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Bomb Blasts Rock Baghdad; Iraq in Political Turmoil

Posted on the 22 December 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Bomb blasts rock Baghdad; Iraq in political turmoil

A bombed out car in Baghdad. Photocredit:

Bomb blasts rocked Baghdad, Iraq’s capital city, in 13 places this week on the same day. Reports vary as to the number of deaths, but it seems to approaching 60, and nearly two hundred were wounded. The attacks, said The Guardian, were mostly in Shia neighbourhoods, though some Sunni areas were hit. The explosions are the worst since the United States withdrew its troops from the country. The deadliest, which killed 7, was in the al-Amal neighbourhood, said The Times.  Rafid Jabboori of the BBC‘s Arabic service said it was the worst day in 2011.

The attacks came after Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite, threatened to “abandon” the “power-sharing government”  between Shiites and Sunnis, which the Americans backed. The Iraq war has lasted nearly nine years, and has cost 4,500 American lives, and nearly $1 trillion. America is spending almost $1 billion a year training Iraqi police, as well as  more on arming the country.

The crisis was precipitated when the Vice-President of Iraq, Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, fled to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region after a warrant was issued for his arrest on terrorism charges; al-Maliki, who claims that al-Hashimi ran a hit squad targeting government officials, has warned the Kurds (who are allies of America) that they face consequences if they protect al-Hashimi. Sunnis, powerful under Saddam Hussein (the toppled dictator), are feeling increasingly marginalised. The political turmoil, say news sources, could see more violence.

“This Shia-Sunni divide is big and it’s never gone away and it’s going to take generations to go away. There’s a lot of hostility there. It’s up to us to try to be helpful to try to get Maliki to try to do the right thing,” said the American ambassador, Christopher R Hill, quoted on The New York Times.

Fragile democracy. Tim Arango in The New York Times took the angle that, only a few days after American troops left, these explosions could tarnish “what has been cast as a major foreign policy achievement for President Obama.” Divisions between the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds had been “papered over” whilst the Americans were around; now they’ve been laid bare. American influence is “waning.” Obama will be criticised fro not extending the American presence in Iraq. Many had argued (including Iraq) that a military presence was necessary to protect Iraq’s “fragile democracy.”

President Obama said that American troops had left behind a “sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq,” quoted on The Daily Telegraph.

A return of al-Qaida? The Guardian took the line that the attacks, which seemed to have been coordinated, showed a planning ability “only available to al-Qaida in Iraq.” Shia areas are often the targets of the Sunni group al-Qaida, who believe that Shiites are not true Muslims. The Huffington Post suggested that if al-Qaida does return, then Shiites could fight back, leading to further instability.

More on Iraq and war

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