Iraq Violence Threatens Chaos
Coordinated bombings across Iraq threaten return to violence of 2006
Car bombs, mortar fire and shootings took place at multiple locations across the country, with more than 20 towns struck. Several bombings took place in Shi’a districts of Baghdad, and further attacks were carried out against Shi’a targets in Mosul, Kirkuk and Sadr. In the main, government buildings and offices were targeted but cafés and—in one instance—a crowded mini-bus were also hit.
The practically synchronized nature of the violence, the focus upon security forces and the targeting of Shi’a districts follow a pattern established over the past few months, as acts of violence have become more frequent—even regular. Although no organization has yet claimed responsibility for the weekend’s bombings, they are consistent with the operations of Al-Qaeda.
Ominously, in the days leading up to the attacks an audio message attributed to the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was distributed online. The message warned that the group would step up efforts to retake areas of Iraq that it previously controlled, and claimed that a majority of Iraqi Sunnis support Al-Qaeda.
The significance of this latest wave of violence—apart from the terrible death-toll—is the apparent ease with which dissident organizations have been able to provoke extreme chaos across Iraq. It calls into serious question the ability of Iraqi government forces to maintain security since the departure of US troops, and there is a real danger that sectarian violence will return to the levels of 2006-7.
Several media analysts have been quick to note the apparent opportunism of extremist groups in Iraq, who seem to have taken advantage of the worsening situation in neighboring Syria. The border between the two countries has been heavily travelled in the past decade by refugees fleeing the violence in Iraq to the security of Syria. More recently, thousands of Syrians have made the journey in the opposite direction. Worryingly, the sectarian characteristics of the escalating civil war in Syria may play in to the hands of those elements in Iraq that appear intent upon exacerbating regional sectarian tensions, which are already tightly wound.