Saturday, August 22, 2009

Debating Wednesday's bombings

Liz Sly and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) report on the arrests of the supposed "cell" of Ba'athists as a result of Wednesday's Baghdad bombings and they note:

The arrests came as recriminations continued to fly over the devastating bombings, which killed nearly 100 people, wounded more than 500 and shattered faith in the ability of the Iraqi security forces to maintain order now that U.S. forces have withdrawn from the cities.
Top lawmakers called for a comprehensive review of the nation's security strategies and for the resignation of key security officials, intensifying pressure on Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government to apprehend those responsible for the attacks.

Chip Cummins and Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) offer more on the session with lawmakers:

At a closed-door meeting Friday, parliamentary leaders questioned the ministers of defense and interior, in charge of the bulk of Iraq's security. They also questioned the head of the Baghdad Security Command, a separate security unit in the capital.
Lawmakers criticized the security services for what many see as a convoluted and sometimes overlapping bureaucracies. "The problem is that there is no strategic coordination between the heads of the security apparatus," Azhar al-Samaraei, a Sunni lawmaker, told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.

Note that this was not a parliamentary hearing. Parliament does not come back to session until next month (like the US Congress). This week saw numerous theories on who was responsible for the bombings and why. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy offers a possible reason for the latest wave of attacks:

Al Qaeda and other groups will do their best to make the American troops stay in Iraq and not to concentrate on Afghanistan, or at least to keep the American military fighting on more than one front. That's why the reason behind anything happening here can relate to American military.
But the list of reasons can be long. Some will benefit from the deteriorating security situation to win elections by raising fear among the people among sects and ethnicities. These bombings also show the persistence of these criminals to undermine any effort to pacify Iraq.
The Iraqi government problem is not capabilities or anything else. I believe their problem is that their will to win is weaker than the determination of the terrorists. It's a matter of loyalty.
Today's bombings are not the actions of a weak and scattered organization. It is not the work of someone who is afraid. It is the work of someone who is in control and free to move in Baghdad, these words came from Al Baghdadiyah satellite channel, which had to broadcast news from its Cairo office because of damage in their Baghdad studio due to a bombing in eastern Baghdad.
Here in Baghdad fear can be seen in faces and can be heard in voices it is not the fear from the explosions; it is the fear of going back to the years before 2008.

A post yesterday by an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy noted:

Several people I talked to in Fallujah and Baghdad are full of doubt. They wonder how a truck loaded with more than one ton of explosives could escape more than 200 checkpoints throughout Baghdad?!If you are driving your car in Baghdad there will be one way to escape checkpoints without being searched properly, I mean after the explosive detectors point to your car, and that way is to show them a badge. A badge of an officer will be the perfect way.The fact that there were officers of the presidential guards involved in a bank theft and killing eight guards at the end of last month made people suspect anything.
The detention of officers to investigate yesterday’s attacks came as a proof to that theory.
Former officers of the army and police think the security plan is poor and cannot bring security because it depends merely on checkpoints and blast walls. Under Saddam there were no more than few checkpoints on the main roads that enter Baghdad, yet security for citizens was better. Add to that depending on checkpoints to impose security is not a solution because car bombs might explode and cause casualties among the civilians who are waiting in checkpoints.

It's interesting that US outlets repeatedly pimped the "It's to hurt Nouri in January elections!" line and it took an Iraqi to note another possibility.

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