Remember Iraq? (Advice followed)

My colleague Michael Petrou reminds us to remember Iraq. Good idea. Let’s survey the latest grim tidings.

The recent spate of horrific bombings, especially in Baghdad, suggests that al-Qaeda in Iraq has regrouped and that Iraq’s security forces might not be able to contain terrorist violence in the run-up to the country’s planned March 7 general election.

In light of that apparently worsening situation, the BBC asks, “Can the Obama administration keep to its deadline of withdrawing all US combat troops by the end of August 2010?”

On the subject of those upcoming March 7 elections, the New York Times reports that “vast swaths” of Iraq’s security forces “are more loyal to political parties than to the state.” That can’t be good.

Inside Iraq, factional reaction to this week’s ghastly Baghdad bombing serves as an unsettling reminder of deep rifts. For example, Sunni leaders who played such a crucial role in persuading their communities to turn against insurgents and support peace (the key to the success of the U.S. “surge”) blamed Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s key commanders.

Anxiety over who precisely is behind the latest terrorist violence runs along Iraq’s underlying fault lines: “Syria was blamed by some, mainly Shiites, and Iran blamed by others, mainly Sunnis,” reports the Times (in that story linked above). “The heads of the various security agencies sparred over responsibility. And Parliament’s calls for a public accounting of security lapses were ignored.”

All this seems to be symptomatic of deep divisions in not just Iraq but the entire region. An interesting brief overview is offered here by the author of The Sunni-Shia Conflict: Understanding Sectarian Violence in the Middle East.

It seems our vague notion that Iraq is basically over and Afghanistan is where the action doesn’t quite square with what’s really happening.

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