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Meanwhile, in Iraq...

By Staff writer / January 27, 2011



... Another horrific attack on Shiites today. Reuters reports that at least 35 people were killed when a car bomb ripped through the mourning tent at a funeral in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad neighborhood of Shula.

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The neighborhood was once dominated by members of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, though I don't know its status today. Reuters also reports that angry residents on the scene protested the lack of protection from the security forces and that clashes broke out between the police and local gunmen in the wake of the attack.

There's been a steady uptick in attacks on civilians in recent weeks. Last week, as Shiite pilgrims gathered around Karbala for Arbain, about 50 people were killed in two separate car bombs. Earlier this week, at the culmination of the mourning period for Imam Hussein -- a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed revered by Shiites -- about 18 pilgrims were killed in attacks. And earlier this month, a suicide attack on a police post in Baqouba killed 15 people, while a suicide blast at a police recruiting center in Tikrit claimed about 50 lives.

Amid the excitement surrounding the succesful uprising in Tunisia, the unprecedented protests in Egypt, the general spreading wave of anger at the region’s despotic governments (thousands were protesting today in Yemen, one of the region’s poorest and least stable countries, against President Ali Abdallah Saleh), it's important to remember that Iraq's transition remains -- eight years after the US invaded and toppled Saddam Hussein -- very much a work in progress.

Sectarian distrust between Iraq's majority Shiites and its Sunni Arab population is still high, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who also currently holds the defense and interior portfolios, has not been able to end the violence. While Iraq remains far improved from the rampant sectarian bloodletting of 2005-2007, it is far from secure.

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