What the attacks in Iraq tell us [VIDEO]
Iraq's sectarian divisions are deep, militants both Sunni and Shiite still roam the landscape, and the US is no longer in a position to do much about it.
The cost of more than 30 attacks across Iraq today is still being tallied. At least 70 people were killed by suicide bombers, car bombs, and militants wielding Ak-47s in one of the deadliest single days in the country this year.Skip to next paragraph
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The worst attack was on a civilian market in the southern and largely Shiite city of Kut, with about 40 people killed by two car bombs. Major attacks were also carried out on security forces in the the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, in the mostly Sunni city of Baquba in central Iraq, and in the ethnically and religiously divided oil town of Kirkuk to the north.
Iraqi officials say the attacks were probably carried out by Al Qaeda in Iraq. While that's unproven, the methods and choice of targets do strongly indicate that the violence was carried out by members of Iraq's Sunni Arab community, from which Al Qaeda draws its support. The US has alleged Iranian-backed Shiite militias have been involved in rocket attacks on US forces in the recent past. But today's violence seems firmly targeted at domestic issues, not the question of driving out the US.
What can be determined from the latest atrocity visited on mostly Iraqi civilians, in a war that the Iraq Body Count website estimates has claimed more than 100,000 civilian lives?
All that can be conclusively said is that Iraq remains a very violent place. Militant groups remain potent and have enough support and discipline to conduct attacks in almost every corner of the country. And they're very hard to stop.
This isn't surprising. In his July report on the state of Iraq, Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, had this to say: "Iraq remains an extraordinarily dangerous place to work. It is less safe, in my judgment, than 12 months ago." Bowen writes that Iraq is still struggling to protect judges and officials from assassination and that the security "situation continues to deteriorate."
News coverage has included the by now obligatory-hand wringing over whether Iraqi security forces are up to the job. The New York Times says that "the violence raised significant questions about the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces." The Washington Post writes "they also raise questions about the Iraqi government’s ability to maintain security as American troops prepare to leave the country by December."