Iraq’s fragile peace was shattered on Monday by a coordinated campaign of terrorist attacks in 17 cities that targeted Iraqi security forces and civilians, killing more than 70 people. The attacks occurred almost simultaneously in Baghdad, Karbala, Kut, Kirkuk, Najaf, and other locations and involved suicide bombers, car bombs, and armed attacks on government facilities, police, and Iraqi army posts.
Although no group claimed responsibility, early signs point to al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has mounted many similar attacks in the past. An Iraqi military official cited the attacks as “evidence that al-Qaeda is still effective.”
U.S. military officials noted that the attacks were similar to attacks launched by al-Qaeda in Iraq last August 25, which also involved “large-scale complex attacks” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The attacks have deepened concerns that Iraqi security forces will not be up to the job of ensuring Iraqi security after the withdrawal of the remaining 46,000 U.S. troops by the end of the year, as called for by a 2008 bilateral security pact. The Obama Administration has been engaged in slow-motion, behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Iraqi government to extend the presence of up to 10,000 U.S. troops to provide training and support for Iraqi security forces.
The attacks came shortly after Abu Mohammed Adnani was named as al-Qaeda’s new leader in Iraq and represent an attempt to reignite the Sunni vs. Shia sectarian conflict and show that the group remains a potent threat. The bombing campaign is likely to put added pressure on the Iraqi government to negotiate an extension of the U.S. military presence, despite the reluctance of several parties in Iraq’s coalition government to publicly admit that Iraq still requires considerable American assistance on security matters.