If you haven’t been following events in Iraq recently, here’s an update:
Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, the most prominent Sunni in government, has been accused of using his security entourage as a hit squad. Members of his security squad have confessed, but al-Hashimi claims that the confessions were obtained through torture, which is certainly plausible.
Al-Hashimi has fled to the Kurdish area of Iraq to avoid arrest. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has demanded that the Kurds surrender al-Hashimi, warning “there will be problems” if he is not handed over. He has also threatened to disband the governing coalition, creating a serious political crisis.
And now this, as reported in The Washington Post:
BAGHDAD — More than a dozen explosions in Baghdad over a two-hour period Thursday morning killed at least 63 people–the first major violence in Iraq since the U.S. completed its troop pullout last week and a political crisis broke out.
At least 185 people were reported injured in the bombings, said officials at the Ministry of Interior, who were speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The coordinated wave of attacks began around 6:30 a.m. local time (10:30 p.m. Wednesday in Washington). Witnesses said that all main roads and many government offices in the Iraqi capital remained closed for hours after.
I can’t say any of this is a surprise. While U.S. troops hadn’t been involved in security efforts in Iraq for more than a year, it’s hard to argue that it’s mere coincidence that this crisis has developed so shortly after their departure from the country. We’re still deeply involved in Iraqi affairs — CIA Director David Petraeus is in the country now, meeting with Iraqi leaders — but the country is clearly under their control, not ours. They will determine its fate.
We were there for almost nine years. If U.S. troops had remained for another five years, they might have been able to prevent this current crisis — for another five years. Sooner or later, though, a time was going to come in which the Iraqis would have to decide what kind of country they wanted, and by what means, if any, it was going to be held together.
That time may be now, and even if they make it through this crisis, others are inevitable. The notion that we could go in and remake another society — install new expectations, mindsets, cultural norms and democratic ideologies, as if we were installing a new engine in a car — has been the glaring flaw in our Iraq strategy from the very beginning. There are still grounds for hope of at least some success long-term, but there’s an equal if not better chance that the Iraqis will revert to their old ways of doing things.
– Jay Bookman