Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

We Are Getting Real Tired Over Baghdad Violence

Posted in Iraq by Dan on August 27, 2009
Last Wednesday's bombings reflects the continuing weaknesses of the Iraqi Security Forces

Last Wednesday's truck-bombings, the deadliest attack in the past year, serves as a test for Iraq's Security Forces

101 deaths and 1200 injuries later, Iraqis are finally beginning to understand the ramifications behind the U.S. troop withdrawal.  For months, even years, the Iraqi population was convinced that their personal safety could be ensured solely through Bagdad’s army and police force.  Trained alongside United States Marines in battles across the country, it was thought that the Iraqi Security apparatus was maturing to the level needed for a complete taming of terrorism and violence.  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, despite his over-reliance on U.S. troops in the past, is beginning to invoke feelings of hope and grandeur for a greater and more resilient Iraqi state:  something that could be reached without Washington’s armies patrolling the streets of Baghdad.  This sentiment had risen to such a degree that I have even commented on Mr. Maliki’s transformation earlier on this blog, arguing that the former Shia-exile is now intent in defeating criminality, and terrorism in all its shapes and forms.  Now, one week later, with two-massive truck bombings in front of Iraq’s Financial, Foreign and Defense Ministries, this optimism is quickly wearing thin.

Iraqis themselves, some of whom lost loved-ones in the attacks, have spoken to the media and blamed Mr. Maliki outright…claiming that government promises of continued security are but political-tricks used to ensure Maliki’s re-election in the future.  Others are taking a more controversial tone, arguing that the Iraqi Government deliberately orchestrated the bombings in order to cement a pro-Maliki coalition among the injured.  Conspiracy-theories aside, most Iraqis are formulating a correct assessment on this most recent incident:  while greatly improved over the past two years, the Iraqi Security Forces are nowhere near ready to combat the persistent threat of Al-Qaeda-sponsored jihad.

In a short one-week period, it appears that the same Iraqis that were once celebrating the re-deployment of U.S. soldiers from Iraq’s cities and villages are now desperately pleading for their return.

Understandably, the sights and sounds of blood-soaked pavement, broken windows, and destroyed buildings are taking their toll on Iraqis across the nation.  Sadly, despite this reality, U.S. troops are not allowed to assist without the formal petition of the Iraqi Government.  In what is being viewed by national politicians as a necessary staple of the joint U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, the common civilian views as an unwarranted provision threatening the physical security of themselves and their families.  Unfortunately, before last week’s act of terrorism, this notion was virtually absent from the Iraqi political landscape.  Similar to September 11, 2001, sometimes it takes an extreme act of brutality to change peoples’ minds.

Mind you, this is all speculation.  On realistic terms, I have no idea what is running through the minds of Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians living in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.  Perhaps Iraqi Arabs are taking a more pragmatic approach to the whole situation, believing that it is only a matter of time before Iraq’s armed-forces will beat back an already declining insurgency.  However diverse some thoughts may be, one statement does seem safe to declare:  the ISF has a long road ahead of them without the direct assistance of U.S. forces.

Iraqi troops are going to have to take the lead in criminal investigations, something they have been reluctant to do in the past six years.  Bagdad is going to have to practice impartial judgment, a policy difficult to implement in a diverse and multi-ethnic population.  More importantly, Mr. Maliki and his cabinet must be willing to make public-policy for the future, no matter how unpopular these decisions may be in the present.  For if Iraq fails to perform these functions, and if sectarianism trumpets nationalism, a second round of civil-war is all too likely.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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