A dozen car bombs and suicide blasts went off in coordinated attacks this morning at various Shi’ite districts around Baghdad. The attacks killed 56 people and injured 221 others on the tenth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Sunni Islamist insurgents with links to al Qaeda have vowed to step up attacks on Shi’ite targets in an attempt to spur sectarian violence and undermine Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The bombings serve as a stark reminder of the continued cost of this war.
The attacks happened in busy markets and popular dining establishments around 8 a.m. One of the more deadly attacks occurred near the fortified Green Zone which is home to major government offices and embassies. Though there has been no official claim of responsibility, the Islamic Sate of Iraq has carried out several other high profile attacks. The group is attempting to regain control of ground lost during the U.S.-led occupation. Last week the group claimed responsibility for the killing of 51 Syrian soldiers who had sought refuge inside of Iraq.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shia-led government announced Tuesday that it would postpone provincial elections in two provinces by up to six months due to security concerns. 12 other provinces will go ahead with their elections on April 20. These elections mark the first elections to be held in Iraq in three years. The polls in Anbar province and Nineveh province have been delayed due to increased violence. According to Ali Mussawi, a spokesman for the premier, candidates there have been threatened and killed. Other political candidates in various other provinces have also been threatened or killed. Attacks are likely to continue as election day approaches.
The political crisis has intensified since the U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011. The crisis in Syria, which borders Iraq, threatens to spill over. Security officials believe that al Qaeda is regrouping in the Anbar province. While violence is nothing like it was during the peak of the insurgency in 2006-2007, Iraq is still a country on the brink. Sunni and Kurdish critics of the Maliki government feel powerless against the Shia-led government. A government who, for many, has an uncomfortably close relationship to Washington.
Iraq still struggles with insurgents and the threat of sectarian violence is ever-looming. 200 Iraqis died in violent attacks in February alone. Without a strong U.S. military force, the buffer that once existed is gone. As election day draws near, this fragile democracy will be tested and we will all be reminded of the continued toll this war has had on the people of Iraq.