Bombings took the lives of 62 Shiite pilgrims, mostly in the holy city of Karbala, but also in Diyala province. Sunni Arab guerrillas are still attempting to destabilize the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki by provoking Shiite-Sunni feuds and spreading a feeling of instability that interferes with investment and reconstruction. On Tuesday, a suicide bomber killed some 60 persons in the northern Sunni Arab city of Tikrit, as they were standing in a police recruitment line. The Sunni Arab guerrillas are thus still pursuing a strategy of punishing Sunni Arabs for what they see as ‘collaboration’ and of attempting to foment Sunni-Shiite civil violence.
Al-Hayat, writing in Arabic, reports that authorities halted the pilgrim processions in Karbala as soon as the first bomb went off.
The bombings come at a time when al-Maliki still has not filled key cabinet portfolios such as Interior and Defense, for the moment holding them himself. The bombings are thus an embarrassment to the recently formed national unity government and its prime minister. In the past two days, bombings and attacks have killed at least 139 persons in Iraq, including the attack in Tikrit and further bombings in Diyala Province. The violence is typically blamed on the Islamic State of Iraq, a shadowy terrorist organization supposedly affiliated to al-Qaeda. But likely the bombings are the work of cells of disgruntled Iraqi Sunni Arabs, including Arab nationalists as well as fundamentalists, who do not accept the dominance of Iraq by Shiites and Kurds or the new Baghdad alliance with Tehran.
All these years after George W. Bush’s insane war of choice against Iraq, that country remains mired in civil war, as social scientists define it:
“Sustained military combat, primarily internal, resulting in at least 1,000 battle-deaths per year, pitting central government forces against an insurgent force capable of effective resistance, determined by the latter’s ability to inflict upon the government forces at least 5 percent of the fatalities that the insurgents sustain.” (Errol A. Henderson and J. David Singer, “Civil War in the Post-Colonial World, 1946-92,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 37, No. 3, May 2000.)
Some 676 insurgents were killed in Iraq in 2010 , according to Iraq Body Count. To meet the Henderson and Singer criterion for a civil war, the guerrillas would thus have to kill about 34 Iraqi troops annually. In fact, they killed 408, or 60% of the fatalities that the insurgents sustained. Actually, one could argue that we should include the 60 US troops killed in this number, and perhaps even the 1,075 policemen, many of whom undertake paramilitary duties. In the maximal case, the insurgents killed 1.543 government or government-allied security forces, or over twice the number that Iraqi government forces killed among the guerrillas.
The total of deaths from political violence in Iraq in 2010 was 5,167. This number included 4,023 civilians, though apparently the 1,075 policemen killed are being included in that ‘civilian’ category.
In any case, Henderson and Singer would certainly consider Iraq a civil war on the basis of these statistics.
The bad news is that there is no early prospect of this civil war ending, and security improvements have leveled off in recent months.
All this is not to say that the 47,000 US troops still in the country should remain (at all!) If Arabic-speaking, Iraqi Shiite troops and police could not stop a truck bombing in Karbala, US troops wouldn’t have a prayer of doing so. This level of violence cannot in fact bring down the Iraqi government. But it can keep Iraq from attracting foreign investment and keep the population nervous, and so is an element of destabilization.
Bush and the Neoconservatives’ shining beacon on a hill has in fact become a nearly 8 year long civil war, with no end in sight.