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Iraqi Parliamentary Elections in March Raise Concerns of Violent Turmoil

With elections to the Iraqi Parliament looming on the horizon (set for March 7, 2010), my next few posts will focus on aspects of political parties, security, terrorism and government responsibility for peacekeeping.  The more we as Americans know about the parties running, what they stand for and the chances that security can ensure a majority vote, the better we can assess our military and exit strategy.  For example, at this point, it my firm belief that security in Iraq needs to be addressed and anti-terrorist tactics should be reevaluated.  In my mind, the political party that acknowledges these deficiencies has a better shot of fixing them than the party that claims nothing more can be done.  And therefore the party who claims they will fix security problems has a better shot of being elected.

The biggest news this week with respect to elections was talk of the three bombs detonated in the vicinity of three western hotels: the Hamra Hotel, the Ishtar Hotel (a former Sheraton) and the Babylon Hotel.  The Christian Science Monitor reported that gunmen on the main road outside of the Hamra fired on guards at the checkpoint outside of the hotel compound, when a pickup truck drove through the checkpoint barricade.  The guards shot and killed the driver immediately before the truck exploded on the street outside the hotel.

Hotel employees emerged from the damaged building in awe, some of them injured.  The Hamra bombing also damaged some residential houses in the vicinity and the owners wandered through the rubble in the streets.  The New York Times said the bombings all targeted hotels where western journalists and businessmen (many American) have recently been based.  The bombs were detonated approximately three minutes apart, were clearly coordinated and happened during rush hour.  Thirty-six people were killed and 71 were wounded.

The Iraqi government announced that Al Qaida in Iraq (with Baathist ties) was to blame, citing the execution of “Chemical Ali” Ali Hassin al-Majid that same day.  Al-Majid had been responsible for chemical weapons campaigns against Iraqi Kurds and Shi’a during Saddam Hussein’s tenure.  However, many Iraqi citizens are linking the bombings to the upcoming elections. To me, this makes more sense — this effort was large, with three separate sites, and had to have coordinated tens of people.  These concise attacks are rarely thrown together at the last minute out of anger.  This had to have been planned at least a month in advance.

As The Christian Science Monitor also reported, many believe the terrorism is an attempt by other political parties to destabilize the party currently in power.  The New York Times explained it as showing the world that the current government cannot control security, particularly by quoting an Iraqi analyst, Hazim al-Nuaimi.  Al-Nuaimi stated the point was to prove that Iraqis cannot provide safety for foreigners.

The Times went on to describe the lack of respect for security and police officers, reporting that residents were shouting angrily at them as they tried to clear the streets following the bombings.  They also wrote that security checkpoints in Iraq employ a bomb-detecting device that has been banned from export by Britain because it’s useless.  And using simple reasoning, with checkpoints nearly at every intersection, bridge and overpass, the fact that bombs still infiltrate the cities means checkpoint security is not particularly effective.

With prior bombings in August, October and December, it will be interesting to see what happens in the next five weeks.  I sincerely hope that terrorist attacks cease, but prior knowledge of other similar situations in the Middle East (particularly Palestine and Israel) tells me that’s just a pipe dream.  I do believe that it is in the ruling government’s best interest to step up security — otherwise, supporters from around the world will begin backing alternative parties, hoping that maybe they will take the security situation seriously.

 

Author

Jennifer Bushaw

Jennifer Bushaw holds an MA from the University of Chicago in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis on policy. She focused her research, including her Thesis, on modern Iraq and the Iraq war. She also has a Bachelor's in History from the University of Michigan. Jennifer is currently working as an Investigative Research Associate for a security advisory and management firm in Chicago, Illinois.

Areas of Focus:
Iraq-US Policy; Security; Coalition Operations;

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