I’m sure that there are going to be some misinformed souls that will blame President Obama for this, but let’s be intellectually honest and remember that President Bush is responsible for the draw-down and withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq, which had to be done at some point.
We always knew that when U.S. forces left various Shiite and Sunni factions would address the power vacuum with more sectarian violence, and today’s string of bombings are the first shots fired in a civil war as inevitable as it is heartbreaking.
At least a dozen separate blasts hit mostly Shia neighbourhoods of the Iraqi city, though some Sunni areas were also affected. The attacks ranged from “sticky bombs” to fully-loaded car bombs, some doubled up to ensure emergency crews were caught by the second blast, a common tactic of Sunni insurgents.
At first sight, the blasts are likely to be attributed to Sunni groups, in response to the hard line taken by the Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the days since American forces observed President Obama’s promise to withdraw by the end of the year.
He has issued a warrant for the arrest of the Sunni vice-president, Tareq al-Hashemi, accusing him of running a hit squad, and called for a vote of no confidence against his own Sunni deputy, vice-premier Saleh al-Mutlaq.
The worst single incident this morning was a suicide attack near a government office in which a stolen ambulance packed with explosives was detonated by its driver, sending debris into the air and into the grounds of a nearby kindergarten. Police said at least 18 people were killed in that bombing alone.
Whether U.S. forces withdrew last week or in 50 years from now, the minority Sunni that have held power in Iraq for so long were going to face a backlash for decades of harsh rule by the majority Shia, especially as fueling that tension benefits Shia Iran.
I have not yet heard the mainstream media use the phrase “civil war” to describe the sectarian conflict that is beginning anew in Iraq, but that is almost certainly what these blasts signify. al Qaeda and aligned Sunni groups that were almost destroyed during the surge that took place during the Bush Administration have had three years to lick their wounds, train and recruit, and they are the groups most likely responsible for today’s attacks.
I say “most likely” for the simple reason that if I’ve learned anything about writing about the depravity and viciousness of the sectarian violence between Muslim groups, it is that they are more than willing to sacrifice their own people as willing or unwilling martyrs to the cause.
A perceived series of Sunni bombings may be exactly what it seems to be, but I would not be surprised in the least if it was determined that the attacks were launched by Shia zealots in order to create the necessary political will and public outrage to justify a government-run pogrom against Sunnis.
What should we expect in the months and years ahead? Much of what we’ve seen since 2003, without the associated U.S. military casualties.
The Iraqi civil war will be fought upon several predefined fronts. There is the political warfare in the Iraqi Parliament and branches of government, sectarian versus sectarian and “government” versus sectarian combat, and the media war.
The political war has long been simmering, and rose to a boiling point in recent days as Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki brought terrorism charges against Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and is attempting to oust Sunni deputy prime minister, Saleh al-Mutlaq. The Shiite majority is attempting to disenfranchise the Sunni minority in the government, and may well have the political muscle to accomplish this in a few short months, if not weeks.
The physical combat phase will pit Shia-loyal government military forces against Sunni terrorists and militias, who will also be squeezed by Shia terrorists and militias. There are considerable Sunni forces in the nation’s military but they will be purged or marginalized.
The outcome is bloody but inevitable. The Shiite-led government are going to be pitting U.S. military training and equipment and Iranian special ops capability to hunt down and kill Sunni militants, political leaders, and imams in a ruthless ethic cleansing that is likely to see more internal displacement than the U.S. led war that just officially ended.
Wealthy Sunnis will leave the country or accept being relegated to being a subservient culture in a role reversal from the privileged status they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein. Shias will use their demographic advantages and political strength to establish dominance over the bulk of the nation. It only remains to be seen if they have an interest in also taking over the semi-autonomous Kurdish areas in the north of the country or if they find the Kurds destabilizing role in Turkish and Iranian politics to be to their advantage.
Whether or not the Shia decide to establish domination over the Kurds may well hinge upon how political infighting within the winning Shiite coalition turns out.
There exists a significant nationalist streak even within the Iraqi Shia that would accept Iranian help to punish the Iraqi Sunni that have long oppressed them, only to freeze-out Iran once they’ve established dominance.
These nationalist Shias will more than likely win out in any intra-sectarian political or physical conflicts with the Iranian-allied Shia, as the nationalists will have greater support from the West and Iranian-allied Shia.
These horrific bombings are just the opening salvos of a long and protracted Iraqi civil war decades in the making.