Iraq bombings, political crisis raise concerns of renewed civil war
Bombings in Iraq targeted two Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad today. The violence, coming amid a Sunni-Shiite political crisis, threatens to inflame the tensions that led to civil war in 2006-07.
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There were at least four explosions across Baghdad. The first attack took place in Sadr City, in northeast Baghdad, and killed at least a dozen people. A half-hour later, another bomb went off nearby, killing one, the Guardian reports. The neighborhood of Kadhamiya, home to an important Shiite shrine, was blasted by a pair of almost simultaneous bombs two hours later. Yesterday there were a series of attacks on the homes of police officers and a member of a Sunni militia with ties to the government.
No group has claimed responsibility for the bombings yet, but The New York Times reports that they "appear similar" to previous attacks carried out by the Sunni militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq. On Dec. 22, AQI staged a series of explosions throughout the capital that killed more than 60 people.
Two days before those attacks, the Monitor's Dan Murphy warned of the growing parallels between trendlines of violence today, and the situation at the height of Iraq's civil war.
Politics was seen as a zero-sum game, and if you didn't fight, you could only lose. While horrific suicide attacks were carried out by Sunni jihadis well outside the Iraqi mainstream, they were enabled by a broader Sunni community willing to look the other way as attacks were plotted against their confessional enemies. On the Shiite side, death squads targeting former Baathists and Sunnis operated with near impunity, with many Shiites tolerating the killing as justifiable payback for decades of abuse under Saddam.
The current political crisis erupted just days after the US military completed its withdrawal in mid-December, with lawmakers from the main Sunni bloc, Iraqiya, boycotting the parliament and cabinet. Shiite Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki accused the top Sunni politician, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, of organizing death squads against political opponents. Sunnis, a religious minority, accused Mr. Maliki of blocking them from participating in the US-backed powersharing government that is intended to ease sectarian tensions. The Guardian reports that Iraqiya's participation is considered crucial to preventing another civil war like the one that broke out years ago, at the height of the US invasion.
In late December, Maliki issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Hashemi, on terror charges. Hashemi denied the charges but fled to the semi-autonomous Kurdish north.