Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Shii Festival approaches in Iraq = Trouble?

The NYT reports the deaths of 11 Iraqis, with more than 60 "wounded" (that word can roll off the tongue so easily, can't it? But if often means "lives ruined"), in both Baghdad and Ramadi. (The LA Times gives the entire story only 3 paragraphs.) The Baghdad bombing was in the Shii ghetto of Sadr City; probably the work of Sunnis trying to stir up the residents against the Shii-led government, especially as the US troops pull out of the city.

Ramadi, on the other hand, is in supposedly pacified Anbar province, and the suicide bombing there comes at a time when problems seem to be stirring in Fallujah, which is also in Anbar (the mostly Sunni west of Iraq) and which was the epicenter of Sunni resistance to the US invasion in 2003 and 2004 - before the US flattened the city and clamped down on the residents. The US's hope was that the Sunni Sahwa (Awakening) local forces had Anbar under control, and that it would remain pacified. One suicide bombing does not make for a trend, but don't forget that part of the deal was that the Awakening forces would get jobs with the Shii-led al-Maliki government. That hasn't happened. (Maliki really isn't that interested in empowering Sunnis, and he needs money to pay them anyway. Without oil revenues, the money's not going to be there.) Anbar bears watching.

As does Baghdad this weekend, when a major festival to honor Musa al-Kadhim, a major Shii saint, will attract thousands of pilgrims. Gatherings such as these have been prime targets for bombers in recent years. And this time, US forces will no longer be at hand to help with security - and the Iraqi government says it doesn't want them around anyhow. So, it's all on the Iraqi security forces. "Al-Qaeda" elements and Sunni nationalist resistance guys may see this as a prime opportunity to undercut the Maliki government by exposing them as weak and unable to protect the population.

I'm betting there will be some incidents. Let's just hope I'm wrong. The Iraqi people have had more than enough horror.

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