The NYT reports that a suicide bomber killed 33 persons and wounded over 60 at Abu Ghraib, striking at a meeting of tribal sheikhs accompanied by military officers. Seven of the dead were officers, including the commanding officer of the newly opened Abu Ghraib prison, according to al-Hayat writing in Arabic. Also killed was a commander of the Iraqi military at Muthanna, who had been detailed to the Ministry of the Interior. Al-Hayat says that the meeting was called by a section of the Interior Ministry concerned with outreach to the rural clan leaders, and the sheikhs were meeting with some officers in a search for national reconciliation. It was everything that the Sunni Arab radical guerrillas would not have wanted to see.
The NYT and other media wondered why the spike in big bombings (a police academy was bombed on Sunday, leaving over 30 dead). As the NYT notes, however, bombings happen daily in Iraq, though they don’t usually kill this many people any more. I’m not sure the violence is starting back up, and think it is more likely that it has been percolating right along with smaller death tolls, and these two operations were just better planned. It should be remembered that the Lancet study found that only 14 percent of excess violent deaths in Iraq were from bombings, and most people were killed by simple rifle fire. A lot of that sort of thing still happens daily.
The NYT lists some possible reasons for the increased number and power of bombings in Iraq, including the release of prisoners by the US military as it prepares to depart.
These include the prospect of a US troop withdrawal, and the release by the US military of large numbers of Iraqi militants who had been in its custody. But these allegations just seem to me to lay the blame on the Status of Forces Agreement, which elements of the US establishment in Baghdad deeply dislike and which they are determined to overturn.
It would have to be shown that the monthly death totals for March are significantly higher than those from last fall before the SOFA was concluded in order for this analysis to hold water, and I predict that it would be difficult to so demonstrate. In fact, it seems pretty obvious that as soon as the SOFA was announced, with its timetable for US withdrawal, violence declined steeply.
The groups that hit the police on Sunday and the sheikhs on Tuesday have been there all along.
Gen. Ray Odierno said Tuesday that he saw no sign that the Iraqi government intended to reverse course and ask US troops to stay past 2011.
Me, I very much doubt that the Iraqi parliament would vote for the US to stay past that date.
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