reporting that “[a] manhunt is under way for hundreds of inmates, including four high-ranking al-Qaeda members” freed in the attacks. Hakim al-Zamili, “a senior member of the security and defence committee in parliament,” told Reuters that 500 inmates had escaped, “most of them … convicted senior members of al-Qaeda” who “had received death sentences.” On the other hand, the interior ministry claimed that its forces “foiled” the attacks. I’m pretty sure it’s not possible for both of those statements to be true, but what do I know? ThinkProgress contends that the attack is “worse than you think” given that the degree of complexity suggests a resurgent Iraqi Al-Qaeda (the organization is officially called “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” but it’s Al-Qaeda in Iraq under a different name), and that the number of trained terrorists and paramilitaries that were released could have destabilizing effects both in Iraq and over the border in Syria, and I’m inclined to think they’re right.


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