Lest anyone suspect that Afghanistan is the only theater of war that U.S. strategists need to concern themselves with, the recent car bombings in Iraq is a seriously unwelcome reminder that things may not be proceeding altogether well in that front of the late, unlamented war on terror. An "Iraqi Crisis Report" from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting suggests that the potential unraveling of Iraq remains real, particularly in the aftermath of an American drawdown.
The car bombings returned a shocking degree of violence to the streets of Baghdad on December 8, but more worrisome has been the lack of overall progress knitting this nascent democratic state together. Though the major ethnic and cultural partners in Iraq were finally able to agree, after much U.S. prodding, to schedule multi-party elections in March, it's not clear that they can hold Iraq together without the mediation of the Americans, who plan a major withdrawal of forces by mid-2010 and a complete withdrawal by 2011. “The American role is necessary now in Iraq, not only to maintain security but to maintain political stability,” said Hameed Fadhel, a political sciences professor at Baghdad University. “The Iraqi people no longer trust their politicians."
The bombs went off just days after the election green-lighting, indicating that more violence is likely as the elections approach.
Foreign Policy named Iraq's "new flashpoints" one of the top 10 unreported stories of 2009: "From a persistent insurgency carrying out regular attacks in major cities, to the country's 2.7 million remaining internal refugees, to a distressing lack of political reconciliation in Baghdad, Iraq has any number of emerging flashpoints that threaten to tear apart the tentative progress of recent years."
"Most troubling of all," reports FP, "may be the growing fears of a new conflict between Iraq's Arab and Kurdish populations in Nineveh where a large Kurdish population confronts an increasingly assertive Arab nationalist party, intent on driving Kurdish influence and its peshmerga militia from the province.