At least forty-one people were killed and 237 wounded Sunday in three coordinated suicide car bombings targeting the Iranian and German embassies and the Egyptian consulate in Iraq. The attacks have occurred at a time of political uncertainty in Iraq following the March 7th parliamentary elections. We speak with Iraqi political analyst Raed Jarrar. [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We move now to Iraq. At least forty-one people were killed and 237 wounded Sunday in three coordinated suicide car bombings targeting the Iranian and German embassies and the Egyptian consulate in Iraq. There’s been no claim of responsibility for the attacks, but Iraqi government officials have suggested that the extremist Sunni group al-Qaeda in Iraq could be responsible.
Sunday’s bombings follow a massacre last week of twenty-five people in a Sunni district south of Baghdad by unidentified uniformed gunmen. The recent bloodshed in Iraq comes one month after the country’s parliamentary elections, renewing fears of a return to sectarian violence before the new government is formed.
Well, this week also marks the seventh anniversary of the capture of Baghdad by US-led forces in 2003, seven years ago. For more on the current political situation in Iraq and the prospects for a full withdrawal of US forces, I’m joined now from Washington, DC by Iraqi political analyst Raed Jarrar, senior fellow with Peace Action.
Raed, welcome to Democracy Now! Your response to the latest attacks, the triple suicide bombings, and more?
RAED JARRAR: I think this is another evidence that the US has failed to create a functional Iraqi armed forces and that the current Iraqi government has failed to create an armed forces that are loyal to Iraq, because the current armed forces are loyal to their political parties and militias. So seven years after the fall of Baghdad, we still see these coordinated attacks that demonstrate the failure of both the US and the current Iraqi government to secure the country.
AMY GOODMAN: Significance of the elections? The significance —-
RAED JARRAR: Can you say it again?
AMY GOODMAN: The significance of the elections?
RAED JARRAR: The election, actually, it was very important. Followed by last year’s provincial elections where Iraqis voted for nonsectarian coalitions, this year’s election follow that trend. The vast majority of Iraqis voted for nonsectarian coalitions and parties. And it’s true that we did not have a clear winner. The winner of the election just won with a two-seat margin. But we did have clear losers, and the clear losers were the current ruling parties. The Sunni and Shiite and Kurdish ruling parties lost miserably in the election.
But what’s very concerning is that the current ruling parties, with Mr. al-Maliki, have been trying to circumvent the results of the election. They -— every day they come with a new excuse. And there is a lot of concern in Iraq that there are attempts to marginalize the winning coalition and try to prevent it from running the upcoming government. So, with this week’s explosions, I think, there is a dire need for going forward, creating the new government, and there is a dire need for a peaceful handover of authority to the upcoming government that was elected by the Iraqi people.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the people who are rising now in Iraq? For example, well, a name that is very familiar to Americans, Ahmed Chalabi. And explain exactly who he is and what he represents today, Raed.
RAED JARRAR: I don’t think Ahmed Chalabi is rising as a person. He’s still working behind the scenes. He never disappeared, unfortunately. Ahmed Chalabi is the same CIA-linked Iraqi politician who was used to justify the invasion and the occupation of Iraq in 2003. He has so many links to the CIA and other parts of the US government, and he’s linked to some part of the Iranian government, as well. He is now a member of one of the larger coalitions, the coalition that came third in the Iraqi election, the Iraqi National Alliance, led by the Sadrists and the Supreme Council. And he is linked to the infamous de-Baathification committee, or the remains of that commission, that is still trying to persecute some Iraqi politicians and exclude them from Iraq’s political life. So he is still active, unfortunately. He’s one of the very controversial figures in Iraq. But I don’t think he made a comeback, or we didn’t see any public support of his policies. He just manages to work behind the scenes with the major players to survive within the Iraqi political system.
AMY GOODMAN: Power of Iran, Raed?
RAED JARRAR: Iran’s power is huge. I’ve been talking about this for six or seven years now. Unlike the US — the conventional wisdom in the US, where people think that Iran and the US have a proxy war in Iraq, they never did, actually. Iran and the US do have a proxy war in Palestine or Lebanon. But in Iraq, Iran and the US supported the same people. Iran supported the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution, and so did the US. Iran supported some Kurdish and some Sunni parties that the US supported, as well. So there is no proxy war there.
The difference is that Iran has so much political influence and leverage over Iraqi political parties, and the US does not. So now, in the last few weeks, we did see how Iran has been playing a very influential role in trying to create the upcoming Iraqi government, and they are using their political leverage, while the US administration is completely outside the game. They have no political leverage to use.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the timetable for withdrawal and the linking of it to political security or stability on the ground? Do you think President Obama will be withdrawing the troops as he said?
RAED JARRAR: Yeah, to tell you the truth, I feel like, from talking to at least our grassroots constituencies, that there are two groups of — two types of attitudes, two types of attitudes towards this Obama withdrawal. There is one group of people who are so dismissal of the entire withdrawal plan, they think the US is this big evil empire, and we can’t change it. And there is another group who thinks Obama is the best person ever, who will just end the war. I actually stand in the middle. I think that we do have a good plan, but it lacks guarantees, and we need to do a lot of work to make sure that it becomes reality.
Now, the Obama plan is not just his plan. He has a self-imposed deadline on August 31st for combat forces withdrawal, and he announced that he will abide by the bilateral agreement that was signed by Bush, actually, for all troop withdrawal by the end of next year. These two deadlines have nothing to do with conditions on the ground. They are time-based, not condition-based. And I think this is very important to follow. So, regardless of the situation on the ground in Iraq, even if the situation deteriorates — and I think it will deteriorate — I don’t think this should be used as an excuse to prolong or cancel the US withdrawal. Obama must be held accountable to fulfill his promises, withdraw all combat forces by August 31st of this year, and bring out all forces, all contractors, and shut down all bases by the end of next year.
AMY GOODMAN: Raed Jarrar, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Iraqi political analyst, a senior fellow at Peace Action in Washington, DC.