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An Attack on Australian Diplomats and Airstrikes in Tigray

August 25-31, 2022 | Issue 15 - Weapons & Tactics (W&T)

Yannik Hunold, Isaiah Johnson, Martina Sclaverano, W/T Team

Argyrios Chatziilias, Editor; Hannah Norton, Senior Editor



Muqtada al-Sadr[1]


Date: August 26, 2022

Location: Green Zone, Baghdad, Iraq

Parties involved: Australian diplomats; militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr; Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi; the Coordination Framework; Iranian government

The event: An IED exploded near the Green Zone, in Bagdad, while Australian diplomatic vehicles were crossing the area. The Australian delegation was in Iraq to mediate between the Shiite faction supporting al-Sadr, that opposes Iranian influence on the Iraqi government, and the Coordination Framework, which is supported by Iran.[2] On August 29, al-Sadr announced his retirement from politics which led to violent clashes in Baghdad in the government palace, while the Iraqi government indicated their willingness to protect the Australian delegation and participate in the talks.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The targeting of diplomatic missions will likely make currently non-participating foreign delegations reluctant to provide additional mediation assistance as security deteriorates. It is unlikely that the Australian government will withdraw from current or cancel future diplomatic efforts in Iraq if the Iraqi government implements greater protective measures. Security measures to enter the Green Zone will almost certainly increase, very likely including car searches for IED’s and more armed guards. Embassies in Baghdad will very likely strengthen their security protocols with more guards and camera surveillance to prevent attacks, while ambassadors will very likely hesitate to participate in negotiations or publicly support either side of the conflict, as this would very likely make them and other representative bodies a target for the conflicting parties.

  • There will very likely be more protests against the Iraqi government by Al-Sadr followers, who will likely attempt to coordinate their violent efforts by acquiring more weapons from the black market or building them themselves. After his retirement, Al-Sadr supporters will likely call for violence as a tool to ensure their participation in the government. In order to compensate for their technical and numerical inferiority against the Iraqi national military, there is a roughly even chance that the Coordination Framework will use homemade weapons and recruit Shiite citizens. It is unlikely that these protests will take place in the Green Zone, as the Iraqi army will very likely fortify the area to avoid further attacks. Clashes will likely continue in other suburbs of the capital such as al-Sadr’s residence.


Date: August 26, 2022

Location: Mekelle, Tigray region, Ethiopia

Parties involved: Ethiopian government; Ethiopian military; Tigray rebels; Tigray residents;

The event: The Ethiopian government launched an airstrike in northern Tigray, hitting a kindergarten and killing 7 people. Before the strike, the Ethiopian government and Tigray had agreed on a truce to allow the arrival of supplies in the region. This strike ended the five month-long truce. Tigray is also experiencing a severe food shortage, with about 3 million citizens in critical conditions.[4]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Tigray rebels will very likely retaliate against this airstrike, likely targeting Ethiopian and international military bases. Rebel groups will almost certainly rely on guerilla style attacks and self-made rocket strikes against military facilities to reduce the resources available to the superior Ethiopian army located in the contested borderland of the Tigray region. Tigray rebels will very likely increase their efforts to eradicate government support in areas under their control and subsequently very likely commit war crimes against suspected government-loyal civilians. There is a roughly even chance that the Ethiopian government will attempt to intensify negotiations with rebels to reintroduce a truce, to stop the atrocities while also limiting its own military campaign in the area to avoid provocations of the rebel groups.

  • Tigray rebels will almost certainly attempt to recruit local citizens that experience famine and war or coerce unwilling civilians into fighting for their groups. Following the recruitment of locals, the group's territorial control and influence will almost certainly increase. If the rebel groups successfully provide the recruits and their families with food and aid, it is very likely that the Tigrayan population will accept the rebels' control and shift its sympathies away from the government. Popular support of the rebel groups will very likely plummet if they fail to provide such services, with rebels likely relying on coercion to recruit new fighters and harm civilians supporting the government.

  • Following the failure of the truce, it is likely that the number of food aid deliveries will decrease as they will likely be targeted by rebel groups. A lack of international aid for the humanitarian crisis in the Tigray will very likely amplify the internal displacement towards other Ethiopian regions. Greater internal migration will very likely increase tensions and instability in the Tigray and other parts of Ethiopia, as domestic refugees will almost certainly compete with locals for the already slim number of resources. Subsequently, increased violence and food insecurity will almost certainly lower further the public's trust in the state.

 

The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)


[1] Muqtada al-Sadr, by Unknown, licensed under Creative Commons

[2] Explosive detonates in Baghdad, targets Australian diplomats, The Washington Post, August 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/explosive-detonates-in-baghdad-targets-australian-diplomats/2022/08/26/a3a16bd4-2525-11ed-a72f-1e7149072fbc_story.html

[3] Deadly clashes rage in Baghdad in Shi'ite power struggle, Reuters, August 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iraqi-cleric-sadr-announces-full-withdrawal-political-life-twitter-2022-08-29/

[4] Ethiopian Airstrike Hits Kindergarten as Fighting Spreads in Tigray, New York Times, August 2022 https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/26/world/africa/ethiopian-tigray-airstrike-kindergarten.html

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