No one has taken responsibility for the horrendous bombs that shattered the foreign and finance ministries in Baghdad and took more than a hundred lives yesterday but the finger must point to Sunni Arab radicals. The foreign ministry is run by Hoshyar Zebari, a prominent Kurdish politician, while the finance ministry is in the hands of the Shia hardliner Bayan Jabr, who represents the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and infuriated Sunnis during his previous post as interior minister. He was moved from that post after death squads operating directly or indirectly under cover of the ministry were revealed four years ago to have held and tortured hundreds of Sunnis. That brutality helped to start the sectarian revenge killings that so disfigured Iraq in 2006 and 2007.
The bombings may therefore have been meant in part as a Sunni Arab warning to the Kurds. Tensions and armed clashes between Kurds and Arabs are the biggest danger currently facing Iraq. Until now they have centred on the disputed city of Kirkuk as well as the land surrounding Mosul in the northwest, which Kurds also claim. Bombings in Kirkuk and Mosul have been frequent in recent months. Yesterday’s blast in Baghdad could be a way of showing Kurds that their positions in Baghdad are also vulnerable and that Sunni Arabs can hit them in the capital.
But they are also a warning to Shia hardliners, and by extension the whole of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-dominated Iraqi government, that its policies are still not giving Sunnis a fair share of power. The disbandment of the Sunni Arab militias known as the Awakening movement, which successfully confronted al-Qaida in Iraq in 2007 has angered many Sunnis who felt they deserved more in gratitude and reward. It took courage for Iraqi Sunnis to challenge al-Qaida, and this should have been recognised by Shia leaders. Instead, the government has been slow to honour promises to take former Awakening members into the national army and police. [continued…]