FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Bombs Will Go Off in Baghdad, Whether the US is There or Not

The savage suicide bombings in the heart of Baghdad yesterday show how far the violence in Iraq is from being over. It is as if those who order these bombings know that they only have to repeat these atrocities every couple of months to destabilize the country.

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki makes itself even more vulnerable by boasting that it is improving security. Iraq is a safer place than it was three years ago, but it is still one of the more perilous places in the world.

There is no need to imagine that the slaughter in Haifa Street yesterday was because American troops withdrew from the cities of Iraq three months ago. With or without US troops, the bombers have been able to get through in Baghdad ever since they destroyed the UN headquarters in 2003.

Suicide car bombings, even when the driver is not planning to detonate his deadly cargo personally, are extremely difficult to stop. Remember the success the Provisional IRA had in the 1990s in targeting much smaller areas in the city of London and Canary Wharf.

After a bomb eviscerated the Iraqi Foreign Ministry on  August 19 the Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said its passage must have been helped by collaborators at army and police checkpoints. This may be true. But it is impossible for Iraqi security to search every vehicle, especially as bombers will have made sure that their papers are in order. It will also have occurred to Iraqi soldiers and policemen that any awards for stopping a suicide bomber are likely to be posthumous. Enthusiasm for investigating suspicious vehicles is limited.

The bombings do not by themselves prove that Iraq remains unstable.

Unfortunately, there are other pointers such as the failure of 1.6 million internally displaced people to return to their homes. A study by the International Organization on Migration explains why these internal Iraqi refugees are not going home. It says that security may have got better but refugees are still trying to survive “without work, their own home, schooling for children, access to water, electricity and health care”.

Who is behind the bombings? Almost certainly it is some cell of al-Qa’ida, possibly acting with the guidance or help of the Baath party or the security service of the old regime. Al-Qa’ida is not as strong as it was in 2007, but then it does not have to be to create mayhem.

The main problem in Iraq is that there is no fundamental agreement between the three main communities: the Shia, the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds. Each group is still looking for the weak points of the others. The Shia are three-fifths of the population, benefited from the overthrow of the predominantly-Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein and were largely victorious in the sectarian battle for Baghdad in 2005-7. This does not mean that the Sunni, who make up a fifth of the population, do not retain the strength to destabilize the government unless they get the share of power that they want.

Iraqis themselves tend to see the never-ending violence as a sign that their neighbors intend to prevent the re-emergence of a strong Iraq. Iran would like another Shia state in the Gulf, but it does not want a powerful government to resurrect itself in Baghdad. Saudi Arabia has long been aghast at seeing Iraq becoming the first Shia government in the Arab world since Saladin overthrew the Fatimids. Kuwait is still taking part of Iraq’s desperately needed oil revenues in compensation for its losses in the first Gulf War.

Iraq has had 30 years of war, rebellion and economic sanctions. It truly is a broken society. The state is dysfunctional. There is some good news: the price of oil has risen to $80 a barrel. But even relatively peaceful cities like Basra are full of people who are not being paid. The government is failing to heal the deep wounds of the past. These latest bombings – the deadliest in two years – shows how far Iraq is from solving its problems.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the Ihe author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.”

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
December 05, 2019
Colin Todhunter
Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides
Nick Pemberton
Gen Z and Free Speech
Bob Lord
The U-Turn That Made America Staggeringly Unequal
Josh White
The Most Important Election in British History
Daniel Warner
The Hillsborough Soccer Tragedy: Who is Responsible?
Dean Baker
The Big Deal in Warren’s Prescription Drug Plan
George Ochenski
Another Utility Disaster Headed Our Way
Binoy Kampmark
Spying on Assange: the Spanish Case Takes a Turn
Victor Grossman
Big Rallies and Big Differences in Germany
L. Ali Khan
A Playboy Misrules Pakistan
William J. Astore
How American Exceptionalism is Killing the Planet
Susie Day
The Mad Activist Impeaches Western Culture
Andrés Castro
Look Out for the Drift
December 04, 2019
Jefferson Morley
RIP Fred Hampton: a Black Visionary Assassinated by the FBI
Vijay Prashad
Wealthy Countries’ Approach to Climate Change Condemns Hundreds of Millions of People to Suffer
Kenneth Surin
The Tory Election “Campaign” to Date
Maria Paez Victor
Indians Shall Not Govern
Peter Lackowski
Bolivia’s Five Hundred-Year Rebellion
Dave Lindorff
Billionaire Entitlement Run Amok: the Case of Michael Bloomberg
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Is Corbyn for Christmas Just Another Stove Pipe-Dream?
Howard Lisnoff
Elizabeth Warren: Savior of a Fallen System?
Robert Fisk
The Remembrance Poppy is Becoming a Weapon Against Immigrants to Canada
Dean Baker
NAFTA was About Redistributing Wealth Upwards
Richard Greeman
French Unions and Yellow Vests Converge, Launch General Strike
Binoy Kampmark
Legitimised Surveillance: Kim Dotcom’s Case Against GCSB
Walter Clemens
Goodbye Law and Morality, Welcome Pretend Tough!
Sam Pizzigati
Football Without Billionaires? Why Not?
Anthony Giattino
Royal Forests of America
December 03, 2019
Richard Lachmann
Can the US Get Out of Its Endless Wars?
Ramzy Baroud
Israel’s Unfinished ‘Coup’
David Rosen
The Dialectics of Postmodern Sexual Identity
Robert Fisk
Reporting Syria: I Talked to Everyone, Except Assad
Patrick Cockburn
Why the Resignation of Iraq’s Prime Minister May Not Stop the Mass Uprising on the Horizon
Norman Solomon
For Corporate Media, It’s ‘Anybody But Sanders or Warren’
Bob Scofield
Uruguay Turns to the Right
Joe Emersberger
Talking About Ecuador’s Political Prisoners: an Interview With Marcela Aguiñaga
Medea Benjamin
Trump Was Right: NATO Should Be Obsolete
Nyla Ali Khan
Lesson in Diplomacy for India’s Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty
William Gudal
The Bubble Machine
Gaither Stewart
Dirty Hands
Peter Certo
End the Wars, Win the Antiwar Vote
Binoy Kampmark
The Liveris Formula: Dow’s Inclusive Capitalism
Dan Bacher
California Freezes New Fracking Permits – But All Oil Drilling Permits Still Outpace 2018
Kay Sather
Can’t Get No Satisfaction?
December 02, 2019
Rob Urie
Ukraine, the New Cold War and the Politics of Impeachment
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail