Clinton Visits Iraq after Deadly Attacks

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Iraq on Saturday after 150 people were killed and twice that many wounded in suicide bombings on Thursday and Friday.  The targets of the attacks were Shiites who were worshipping at mosques, one of which was the most revered Shiite shrine in Baghdad.  The attacks raised concerns that the security situation in Iraq is beginning to deteriorate as American troops prepare to withdraw.

Secretary Clinton sought to reassure Iraqis that the insurgency was not gaining strength and that the US would continue to lend its support.

She said Iraq is “on the right track” and dismissed the attacks as the last gasp of rejectionists.” 

Her comments are eerily similar to those of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who called the insurgents a relatively small group of “dead-enders,” and to those of former Vice President Dich Cheney who claimed that the insurgency was in its “last throes” in 2006.

Secretary Clinton said that the bombings were not an indicator that a new wave of large-scale sectarian violence was underway nor were they a sign that jihadists are making a comeback.

However, there are reasons to believe that her claims are erroneous.  A major suicide bombing at a Shiite shrine in Samarra in 2006 unleashed a torrent of sectarian attacks that led to the highest levels of violence in Iraq since the American invasion.  Sunni fighters, especially those who became knows as the “Sons of Iraq” as they battled with Islamic extremists, are angry that they have not been given positions in the Iraqi security forces and there is a significant possibility that they will rejoin the insurgency if they are not accomodated soon.

Jihadists may be resurgent as well.  The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella organization of militants which includes Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, announced in March that it was launching a new terrorism campaign.  The group has claimed responsibility for many recent bombings.  There have been 18 major attacks in Iraq so far this month.

A surge in violence in Iraq could complicate, or perhaps delay, the American pullout that is supposed to begin in June and end in 2011.  Many, including members of the Iraqi security forces, do not believe that the Iraqi police and army are capable of establishing order once the US withdraws.  Although President Obama has said that all American combat  troops will leave Iraq soon, it is unclear what he would do if Iraq descends into chaos as the US exits.

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