August 25, 2011

TSG IntelBrief: The Ramadan Attacks: The Return of Orchestrated Violence to Iraq




The coordinated attacks across Iraq on Monday August 15, left in excess of 90 people dead and over 220 injured.  The recent period of relative quiet in Iraq was clearly the calm before the storm, rather than any kind of improvement in security, and will give rise to important questions about the Iraqis ability to manage internal security.  This in turn will have a knock-on effect on investor confidence at a time when Iraq urgently needs international commitment.

It also calls into question the logic of withdrawing the remaining U.S. forces in Iraq as the Iraqi security forces struggle to manage a renewed campaign of violence by Al Qa'ida in Iraq.  However, violence in Iraq is not merely a Sunni   phenomenon - far from it.

Security in Iraq is also being undermined by the Promised Day Brigades – a Shi'a extremist group under the effective control of Muqtada al-Sadr and therefore by extension with close links to Iran, and responsible for deaths of 14 U.S. servicemen in June – the bloodiest month for years.

Violence in Iraq and its management is a core political issue for Baghdad, as the first duty of a government is to protect its citizens.  However, the violence and its shockwaves impact not only Iraq, but the whole region and indeed wider, as Iraq has 143 billion barrels of oil reserves, and probably much more than that as much of the country remains unexplored.

It is thus as much a reputational and credibility issue as a security one, as Iraq tries to persuade investors that the security situation has stabilized to such an extent that both their dollars and their personnel will be safe.  On the cusp of a boom time in Iraq, Baghdad cannot afford any other type of explosion.

Given the importance of the country both geopolitically but also economically, the current destabilization could not have come at a worse time for the White House in the year before Presidential elections.  Along with another highly unpopular war in Afghanistan, Iraq could once again become a major policy issue.


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