The Conflict in Iraq Part 3
Concern in the Sunni Triangle
The two leading Kurdish parties would also take part in shaping the future of Iraq: the Conservative Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the more left-wing Kurdistan Patriotic Union (PUK). The KDP was led by Massoud Barzani and the PUK’s leader was Jalal Talabani.
The Shia religious Muslims had two dominant political movements. The oldest is al-Dawa al-Islamiyya (The Islamic Calling). During the war between Iraq and Iran, the movement was severely persecuted and many members fled to Iran. In Iranian exile, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) was also formed in the 1980s. The group built a strong militia, the Badr Brigades, with the support of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Sciri’s top leader since 2003 was Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. The movement changed its name in 2007 and changed its name to the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council (ISCI).
The UN recognized the transitional government that was installed in June 2004 with US Secretary-General Iyad Allawi as Prime Minister.
In the spring of 2004, the US military had been drawn into the most extensive post-war fighting, mainly in the “Sunni triangle” west of Baghdad. Southern Iraq was relatively calm, but to calm the Sunni triangle as well, the US military and Iraq’s new security forces went on the offensive against the city of Fallujah, where Jordanian terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was believed to be. In November 2004, almost the entire city was destroyed. No leading terrorists were found, instead riots flared up in other cities. The Sunni Arabs now felt even more marginalized. About 53 percent of those eligible to vote, but almost no Sunni Arabs, took part in the January 30, 2005 general election.
As expected, the newly formed Shia Muslim United Iraqi Alliance (UIA, led by Sciri) gained its own majority. The Kurdish alliance received a quarter of the votes and Allawi’s secular alliance received just under 14 percent. The UIA and the Kurds began cooperating in parliament, electing PUK leader Jalal Talabani as president. Dawa leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari was later appointed prime minister.
In 2006, Sunni and Shiite extremist violence claimed about 2,500 lives each month. The assassination attempt began with ethnic cleansing, especially in mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad where Sunnis were forced to flee.
It was not until April 2006 that Nouri al-Maliki from the Dawa Party could be appointed Prime Minister, but the legislative process was paralyzed by the opposition.
Saddam Hussein, found in a cave in 2003, was sentenced to death in November 2006 and hanged on December 30. Three of his close associates were executed some time later. Saddam’s death did not weaken his supporters’ resistance.
In 2006, the United States began a rapprochement with Sunni Arab clan leaders who were tired of the extremists’ “holy war”. Beginning in Anbar Province, local sheikhs formed groups called the Sahwa (Awakening), whose members were paid by the United States to fight the Islamists. At the end of 2008, there were about 100,000 men in the Sahwa groups and the violence had decreased significantly.
The United States is preparing for an exit
The US military gradually handed over responsibility for a number of provinces to the government army. Every year since 2004, the UN had formally approved the US presence in Iraq, but in 2008 the US wanted to replace this UN mandate with a security agreement between the countries that would, among other things, allow the US military to retain bases for several years. The government in Baghdad did not accept the US terms. The Bush administration, which was under heavy pressure at home due to demands for a retreat timetable, was forced to agree that all US troops would leave Iraq before the end of 2011.
Regional elections in January 2009 meant a restoration for the Sunni Arabs, who after six years regained power in provinces where they are in the majority.
Following the agreement with the United States and the regional elections, Prime Minister al-Maliki was considered to have significantly strengthened his position, which was not appreciated by rival Shia groups such as ISCI and the Sadr movement. In August 2009, the large Islamic alliance UIA broke down. The March 2010 election resulted in a political stalemate. It was not until the end of the year that Parliament was able to agree to allow al-Maliki to form a new government with all major groups represented.
4,500 Americans killed
By mid-August 2010, the last combatant US unit had left Iraq. The remnant, who trained Iraqi forces and supported the government, left on December 15, 2011. During the US-wide eight-year presence, nearly 4,500 US troops had been killed and well over 100,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed. The United States left behind a country marked by violence, terrorism and ethnic divisions. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found, nor did US hopes for a stable regime in Iraq come true.
After the US march, violence increased. A large number of bombings from 2012 onwards were mainly aimed at Shia Muslims, often carried out by groups linked to al-Qaeda . Tensions also rose between the government and Kurdish self-government. The government criticized the Kurds for an increasingly independent economic policy. In 2013, new local elections were held, which were preceded and followed by escalating violence. No alliance got its own majority anywhere. The figures showed how the division increased.
According to agooddir, in the Kurdish provincial elections in September, the KDP won, while the newly formed party Gorran (Movement for Change) came in second place. The party had won support for criticism of corruption within the established parties and lack of transparency in how the oil money was handled.