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At least one hundred dead in a series of bombings across Baghdad on December 8, 2009. These were preceded by other bombings in the weeks before. One such attack killed the US-sponsored Baghdad regime’s counter-terrorism czar, while another series of attacks in October outside that regimes offices killed over 150. Like most of the rest of the bombings in Iraq in 2009, the bombers remain a mystery, although the government has blamed Baathists for the October attacks and some US officials speculate whether or not some of the others should be attributed to their favorite bogeyman–Al Qaida in Iraq. Unlike many of the attacks during the heat of the conflict in Iraq, many of these recent attacks are targeting heavily defended government agencies.
If these attacks are the work of the Iraqi insurgency and one places these bombings in the framework of the rest of the conflict in Iraq, they seem to symbolize a resurgence of the insurgency. If one further considers the nature of guerrilla war, these spectacular attacks represent a new phase in the insurgents war against the government. Most western commentators agree that, as elections approach, the insurgency will step up its attacks, supposedly to frighten potential voters, but also to show the essential weakness of the regime. If previous responses to insurgent violence are any indication, this means that the recent loosening of certain security precautions will be reversed. Indeed, Prime Minister al-Maliki said as much after a series of bombings on August 19, 2009: "These attacks represent a reaction to the opening of streets and bridges and the lifting of barriers inside the residential areas….(and) require us (the regime) to re-evaluate our plans and security mechanisms in order to confront the terrorist challenges and to increase cooperation between security forces and the Iraqi people." In other words, look out if you are a Sunni or identified as anybody but a supporter of the US occupation and its client regime.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times reported that the al-Maliki regime’s oil ministry announced that it would not delay the auctioning of oil contracts on December 11 and 12, 2009. Executives from major oil companies are invited and expected to attend. Given that the building where the auction was to be held was one of those attacked on December 8, one can be reasonably certain that the attacks are also related to this ongoing procedure, which many Iraqis correctly see as a selling off of their natural resources and the further intrusion of Washington and other western capitals into the Iraqi nation.
In Pakistan, two more bombings occurred on Decmber 7th and 9th, 2009–one in Lahore and another in Peshawar. Although no group or individual has claimed responsibility, government and many media sources were quick to blame Islamic militants. The targeted buildings included a police station and a bank, although many of those killed were civilians. The recent spate of bombings in the past few weeks have killed over four hundred people. The government blames militants while it wages a war against Pakistanis living in the country’s northwest provinces, killing hundreds and displacing even more. US drone attacks against this same region continue unabated, killing numerous civilians for every supposed terrorist targeted. All of this is occurring as rumors and denials regarding the role the US mercenary outfit Blackwater (Xe) is playing in provoking unrest and instability in Pakistan circulate throughout the Pakistani media.
All of which brings us not so neatly to the underlying factor in every single one of the aforementioned situations. That factor is the United States presence in the region. Iraq remains under occupation by 124, 000 US troops and at least 180,000 mercenaries. Pakistan has untold numbers of US intelligence operators and Special Forces troops working both independently and alongside Pakistani soldiers. As for the current linchpin in the region–Afghanistan–the US has at least 68,000 troops currently in country with another 30,000 or more on the way. Neither the Iraqi or Afghan client governments could survive long without these forces or the billions of dollars spent to maintain their regimes. The Pakistani government is also beholden to the US for much of its stability and has been throughout much of its history. Whether or not the US sends troops into Pakistan remains to be seen. One can be certain that the possibility has been discussed at the highest echelons of the US regime and is most likely favored by more than a few decision-makers, civilian and military alike. One wonders what is keeping the president from giving the go ahead. Whatever the reason, one can be fairly certain that without a groundswell of popular protest against the current escalation in Afghanistan and a reinvigorated demand for a complete withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, any hesitancy he currently feels about such a move would be discarded should the generals convince him of their belief in its necessity.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: email@example.com