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Black Flags over Baghdad and the Return of al-Qaeda in Iraq

A day after President Obama vowed no delays to the drawdown of troops in Iraq, synchronized car bombs killed 33 people and five police officers were murdered in Baghdad.

In both cases, the attackers hoisted the black flag of the Islamic State of Iraq — a clear sign that al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is still alive and kicking.

AQIs Dark Colors

AQI's Dark Colors

All told, 42 people were killed in violence on Tuesday, days after figures compiled by the Ministries of Health, Interior and Defense showed 535 people were killed by violence in July, the highest monthly figure in more than two years.

The US military, however, has contested those figures, pronouncing them “grossly overstated.”

What’s not overstated in AQI’s resurgence. Semantics aside, just last week, gunmen armed with silenced pistols advanced on an army checkpoint inside the barricaded neighborhood of Adhamiyah and fatally shot four soldiers.

As security forces rushed to the scene to investigate, four coordinated bombs that had been planted previously ripped through the first responders. Although the death toll was uncertain, the fact that insurgent gunmen had successfully launched a rare, coordinated attack on Iraqi soldiers and briefly erected the flag of AQI may have offered an unwelcome reminder of things to come.

This attack came on the heels of a brazen insurgent assault on the heavily guarded compound of al-Arabiya television in Baghdad.

In a report posted by The Washington Post, AQI asserted responsibility and “warned that it would target other news organizations that the group deems part of the “war on Allah and His Messenger,” according to a translation of the claim provided by SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks insurgent Web sites.

All this, as the AP warns of rumors run rampant that al Qaeda in Iraq has begun paying cash to lure back former Sunni allies left bitter by the government’s failure to provide jobs and pay their salaries on time, according to tribesmen and Iraqi officials.

If AQI wanted to take advantage of a “summer of uncertainty” to launch a vigorous recruitment drive, the waning U.S. troop presence combined with a bitter political deadlock seems tailor made.



Reid Smith

Reid Smith has worked as a research associate specializing on U.S. policy in the Middle East and as a political speechwriter. He is currently a doctoral student and graduate associate with the University of Delaware's Department of Political Science and International Relations. He blogs and writes for The American Spectator.

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