The holy month of Ramadan not yet over, Iraq suffered wide-ranging and severe attacks all over the country Monday, killing at least 57 and wounding over one hundred. Insurgents attacked using a variety of methods, and Iraqi civilians and security forces in almost every region saw suicide bombers, car bombs and gunmen. The only region that appears to be unscathed at this time is Kurdistan; both Sunnis and Shiites were targeted. Apparently these insurgents are less interested in sending a message to a particular sect of Muslims than in wreaking bloody havoc during what is supposed to be a month of peaceful reflection.
The harshest attack was in the city of Kut, in Wasit province, south of Baghdad. The death count in Kut is 35 with 71 injured, after a series of explosions rocked the main marketplace. The list of carnage goes on: Diyala province, north of Baghdad, saw at least a dozen explosions that killed six and wounded 29, in addition to gunmen at two security checkpoints who murdered five Iraqi security officials. To the south, two car bombs exploded in the city of Najaf, killing eight and wounding 20. Salahuddin Province saw two suicide bombers in the city of Tikrit, who specifically targeted an Iraqi counterterrorism unit, killing three more security officials. At least ten were wounded in Tikrit. A car bomb in Baghdad wounded five more, including two security guards.
It's only been about two weeks since the Iraqi and United States governments agreed to negotiate to keep at least some of the 48,000 American troops currently stationed in Iraq on a transitional training mission beyond the end of 2011, when they are scheduled to be withdrawn. American combat troops officially left Iraq in August 2010, and the remaining soldiers are in place to train Iraqi security forces to take over so that Americans can leave, though fears remain as to whether Baghdad can handle security on its own. Attacks like this will certainly help the arguments of those who believe American soldiers must stay longer to maintain any semblance of security, who may have been losing the argument as of late as violence began to trend down over the past few months.
This entire situation is complicated by threats from anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who believes that the United States unjustly occupies Iraq and stated in no uncertain terms that American troops will be targeted if they stay past the December 2011 deadline. Though his militia is disbanded, splinter groups loyal to al-Sadr pose a severe threat to U.S. troops, and it is deeply troubling that al-Sadr is a crucial political ally to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.