Today is the 10th anniversary of the second US invasion of Iraq, which deposed Saddam Hussein and created years of division and controversy in the US. Terrorists marked the occasion with a series of bombings that killed at least 56 Iraqis in Baghdad, aimed mainly at Shi’ites:
Insurgents unleashed deadly attacks Tuesday against Shiite areas in Baghdad, killing at least 56 people and wounding some 200 more, according to officials. The blasts highlight increasing sectarian tensions in Iraq a decade after the U.S.-led war began.
The morning attacks, mostly by car bombs, targeted mainly small restaurants, daily laborers and bus stops in the Iraqi capital within a one-hour period.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attacks bore hallmarks of al Qaeda in Iraq.
The deadly wave of bombings came as the country marked a decade since the U.S.-led war began with the March 19, 2003 invasion. Violence has ebbed but insurgent attacks are still frequent across Iraq.
According to Reuters, this appears to be part of a consistent al-Qaeda campaign to “take back” Iraq after the departure of American combat forces:
No group claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s blasts, but Iraq’s al Qaeda wing, Islamic State of Iraq, has vowed to take back ground lost in its long war with American troops. Since the start of the year the group has carried out a string of high-profile attacks.
Gunmen and suicide bombers stormed the well-protected Justice Ministry building in central Baghdad on Thursday, killing 25 people in an attack by the al Qaeda affiliate.
A decade after U.S. and Western troops swept into Iraq to remove Saddam from power, Iraq still struggles with a stubborn insurgency, sectarian frictions and political instability among its Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions.
Syria’s civil war is further fanning Iraq’s volatility as Islamist insurgents invigorated by the mainly Sunni rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad try to tap into Sunni Muslim discontent in Iraq.
The problem, then, wasn’t really the presence of American troops. It was the presence of al-Qaeda, which continues to be the issue. As Western nations prepare to lift restrictions on selling arms to Syrian rebels, the influx of arms aimed at toppling Bashar Assad might end up undermining the democratic government in Baghdad. That’s something to keep in mind when dumping weapons and support into yet another Arab Spring moment without having boots on the ground to control the outcome.
Regardless of whether the invasion of Iraq was a good idea or not, the continuing occupation by the international coalition and then partnership with the US and the new republic of Iraq at least prevented the nation from becoming a failed state run by terrorists and radicals. The same cannot be said of Libya after the remote-control decapitation of the Qaddafi regime. Allowing the same result in Syria would be a mistake that the West will regret for decades to come.