The Middle East Channel

Two car bombings kill up to 21 people in central Baghdad

An estimated 21 people were killed in two car bomb explosions in Baghdad as violence approaches a two-year peak. The explosions, at least one of which was a suicide bombing, took place within minutes of each other during the busy afternoon rush hour in Baghdad’s central Shiite district of Karrada. The first hit outside a ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

An estimated 21 people were killed in two car bomb explosions in Baghdad as violence approaches a two-year peak. The explosions, at least one of which was a suicide bombing, took place within minutes of each other during the busy afternoon rush hour in Baghdad’s central Shiite district of Karrada. The first hit outside a restaurant while the second exploded outside a court across from a police headquarters, killing six policemen. Tuesday’s attacks brought July’s death toll over 240, with the interior ministry claiming 325 people have been killed, which would make July the most violent month in Iraq since August 2010. Violence increased after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Iraq’s al Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, announced a new campaign to recover territory lost before the U.S. departure in December 2011. Iraqi officials claim al Qaeda lacks the strength it had in 2006 and 2007, but is still capable of significant attacks and causing mass casualties.  

Syria

In a rare written statement relayed by Syria’s official news agency, SANA, in commemoration of the 67th anniversary of the founding of the Syrian army, President Bashar al-Assad appealed to troops fighting what he called a "crucial and heroic battle." He praised soldiers for defending against "armed terrorist gangs" and said "The fate of our people and our nation, past, present and future, depends on this battle." Assad has not made a public statement since a July 18 bombing in Damascus killed four close security officials, and his location remains unknown. The remarks came a day after the Syrian opposition claimed control of at least two significant police stations in Aleppo, where opposition forces have held ground for 11 days of fierce clashes. Some of the heaviest fighting continues to be concentrated in the Salaheddine district of Aleppo, where neither side has taken control. Amateur video appears to show opposition forces capturing pro-Assad militia in Aleppo, while other footage shows what appears to be opposition fighters carrying out summary executions in Aleppo, similar to the atrocities government forces were accused of carrying out in Damascus.

Headlines  

  • Bulgarian police released a composite image of the suspect of a suicide bombing that killed five Israeli tourists and a bus driver July 18, but have been unable to identify the man. 
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is meeting Israeli officials after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted he would make the decision on a strike on Iran, despite military opposition.
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is meeting with the president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region over increasing concerns of Kurdish militants gaining territory in northern Syria.
  • At least 15 people died in clashes between supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and policemen outside Yemen’s Interior Ministry in the capital, Sanaa.

Arguments & Analysis 

Violence in Iraq? It’s the Politics, Stupid!’ (Joost Hiltermann, CNN, Global Public Square)

"It’s easy to be distracted by an uptick in violence in Iraq and ignore the larger political crisis in which al Qaeda, however diminished in its capabilities, can operate with apparent impunity…Violent actors such as al Qaeda are likely to be around for some time, but without a political crisis, they could be contained. Iraqi security forces are still in the early stages of their development (after the Bush administration disposed of the former regime’s army wholesale), and still exhibit clear vulnerabilities, especially in intelligence gathering and coordination that could prevent violent attacks, as well as in their explosives-detection capacity at checkpoints. (Security officers employ a piece of equipment that Western experts and journalists have referred to as a "divining rod" or "magic wand" for its inability to detect anything.) Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will be Iraq, nor its security forces. Yet by and large, these forces have been able to prevent a serious resurgence of violence. What matters in Iraq today isn’t so much its sporadic violence, however spectacular in nature, as the total absence of basic consensus over how the country should be run, as deepening discord could trigger a new round of civil war."

Romney, Netanyahu, and George Washington’s Warning‘ (David Bromwich, The Huffington Post)

"Mitt Romney’s campaign stop in Jerusalem has been criticized for the grossness of the subservience that the candidate exhibited toward Israel. This reaction was surely factored in by his handlers. Liberals, internationalists, human rights advocates might demur, but Romney’s intended audience was none of these people. Nor was it the Arab world, nor was it American voters, with a possible exception for the state of Florida. Romney was aiming to reach two distinct but related target groups: first, a small set of extremely wealthy donors, and second, a group composed of one person, Benjamin Netanyahu. Both have long been potent players in American elections. Both were already helping Romney. It was necessary and useful at this time to cement the alliance in public."

We will pay a high price if we do not arm Syria’s rebels‘ (Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Financial Times)

"It is time for bold action, of the kind Mr Obama took in deciding to go after Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and to intervene in Libya. In Syria this would mean putting together a coalition of countries that would commit to providing heavy weapons (and possibly air cover) to all commanders on the ground who sign the "Declaration of Values" supporting a democratic and pluralist Syria put forward by the nine commanding generals of the military council of the FSA. To receive weapons, these commanders must show they control safe zones and admit foreign journalists, civil society activists and the UN to monitor the implementing of the declaration’s principles. They must also allow citizen journalists to upload photographs of what they witness to an official website maintained by the coalition."

Syria’s Mutating Conflict‘ (International Crisis Group)

"At a distance, Syria’s conflict can resemble a slow, painful slog, punctuated by intermittent accelerations and apparent tipping points, influenced by international activity. Zoom in, and one can cast such impressions aside. Diplomatic manoeuvrings have ended up being little more than inertia masquerading as motion. The West used them to pretend it was doing more than it was; Russia exploited them to feign it backed the Syrian regime less than it actually did. Meanwhile, in Syria, one sees neither deadlock nor abrupt transformation; virtually everything has been changing but at a steady pace: the shape of the conflict; civil society dynamics; sectarian relations; and the very nature of the regime the opposition seeks to depose."

–By Jennifer Parker & Mary Casey 

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