The Middle East Channel

Deadly bombings hit Iraq on 10th anniversary of U.S. invasion

50 people are estimated to have been killed and over 150 injured in a dozen bombings throughout Baghdad on the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. At least 10 car bombs were set off in a coordinated campaign which targeted busy areas in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods including a market, bus stops, and the Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies. Additionally, a suicide bomber attacked a police base in a Shiite town south of Baghdad and three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were set off in the northern region of Kirkuk. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Islamic State of Iraq, the Iraqi wing of al Qaeda, has carried out similar bombings before and has vowed to increase attacks on Shiite targets in attempts to undermine the government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Violence peaked in Iraq between 2006 and 2007, but sectarian tensions and the political crisis have worsened since U.S. troops departed in December 2011. In addition to continued violence, economic conditions are deteriorating and an influx of Syrian refugees into the country has only increased concerns.

Syria

Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian Opposition Coalition, elected a provisional prime minister in Istanbul on Tuesday. Thirty-five of the 50 coalition members chose Ghassan Hitto, a Western-educated and naturalized Syrian-born American citizen, to lead an opposition government tasked with providing services to rebel held areas of the war-torn country. Hitto, 50, is an information technology executive who lived in Texas until recently. He had been relatively unknown but gained recognition while delivering humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, Syrian regime forces have reportedly fired four rockets into Lebanon, hitting the town of Arsal near the border with Syria. However, it is unclear if Syria intended to hit targets in Lebanon. U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the attack "constitutes a significant escalation in the violations of Lebanese sovereignty." In an unverified report, Syrian state media SANA news agency said rebel forces launched a chemical weapon in the northern province of Aleppo, killing up to 16 people and wounding an estimated 86 others. Syrian Information Ministers Omran al-Zoubi claimed it was the "first act" by the opposition government.

Headlines

  • In a video addressing the Iranian public marking the Persian New Year, U.S. President Obama said Iran must "reduce tensions" with the international community and work toward a "settlement of the nuclear issue."
  • Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel is ready for a "historic compromise" with Palestinians after a new government was sworn in Monday with several pro-settlement ministers.
  • Imprisoned leader of the Kurdish militant group PKK Abdullah Ocalan said he will call for a "historic" ceasefire on the Kurdish New Year Thursday, in efforts to end a decades long conflict with Turkey.
  • Bahrain has sentenced 17 men to 15 years in prison for the attempted murder of four police officers. The trail was criticized by human rights groups. 

Arguments and Analysis

David Frum, the Iraq war and oil (Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian)

"Wars rarely have one clear and singular purpose, and the Iraq War in particular was driven by different agendas prioritized by different factions. To say it was fought exclusively due to oil is an oversimplification. But the fact that oil is a major factor in every Western military action in the Middle East is so self-evident that it's astonishing that it's even considered debatable, let alone some fringe and edgy idea.

Yet few claims were more stigmatized in the run-up to the Iraq War, and after, than the view that oil was a substantial factor. In 2006, George Bush instructed us that there was a "responsible" way to criticize the US war effort in Iraq, and an "irresponsible" way to do so, and he helpfully defined the boundaries:"

Perpetual Recalculation: Getting Syria Wrong Two Years On (Bassam Haddad, Jadaliyya)

"The Syrian tragedy is just that. A tragedy of growing proportions by the week, as the state's and the social fabric of Syria is being torn gradually. We often lose ourselves in the strategic and analytical details while lives are constantly being lost. For all those with any consequential power, the problem is becoming one where it is increasingly difficult to know in what direction to push in order to serve one's interest. One thing is certain; the interest of the majority of the Syrian people is not likely to be served by nearly any group who wields power today, inside and outside Syria.

Analysts, including myself, are not absolved. We all participate in creating perceptions that shape reality and, sometimes, policy. Yet we are getting Syria wrong more often than not, and that is a direct consequence of pegging our interpretation on events as opposed to legacies, history, and a dynamic conception of the strategic playing field. But not all is foggy or unclear. 

Nearly two years after the uprising, the regime is neither as strong as it was before nor in complete control of more than half of Syrian territory, but it is standing. However, it has forever lost its ability to govern "Syria" as it once did, but not necessarily its ability to shape how Syria might be governed in the future, if cooler heads prevail among regime strongmen. At this point, it is in the regime's interest for cooler heads to prevail. The post-December 2012 period saw a resurgence of regime confidence and vigor politically and militarily as well as signs of serious trepidation among the regional and international supporters of the uprising. This situation will not last for much longer. So long as this window is open, the question is whether the regime will submit to such logic (which, for instance, might be the best scenario for preserving the `Alawi community's safety), or will the mixture of drunkenness on a legacy of decades of power and fear of extermination cause it to fight to the death? Will the Syrian regime consider the wellbeing of the now embattled `Alawi community which will be implicated, however unfairly, by decades of regime repression? Will it consider the larger fight against imperialism as the prize by preserving what it can of what is left of Syria? Will the Syrian regime try to protect Hizballah from the regional implications of its complete downfall? Most importantly, will it spare Syria and Syrians, as well as Syria's military capabilities, a fight to the death (of everyone and everything)?"

--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey

AFP/Getty Images

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