The suicide bombings in Baghdad on October 25 were the worst in the city for over two years. They reveal serious holes in Iraqi security as well as the continuing political problems posed by the United States-led military occupation of Iraq. The facts are that a van and a minibus, each carrying a tonne or more of explosives, passed through several checkpoints before being detonated near the Justice Ministry and several provincial council buildings. Trucks are banned from Baghdad during daylight hours without military permits, which are to be examined at every checkpoint. The terror vehicles got through in what looks like an expert attack. The Defence and Interior Ministries are investigating possible collusion or negligence by Iraqi security forces. The estimated death toll is 155, including several children at two day-care centres in the Justice Ministry building. Over 500 people were injured and an unknown number are missing. The buildings of the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works, both seven storeys high, were destroyed in the blasts, as was a third government building.

Responsibility for the attacks has been claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida affiliate. The political consequences are far-reaching. Immediately after the attacks, Iraqi party leaders reached agreement on a law for the general election, which is due in January; the politicians had been haggling for weeks. Agreement over the counting system for votes in Kirkuk is still awaited, and there is no sign of a deal between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional administration over oil revenues. Secondly, the work of the devastated Ministries will be severely affected. This will hurt the official Iraqi posture that the state is functioning. In fact, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party has been flaunting its security record in the election campaign. Thirdly, Iraq’s regional relations have suffered. Mr. al-Maliki has accused Syria of harbouring Saddamist Ba’athists, whom he blames for the bombings; and the relevant ambassadors have been withdrawn. President Obama’s plan to reduce troop strength from the current 120,000, starting two months after the election, could stall, making it harder for the U.S. to send reinforcements to Afghanistan. Furthermore, a return of U.S. troops to Iraqi cities would signify political failure, showing Iraq’s continuing dependence on the U.S. presence; many Iraqis as well as groups in other countries would see that as further reason to carry out attacks. Above all, the bombings have exposed the fact that the U.S. and its western allies are exacerbating as many problems in Iraq as they are in Afghanistan.

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