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Black Wednesday In Baghdad

Iraqis gather at the site of yesterday's car bomb explosion in Baghdad's al-Sadriyah neighborhood, 19 April 2007. An avalanche of car bomb attacks on Shiite districts in Baghdad slaughtered 190 people yesterday and delivered a savage blow to the credibility of a two-month-old US security plan. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) April 19, 2007
The first thing to say about the horrific events in Baghdad Wednesday is that a single day's mayhem, no matter how horrific, does not decide the outcome of a war. The U.S. troop buildup in Iraq is not completed and will not be so until at least the end of next month. Wars are bloody, tragic, messy and above all unpredictable. The finest security forces and counter-insurgency troops in the world have their bad or unlucky days.

Having said that, however, the implications of Wednesday's four bombings that killed at least 183 people are depressing and sobering.

First, this was clearly not simply a case of the bombers "getting lucky."

Unlike the al-Qaida terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which Osama bin Laden's followers have been thankfully unable to duplicate over the past five and a half years, the success of the Sunni insurgents' Wednesday bombings in Baghdad was part of a consistent and escalating pattern.

As we have monitored in previous Eye on Iraq columns over the past two months, Gen. David Petraeus' "islands" or "ink-blots" of stability strategy in the Iraqi capital of 6 million people has already proved highly effective in deterring the main Sunni and Shiite militias from continuing their previous wild sprees of random and retaliatory killings. But it has failed to reduce the level of multiple-fatality bombings by car or truck bomb and by suicide bombers.

Those MFB attacks have been steadily escalating in terms of the numbers of casualties inflicted. Wednesday's attacks were more numerous and bloody than previous ones, but they were simply a further extension of an already successful strategy.

The worst of the four attacks took place in the Sadriyah market, where 127 people were killed and another 148 wounded. It was only two and a half months since an earlier attack at the same market killed 137 people.

Second, it is quite clear that four years after U.S. forces first entered Baghdad, U.S. military intelligence and the CIA have failed to achieve widespread penetration of the Sunni terror bombing rings.

One of the reasons why the Viet Cong gambled so heavily on their daring but immensely costly Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968 was that they were reeling from the success of the CIA's Phoenix counter-insurgency program. Tet was a double-or-nothing gamble to reverse the tide. Although it failed militarily, it achieved its political and strategic goals through its impact on the American public and the U.S. leadership of the time.

But so far, U.S. forces in Iraq, still hobbled by a lack of Arabic speakers and military analysts familiar with the complexities of Iraqi political culture and history, have been unable to make any inroads into the Sunni terror bomb groups comparable to those of the Phoenix program against the Viet Cong.

There have certainly been many operational successes, many due to the fast-reacting tactical excellence of U.S. forces on the ground. But the number of bombings against Shiite civilian targets and the numbers of casualties inflicted by them has been steadily and rapidly rising.

Further, Wednesday's attacks showed a degree of coordination and planning in excess of anything the insurgents had previously managed since the start of the "surge." That leaves open the even more disquieting possibility that Black Wednesday may not prove to be an aberration or a lucky "hole in one" for the insurgents.

Instead, it could mark their ability to metastasize their bombing campaign in Baghdad to a new level of scale and intensity.

It should also be noted that the bombings took place only a few days after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's already ineffectual government was further weakened by the resignation of six Cabinet ministers loyal to the political faction of Moqtada Sadr and his Mahdi Army. The latest attacks were clearly intended to further undermine Maliki's credibility among the Shiite community by displaying his continued inability to protect them.

In these columns, we have repeatedly expressed our skepticism that the "surge" strategy could work because the U.S. forces involved were too few to establish control of a city the size of Baghdad, because the Iraqi security forces remain ineffectual and because Maliki's administration remains a government in name only.

To all this should be added the continued failure of the U.S. forces in Iraq to effectively penetrate the Sunni insurgent organizations. Unfortunately, Wednesday's bombings appear to confirm these concerns. Nine weeks into the "surge," Baghdad is more violent and chaotic than ever.

Source: United Press International

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Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century

Suicide Bomb Attacks Present Top Challenge In Iraq
Washington DC (AFNS) Apr 19, 2007
Suicide-bomb attacks on coalition and Iraqi troops and civilians, orchestrated by Al Qaeda and Sunni extremists, present the top challenge in establishing security and stability in Iraq, the commander of U.S. Central Command testified at a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill today.







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