Is Iraq slipping away?

It certainly appears to have gone wrong in a hurry.  Today, 95 people died in a series of bombings in Baghdad, blamed on al-Qaeda and other Sunni insurgent groups, which left more than 400 Iraqis injured.  Since the US pulled out of the cities at the end of June, violence has escalated, and even Nouri al-Maliki acknowledges that Iraqi forces have failed to maintain security:

Iraq’s prime minister has blamed Sunni insurgents for a wave of deadly bombings in Baghdad and says the Iraqi government must re-evaluate security to confront the challenge.

Nouri al-Maliki’s statement is the first government acknowledgment of security failings following an increase of attacks since the June 30 withdrawal of U.S. forces from cities.

Wednesday’s bombings killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 400. …

The attacks dealt a new blow to Iraqi government efforts to restore a sense of normalcy in the capital as the overall level of violence remains low compared with recent years. Iraqi security forces have promised to remove concrete blast walls from the main roads in Baghdad by mid-September with the aim of improving appearance and easing traffic congestion.

“The security forces have failed to protect the government buildings despite tight security measures and advanced equipment and this reflects huge shortcomings,” said Saeed Jabar, a 35-year-old government employee. “It is a message to Iraqi officials that they should stop their exaggerations about the stability of this country.”

This will not be a critique of the Obama administration’s handling of Iraq.  They have been a pleasant surprise to the extent that they haven’t changed directions in Iraq.  It’s not even going to be a critique of the Bush administration, which signed the agreement to pull US troops off the line in Baghdad and other cities.  They had little choice, as Maliki and the Iraqi government wanted them out even earlier than July 1 of this year.  Maliki, who won a series of battles with the Mahdi Army to gain control of Iraq, thought his forces were up to the task of full-time security maintenance.

Thus far, though, it looks as though they are inadequate to the task.  In their understandable haste to reclaim their sovereignty and national pride, Maliki and his government apparently forgot that the insurgencies had not ended, but merely switched sides to the Americans after seeing the alternative in AQI.  Those insurgencies remain hostile to Shi’ite governance, and the Kurds aren’t too thrilled about it, either.  It looks as though Maliki beat the Mahdis but didn’t get the Sunnis on board well enough to keep the cities secure.

To some extent, Obama has his hands tied by the SOFA signed before his election.  Clearly, the Iraqis need more assistance, but the Iraqis and Obama will have to agree to more American help in the short term.  Obama apparently is willing to offer it; Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of US forces in Iraq, told the AP that he communicated that to the Maliki government, which is taking the offer of assistance in northern Iraq under advisement.  Hopefully, we can act quickly to tamp down the violence and ensure that we do not lose what we fought and bled to gain in Iraq.