At least 51 people have been killed and more than 100 injured after suicide bombers attacked hundreds queuing up outside a military recruitment centre in Baghdad.
The area which was targeted on Tuesday is close to one of the city's main bus stations. It is especially crowded in the morning when the attack took place, allowing suspected suicide bombers to mingle with the crowds undetected.
The old Defence Ministry during the rule of the former President, Saddam Hussein, was the site of the attack. It was converted into a troop recruitment centre following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by the United States.
The bombing took place a day after talks between two main power blocs, one led by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and another headed by the former Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, broke down.
Analysts point out that the significant spurt in Iraq violence in recent months can in large measure be attributed to the political vacuum after the March parliamentary elections. While Mr. Allawi's Iraqiya formation had mustered 91 seats, the maximum by any political group in the 325-member Parliament, these numbers are not enough to allow him to form a government. Mr. Maliki's State of Law list with 89 seats emerged a close second, but, it too, has been unable to strike a deal with other formations for forming a coalition government.
The political deadlock is also seen by many as the result of a tussle between the U.S. and Iran for political influence in Baghdad, observers say. Writing in his blog, Informed Comment, West Asia specialist, Juan Cole, said: “Washington's goal is presumably to put the secular Iyad Allawi in ultimate charge of Iraq's security forces”.
“He is an old-time CIA asset and relatively anti-Iranian and so is trusted by the U.S. political establishment.” He added that, on the contrary, Mr. Maliki “is not considered very close to Iran, but he has correct relations with that country and Iran has made it clear that it wants Al-Maliki to remain in power”.
As the Americans gear up to begin their pull-out from Iraq at the month-end, ending the political impasse in Baghdad has acquired fresh urgency. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Americans are now supporting a move that would diminish the powers of the Prime Minister, but bestow much greater authority in a proposed “council on national strategy.” The new body would include the Prime Minister and his two deputies, senior Ministers, the President, the two Vice-Presidents and the Speaker of Parliament. However, some analysts are of the view that this move might not succeed, as it would require a constitutional amendment, for which the required numbers may not be available.