U.S. withdrawal left door open to sectarian battle for power.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Security inside Iraq is unraveling at an alarming pace, and al Qaeda terrorists there aren’t just pulling the thread; they’re setting it on fire.
More than 1,000 Iraqis were killed in bombings and shootings last month, making July the deadliest month since violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims peaked from 2006 to 2008, the United Nations says.
On Thursday, gunmen stormed a policeman’s home in Tikrit and killed him, his wife and their three children. When neighbors later approached the house, a nearby car bomb exploded and killed eight people — a noted al Qaeda tactic, though the terrorist group has not claimed responsibility for the attack.
In the past week alone, more than 85 Iraqis have been gunned down or blown up.
“We are certainly seeing a rise of al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Anthony Cordesman, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Jessica Lewis, a research director at the Institute for the Study of War, said in a recent report that al Qaeda in Iraq is “now setting the terms of battle in Iraq for the first time since 2006.”
Iraq’s slide toward chaos began in the aftermath of the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops, who had mostly secured the country after its eruption of sectarian violence
Nouri al-Maliki. Its insurgency is part of a trend in which the global terrorist network’s affiliates have asserted themselves throughout the Arab world.
This week, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the American consulates in the Iraqi cities of Basra and Erbil were among more than two dozen U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Middle East, Asia and Africa that were closed because of concerns about an imminent terrorist attack. The facilities in Iraq reopened Monday.
“The growing Sunni rebellion in Iraq has fueled the resurgence [of al Qaeda in Iraq], as has the fact that the U.S. isn’t there providing intelligence, backstopping the Iraqi security forces or continuing to train and keep up their skill levels,” said Kenneth Katzman, an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs at the Congressional Research Service.
An Iraqi Embassy spokesman in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
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