Cablegate: Iraq: 2009 Country Report On Terrorism

DE RUEHGB #3344/01 3611614
P 271614Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Iraq remained a committed partner in counterterrorism
efforts. As a result of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement,
Iraqi security forces assumed primary responsibility for the
security and stability of Iraq, with support from
Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF-I, which became U.S.
Forces-Iraq (USF-I) as of January 1, 2010). Together, U.S.
and Iraqi security forces continued to make progress in
combating al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) and affiliated Sunni
terrorist organizations, as well as Shiite militia elements
engaged in terrorism. A significant reduction in the number
of security incidents throughout much of Iraq, beginning in
the last half of 2007, continued through 2009, with a steady
downward trend in numbers of civilian casualties, enemy
attacks, and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks.

2. Terrorist organizations and insurgent groups continued
attacks on Iraqi security forces, civilians, and government
officials using IEDs, including vehicle-borne improvised
explosive devices (VBIEDs), and suicide bombers. Although a
scattering of small scale attacks continued to hamper the
country's progress toward broad-based security, terrorist
elements focused their efforts on high profile and deadly
attacks in Baghdad, as demonstrated by attacks on August 19,
October 25, and December 8, with an estimated combined death
toll of around 250, according to media reports. The three
attacks targeted Iraqi government buildings with
simultaneous, multiple suicide and/or remote-detonated VBIEDs
in Baghdad. While AQI claimed responsibility for the
violence, some Iraqi government officials publicly blamed
Syrian-based individuals with alleged ties to the former
Baath Party for the violence.

3. U.S. forces conducted warranted and partnered full
spectrum operations with the Iraqi forces to defeat the
adaptive threats employed by AQI. Their efforts to defeat
AQI cells, in addition to an increasingly violence weary
Iraqi public, forced AQI elements to consolidate in Ninewa
and Diyala provinces. Despite being limited to smaller bases
of operation within Iraq, AQI retained networks in and around
Baghdad and in eastern Anbar. In Ninewa, U.S. and Iraqi
security forces focused operations against AQI and other
Sunni extremists through warranted operations and judicial
detentions of senior leaders, and targeting the terrorists,
operational support systems. AQI, whose apparent goal in 2009
was to discredit the GOI and erode its security and
governance capabilities, targeted primarily the Iraqi
security forces, government infrastructure and civilians, SOI
(Sons of Iraq) groups, and tribal awakening movement members.
Despite the improved security environment, AQI, fueled in
part by detainee recidivists, still possessed a limited
capacity to launch high-profile attacks against Iraqi
civilians and infrastructure. In addition to reducing the
strength of AQI and Sunni extremists, Iraq made progress in
containing other terrorist groups with differing motives,
such as Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqah al-Naqshabandiyah (a Sunni
nationalist insurgent group with links to the former Baath
Party that advocates for the removal of occupation forces
from Iraq) and Kata,ib Hizballah (a Shia militant group with
ideological ties to the militant wing of Lebanese Hizballah),
also operating in the country.

4. The flow of foreign terrorists from North Africa and
other Middle Eastern countries sympathetic to Sunni
extremists greatly diminished, though they continued to enter
Qextremists greatly diminished, though they continued to enter
Iraq, predominantly through Syria. AQI and its Sunni
extremist partners mainly used Iraqi nationals and some
females as suicide bombers. Terrorist groups receiving
weapons and training from Iran continued to endanger the
security and stability of Iraq. However, incidents of such
violence were markedly lower than in previous years. Many of
the groups receiving ideological and logistical support from
Iran were based in Shia communities in central and southern

5. Iraqi government officials condemned terrorists from all
quarters. Iraq, Turkey, and the United States continued their
formal trilateral security dialogue as one element of ongoing
cooperative efforts to counter the militant Kurdish
nationalist group, Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Iraqi
leaders, including those from the Kurdistan Regional
Government, continued to publicly state that the PKK was a
terrorist organization and would not be allowed a safe haven
in Iraq. The trilateral discussions and other efforts
continued through the end of the year, with a ministerial in
late December.

BAGHDAD 00003344 002 OF 003

6. The Iraqi government increased its efforts to garner
regional and international support against the common threat
of terrorism. The Expanded Neighbors Process continued to
provide a forum in which Iraq and its neighbors could address
the political and security challenges to further Iraq's
development as a regional partner. In October, the Iraqi
government sent representatives to Egypt to participate in
the sixth Neighbors Process working group on border security,
in which the group sought ways to enhance and integrate
border security systems in preparation for Iraq's 2010
parliamentary elections. Iraq became a more active voice at
the UN, advocating for international support as a means to
combat terrorism in Iraq.

7. Perceived Iraqi government political targeting of SOI and
Awakening Council members threatened to harm efforts to
consolidate national unity. Terrorists continued attacks on
SOI members and on Sunni populations sympathetic to
reconciliation. In November, gunmen dressed in Iraqi Army
uniforms killed at least 13 Sunnis in the Sunni-dominated
district of Abu Ghraib, in west Baghdad. The same month, an
IED killed three SOI members and wounded six while they were
responding to a tip about a weapons cache south of Baghdad.
Iraqi press reports indicated that the local perception of
nationwide violence increased, while the actual amount of
violence, including the numbers of killed and wounded,
dropped steadily. Importantly, the perception of greater
threat did not create a violent response on the part of
Sunnis or Shia.

8. The Iraqi government pressed senior Iranian leaders to
end support for lethal aid to Iraqi militias, and the Iraqi
army carried out operations against extremists trained and
equipped by Iran in Basra, Baghdad, and other areas.
Although attacks by militants have sharply decreased,
concerns remain that Iranian-supported Shia groups may be
stockpiling weapons to influence the elections or the
subsequent government formation. Shia militant groups' ties
to Iran remained a diplomatic and security challenge and a
threat to Iraq's long-term stability. National unity efforts
to involve Iraqi Shia groups with Iranian ties, such as Asaib
ahl al Haq (League of Righteousness) in the political
process, also decreased Shia-linked violence. The Iraqi
government faced internal and external pressure to relocate
the Mujahideen al-Khalq (MEK) organization, a U.S. designated
foreign terrorist organization, from the group's current
location in eastern Iraq. The MEK is an Islamic-Marxist
group that originated in Iran and seeks the overthrow of the
Iranian government. The Iraqi government committed to act
with respect for human rights in any efforts to relocate the
group, and UN and international observers monitored the

9. The Iraqi government attributed security gains to Iraqi
security force capability and proficiency, as well as to
increasing popular support for Iraqi government actions
against AQI and other extremist groups. SOI and other groups
provided U.S. and Iraqi forces with valuable information that
helped disrupt terrorist operations and exposed large weapons
caches. The SOI began integration into Iraqi security forces
in 2008, and many more transitioned to non-security
ministries throughout 2009. Sunni tribal awakening movements
continued alliances with U.S. forces against AQI and
extremist groups. Reports of AQI targeting of Christian
churches and schools, as well as other ethnic and religious
Qchurches and schools, as well as other ethnic and religious
minority facilities, indicated that AQI and other terrorist
elements sought different strategies to determine which
required the least resources and yielded the highest payoff
in the media and minds of Iraq's citizens. Despite this,
ethno-sectarian violence continued to decline.

10. The Iraqi security forces continued to build tactical
and operational momentum and assumed responsibility for
security in all of Iraq's 18 provinces. On June 30, U.S.
forces pulled out of cities, villages, and localities, in
accordance with the Security Agreement, and henceforth
conducted all kinetic operations in partnership with Iraqi
security forces. The focus of U.S. operations moved from
urban to rural areas. The Security Agreement is the legal
basis for continued security cooperation to help Iraq build
its capacity to fight terrorist organizations and establish
formal mechanisms for joint security operations.
International support will remain critical for the Iraqi
government to build its capacity to fight terrorist

11. Iraq's intelligence services continued to improve in
both competency and confidence, but will require ongoing

BAGHDAD 00003344 003 OF 003

support and legislative authority before they will be able to
adequately identify and respond to internal and external
terrorist threats.

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