April 23, 2013 | Massacres in Iraq

Over four days in April 2013, more than 330 Iraqis were killed and close to 600 wounded in terrorist attacks and other forms of violence.

The state has the right to put down violent movements, but what if the cure is worse than the illness?

IRAQ — If I were to ask you what comes to mind when I mention the nation of Iraq, how would you respond? I would imagine a few phrases might come forth:

  • the site of some of the earliest signs of civilisation;
  • a nation ruthlessly ruled by the dictator Saddam Hussein for decades;
  • the poorly conceived and executed US invasion in 2003;
  • a country beset by civil unrest for decades; and
  • the centre of the self-styled Caliphate created by Islamic State (ISIS)

A mostly ungovernable land

Ever since the overthrow of the Hussein regime Iraq has been a mostly ungovernable land. Running the show is complicated by ethnic (Kurdish/Arab) and religious (Sunni/Shia/Christian) clashes in addition to outside interference (largely from Iran but also from Saudi Arabia). Keeping the whole shebang together is a challenge to say the least.

As a consequence, Iraq is a very violent place. It consistently ranks near the bottom (which is bad) of the Global Peace Index created by the Institute for Economics and Peace. Some of this mayhem is at the hands of terrorists, some is at the hands of the state, and some is the action of average citizens.

Sometimes it is all three.

Beginning this day in 2013 and continuing for four days a paroxysm of killing broke out across Iraq and when it ended more than 330 people were dead and almost 600 injured. The carnage resulted from multiple actions by multiple actors, including:

Technically, not all these deaths were caused by terrorist groups (although some definitely were). When a country, like Iraq, has been at war for close to two decades atrocities are committed by all sides. Iraq has certainly seen its fair share of real terrorist groups (Al Qaeda affiliates, ISIS and others). The government too has not been hesitant to resort to violence to quell dissent. Throw in militias and other sundry shadowy organisations and the recipe for death and destruction is complete.

This is what Iraq has been like for a generation, if not more. The US decision to invade and occupy the country after 9/11 did not help. Lord knows when Iraq will rejoin the roster of ‘normal’ nations.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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