17 Aug 2010

Baghdad bombing highlights Iraq's political void

Lindsey Hilsum blogs on how today’s Baghdad bomb attack is the latest sign that insurgents are seeking to exploit the political void caused by Iraq’s inconclusive election.

Today’s bombing in central Baghdad is the latest sign that violence is filling the political void in Iraq. More than five months after the elections, the two political groupings who gained the most votes are no longer even discussing forming a coalition. In July, 396 civilians were killed – nearly double the previous month.

“I think some of the increase in attacks is a way perhaps to try to embarrass the government or a way to politicize the security issues in the country,” said Major General Stephen Lanza, the US military spokesman.

The Americans are supposed to be pulling out their last combat forces by the end of this month, leaving 50,000 troops in Iraq on standby, and involved in training the Iraqi military.

The idea is that by now, seven years after the US invasion, the Iraqi government should be stable enough to run the country without active US military support. But there is no legitimate government, as Prime Minister Maliki’s administration no longer has a mandate.

Mr Maliki will not cede power to Ayad Allawi, the leader of the Iraqiya faction which won just two seats more at the polls. But Mr Allawi yesterday withdrew from coalition talks. The result is stalemate – and violence. 

According to the think tank Stratfor, many of Mr Maliki’s allies are taking their orders from Tehran, which is doing its obstructionist utmost.

“There are not enough of these politicians to create a government, but there are enough to block a government from being formed. Therefore, no government is being formed,” said the most recent Stratfor analysis. Others blame Mr Allawi’s grouping, which brings together both Shia and Sunni politicians, for refusing to accommodate Mr Maliki’s faction.

With no government, even the illusion of stability cannot be maintained. Today’s bombing of an army recruitment centre, with nearly 50 dead, is a sign of how dangerous the situation is.