Baghdad Devastated by Massive Blasts, 136 Killed, 500 Wounded, Ministries Destroyed

Two massive blasts shook central Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 136 people and wounding 500, and destroying three government ministry buildings, according to the Times of London’s Oliver August reporting from Baghdad. It was the most destructive attack of 2009. August notes that the likely perpetrators were either Baathists from the old regime or Sunni Muslim extremists, both of whom want to stop a new, Shiite- and Kurdish- dominated status quo from settling upon Iraq.

AFP Arabic service says that the first car exploded at 10 am Baghdad time at a crowded intersection near the ministry of justice and the ministry of municipalities. The second was detonated ten minutes later on Salihiya St. in front of the Baghdad Province administrative office. Many dead bodies are suspected of still being beneath the rubble of the ministries of justice and public works buildings, which collapsed on the employees.

The ministries were protected by blast walls and the truck bombs could not get that close, but the explosives used were so ungodly powerful that they swept the blast walls away. I have no pretensions to forensics expertise, but that sounds like a clue to me; where are the guerrillas getting such remarkable high explosives?

Aljazeera English has video:

The particular ministries that were struck may be significant, since Iraq operates on a spoils system and ministries tend to be dominated by political parties and ethnic groups. The Minister of Public Works is Riyadh Gharib, a prominent member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which is close to the clerics in Tehran. Public Works as a ministry would thus have a lot of ISCI party members as employees and it is also a huge source of political patronage. Baathists or Sunni extremists would have every reason to hit it.

The Ministry of Justice had been less politicized, but from 2007 was in the control of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. The Minister of Justice from last February is Judge Dara Nur al-Din, an independent Kurd. He had been a member of the Interim Governing Council under Paul Bremer, for which some groups in Iraq may not have forgiven him. The ministry of justice also oversees court cases and executions, including of prominent Baathists, executions that Nur al-Din has defended, and which have angered the anti-government guerrillas.

As for the Baghdad Provincial government (it is both a province and a city), it has been dominated since the January, 2009, provincial elections by the State of Law coalition of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the leading element of which is the Shiite Islamic Mission Party (Da’wa).

So if the guerrillas who set these bombs were trying to kill party cadres attached to ministries, you’d have to conclude they were trying to kill those of the ruling Shiite religious parties, and also to take revenge on the new regime for the Ministry of Justice’s executions of Baathists and Sunnis.

The attacks inevitably had implications for the January, 2010, parliamentary elections, insofar as they make Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his ascendant Islamic Mission Party look incompetent in providing security. Since al-Maliki has done a fair job of restoring security to cities such as Basra, this success is a campaign talking point for him, which the guerrillas are attempting to deflect.

There are two dangers here. One is that US hawks will make such attacks a pretext for delaying US troop withdrawal. These sorts of attacks happened all the time when the US troops were patrolling Baghdad, and they only ever were stopped by extreme measures that were impractical for the long run, such as walling off whole neighborhoods and producing 80 percent unemployment.

The second is that Nuri al-Maliki will attempt to deflect any blame for the blasts onto Syria, which he views as harboring Baathist elements who plan these attacks out. Shaky revolutionary regimes like that of Baghdad often go to war to shore themselves up, and Iraq-Syria border clashes are not impossible.

The US Republican Party’s avaricious and illegal war on Iraq destabilized the eastern Mediterranean, perhaps for decades, creating long-term challenges to US and global security of which the Baghdad blasts are very possibly only minor omens.

End/ (Not Continued)

11 Responses

  1. Maybe here?

    Kentucky Lexington Herald Leader
    Posted on Thu, Oct. 28, 2004

    Vast amounts of weapons-related material missing, official says
    BY JONATHAN S. LANDAY
    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    "WASHINGTON – (KRT) – The more than 320 tons of missing Iraqi high explosives at center stage in the U.S. presidential election are only a fraction of the weapons-related material that's disappeared in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion last year.
    Huge amounts of arms and ammunition were stolen from military sites, and there's "ample evidence" that Iraqi insurgents are firing looted weapons at U.S. troops and using some of them in car bombs and improvised explosive devices, said a senior U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    U.N. officials also are concerned about the disappearance of sensitive equipment and controlled materials that could be used to develop nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
    "If this equipment is finding itself on the open market, then anybody with money can buy it," said Dimitri Perricos, acting head of the U.N. Monitoring and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC), the U.N. weapons inspection agency.
    The CIA has convened a "mini taskforce" of experts to assess precisely what equipment is gone and what threat it could pose if it fell into the wrong hands, said two U.S. officials.
    In a new disclosure, the senior U.S. military officer and another U.S. official, who also spoke on condition he not be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that an Iraqi working for U.S. intelligence alerted U.S. troops stationed near the al Qaqaa weapons facility that the installation was being looted shortly after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003.
    But, they said, the troops took no apparent action to halt the pillaging."

  2. Or here, or is it the same??

    EXCLUSIVE: 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS video may be linked to missing explosives in Iraq Updated: 10/28/2004 07:52:21 AM – VIDEO
    "A 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew in Iraq shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein was in the area where tons of explosives disappeared.
    The missing explosives are now an issue in the presidential debate. Democratic candidate John Kerry is accusing President Bush of not securing the site they allegedly disappeared from. President Bush says no one knows if the ammunition was taken before or after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003 when coalition troops moved in to the area.
    Using GPS technology and talking with members of the 101st Airborne 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS determined our crew embedded with them may have been on the southern edge of the Al Qaqaa installation, where that ammunition disappeared. Our crew was based just south of Al Qaqaa. On April 18, 2003 they drove two or three miles north into what is believed to be that area.
    During that trip, members of the 101st Airborne Division showed the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew bunker after bunker of material labelled explosives. Usually it took just the snap of a bolt cutter to get in and see the material identified by the 101st as detonation cords.
    "We can stick it in those and make some good bombs." a soldier told our crew.

    There were what appeared to be fuses for bombs. They also found bags of material men from the 101st couldn't identify, but box after box was clearly marked "explosive."
    In one bunker, there were boxes marked with the name "Al Qaqaa", the munitions plant where tons of explosives allegedly went missing.
    Once the doors to the bunkers were opened, they weren't secured. They were left open when the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew and the military went back to their base.
    "We weren't quite sure what were looking at, but we saw so much of it and it didn't appear that this was being secured in any way," said photojournalist Joe Caffrey. "It was several miles away from where military people were staying in their tents".
    Officers with the 101st Airborne told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the bunkers were within the U.S. military perimeter and protected. But Caffrey and former 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Reporter Dean Staley, who spent three months in Iraq, said Iraqis were coming and going freely.
    "At one point there was a group of Iraqis driving around in a pick up truck,"Staley said. "Three or four guys we kept an eye on, worried they might come near us."

    5 EYEWITNESS NEWS e-mailed pictures of the material we found to experts in Washington Wednesday to see if it is the same kind of high explosives that went missing in Al Qaqaa. They could not make that determination.

    The footage is now in the hands of security experts to see if it is indeed the explosives in question."

  3. The Republicans were in power and bear the main reponsibility for the war. However, the Democrats in the main did NOT oppose the war.

    It is the entire political class that is to blame for the war and for the interventionist, Wilsonian foreign policy that underlies it.

    Obama has done a few good things, like giving up the "missile defense" in Central Europe, but he has NOT abandoned the basic policy orientation of BOTH parties.

  4. .
    not sure, but it looks like Tom Friedman is still hoping to pull out a victory for securing the realm in Iraq:
    link to nytimes.com

    or, maybe he is apologizing, but he has a funny way of doing it ?
    .

  5. Doesn't all this imply that, in order to tamp down this violence, Maliki or his successor will likely end up applying suasion of the type employed by Saddam Hussein? If that happens, won't it mean the end of the what democracy exists today in Iraq? I personally cannot imagine that these attacks can occur without the knowledge, if not concurrence, of certain Sunni tribal members (and not only those in Syria). If Maliki were to expend more effort at reaching out to the Sunnis, would they respond and finger the conspirators more readily? Say, if the Sunnis were to be given a larger power-sharing role in the government. Or is Maliki so busy watching his back from his Shia allies that he cannot possibly extend this sort of power sharing? It looks like to me that the social truce in Iraq is going downhill fast, which is probably what the Sunni insurgents want. I think that they are playing a dangerous game, which could easily blow up on them. Iran isn't going to abandon its Iraqi Shia allies quietly.

  6. Homage to those who have bled for this piece of s–t. Homage to those who soldier on there.

    The "Surge" + the "rent an Iraqi sheikh" program + an acceptance of the intra-shia struggle for political power, these were the ingredients in reducing the level of violence in Iraq. None of that soved the essential political problem in the country.

    That situation could have continued indefinitely but American naivete and belief in the nonsense of nation-state building have led us to walk away from our Sunni clients and now they are angry at what they see as betrayal. Are the abna al-'iraq ( Sons of Iraq ) directly involved or are they just sitting on their hands? Does it matter?

  7. As an engineer who worked in the explosives industry, I can tell you there is nothing remarkable about the explosives, it is simply the quantity that made the difference. No material is strong enough to withstand high explosives, which can generate pressures of more than 2 million psi. Even steel flows like liquid at these pressures.

    It is my understanding that there were thousands of tons of high explosives in Iraq before the war. They are never going to run out of the stuff.

  8. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki immediately blamed al-Qaeda for the new attacks, claiming they were trying to disrupt the January elections… The attacks raised immediate parallels to the August bombing [that targeted the ministries of finance and foreign affairs, which are located about 200 yards away from ground zero of today's blasts] after which al Maliki blamed Ba’athists and broadcast a confession from a "Ba’athist mastermind" even though al-Qaeda claimed credit for that attack. Later, officials broadcast a second "confession" from an al-Qaeda detainee implicating Syria in the attack — straining relations between Syria and Iraq to this day. personally, I don't believe that these attacks have much, whatsoever to do with the January elections (from which the dis-enfranchised Sunni/Arab minority has little to gain by true democratic process, anyway), nor do I think that the bombings have anything to do with the Americans (who "occupy" nothing more than their own bases, and appear to be in total defensive posture, at this point). And though "revenge" does appear to be a part and parcel to the intensity of this violence, Juan, I think it would be a mistake to think of these fierce bombings as vestiges of the Sunni – Shi'ite Civil War in Baghdad. Rather, and in particular, because of their scale : I consider these attacks by Sunni/Arab interests to be the opening salvos, une déclaration d'intention of a wholly new War against the de facto Zones d'Occupation Iranienne et Kurdes in Iraq.

  9. Juan Cole writes: "Shaky revolutionary regimes like that of Baghdad often go to war to shore themselves up". I see that the Maliki government is shaky. But in what sense is the government revolutionary? What Iraqi revolution gaven birth to this government? Have I been missing something recently?

  10. The avaricious and illegal war also removed a tyrant and gave the Iraqis a chance to build a modern and civilized and democratic Iraq with a life they could have never dreamed of while living in saddam's concentration camps.

    Too bad that sort of thing is out of their league, I agree saddam should have stayed in Iraq, poor things don't need any better.

  11. Cole's comments on how the reduction in car bombings were achieved is reflective of his lack of interest in how jihadi groups operate, and how they were combated.

    The car bombs were largely produced in rural areas of provinces like Anbar, and then transported in to Baghdad. Limiting mobility in Baghdad was not enough to defeat them – ultimately dismantling the networks and safehaven all the way back to the farms and garages was essential.

    This could not have been done without the political reconciliation between the USG and Sunni Arab tribal sheikhs.

    Since the US handed over control to Iraqi forces the central government has refused to pay the security forces of the Awakening Councils, and refused to integrate their militias with government forces.

    This repeats the mistakes of the USG 2003-05. Gunmen will rejoin jihadi organisations, and tribal sheikhs have no incentive to collaborate with the Iraqi govt against the jihadi tanzims. The result has been the recovery of jihadi networks.

    The Iraqi government MUST integrate the Sunni tribal sheikhs and their tribal forces in to the political and security framework, or reap the consequences.

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