With no sign of any coherent political dialogue or credible plan to end the current bloodshed the spate of violence continued into Monday of this week with a least 23 people killed in a series of car bombs in Shi’ite Muslim areas and militant attacks, medics and police sources said, taking the week’s death toll to nearly 200. Violence also continued unabated in Mosul as militants clashed with security forces killing three.
Early on Monday, at least nine people were killed and 40 wounded in two car bomb explosions in Amara, 300 km southeast of Baghdad. The first of two blasts in Amara, ripped through a market where people were meeting to eat breakfast, and the second hit an area where day laborers were gathering to look for work. Across the south Sunni insurgents also kept up the pressure throughout the day with multiple IED strikes in Shia strongholds. Another car bomb was detonated in a market in Diwaniya, 150 km south of Baghdad, killing two people. Later on Monday a bomb in a parked car went off near a busy market in Karbala, killing at least three people with a near simultaneous attack killing a further six people killed in an explosion near a Shi’ite worship site in Mahmudiya, about 30 km south of Baghdad.
By way of conclusion, in the coming weeks much will depend on how much pressure the various sectarian groups can soak up in the face of continued provocation, and how much more transnational influence will come across the border from Syria. Of particular interest will be whether groups such as ISI and the Men of the Army of the Naqshbandia Order, commonly known by the initials of its Arabic name, J.R.T.N., (which has emerged as a potential alternative to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia for Sunnis who and are taking up arms once again) can establish an even stronger foothold amongst the Sunni community.
The fear that has gripped Iraq reflects the shifting nature of the recent violence. Random explosions have only a limited ability to challenge the authority of the state, partly because so many leaders, Sunnis and other citizens have disavowed such attacks. But what Iraqis are seeing now is entirely different: large numbers of Sunni men are picking up weapons, forming militia units and pledging to fight the government in a marked departure from the reserved and stoic nature of the protest movement.
The likelihood of a civil war could hinge on two things: Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s ability to defuse the crisis by offering meaningful concessions to Sunnis, in the form of judicial overhaul and the release of Sunni prisoners held without charges; and the ability of groups like the Naqshbandia organization to persuade Sunnis to embark on a campaign of sustained armed resistance.