U.S. : Attacks not sign of instability
March 12, 2009
The White House and military leaders in Baghdad say the two attacks this week that interrupted Iraq’s relative peace are not related to the president’s withdrawal plan, but some Iraqi leaders are bracing themselves for increased chaos in the future.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said security challenges remain in Iraq. Yet he denied that suicide bombings like the one that killed 33 people Tuesday encouraged other potential attackers or emboldened those seeking to destabilize the country.
"Obviously, I mean, the previous administration negotiated and signed an agreement that ends not just our combat commitment but our entire military commitment, and I don’t think that that would be done if it presented a scenario in which the country would fall into further danger," he said.
In Tuesday’s attack, a suicide bomber hit Iraqi army officers on their way to a reconciliation conference.
Maj. David Shoupe, a spokesman for Multi-National Division–Baghdad, said Wednesday that the attacks are meant to diminish the Iraqi government in the eyes of the Iraqi people.
However, he said, Iraqi security forces continue to make progress and noted that attacks are at a three-year low.
He said he did not see any correlation between the attacks and the withdrawal plan.
"What these attacks say is that there remain terrorists who are opposed to the reconciliation process in Iraq and the way ahead," Shoupe wrote in an e-mail interview. "While there still remains work ahead, we don’t believe that the attacks are a sign of growing instability. On the contrary, they were aimed at Sunni leaders and [Iraqi Security Forces] recruits that had put past hatreds aside and were working toward a more peaceful Iraq — the very thing Al Qaida fears most."
Not all Iraqi leaders believe such a future is inevitable, though. The New York Times reported Wednesday that some Iraqi military leaders worry that al-Qaida in Iraq is reforging an alliance with hard-line Baathist leaders.
American leaders exploited differences between Sunni insurgents and jihadists to turn the tide against al-Qaida — an event dubbed the Awakening that senior leaders are trying to duplicate in Afghanistan.
Awakening groups threatened violence just a month ago over disputes rising from the provincial elections. Tribal leaders threatened to take up arms against the ruling party in Anbar over accusations that it padded ballot boxes with 100,000 votes. The crisis was only averted when a third party came out ahead of both groups.
The centralist tendencies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition, whose strong showing in January’s provincial elections portends success in the upcoming parliamentary election, could also chafe local leaders who’ve grown more used to autonomy over the war years.
Meanwhile, Awakening members are themselves targets in Tarmiyah. One member was killed Sunday in Tarmiyah, and leaders across the country say there have been several assassinations. Awakening groups have been a popular target of enemy fighters ever since they broke with the insurgents. Sheiks and other leaders friendly with the United States and Iraqi government have paid a high price over the past six years. The remaining "Sons of Iraq" members are especially vulnerable as they man their checkpoints.
The calm also increases pressure on the government to remove the concrete barriers that have made it harder for attackers to move explosives into crowded places.