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As Iraqi forces took control of towns and cities across the country on June 30, a car bomb in the northern city of Kirkuk exploded, killing at least 33 people and injuring more than 100, serving as a grim reminder of the security challenges that Iraqis face following US troop pullout.

Kirkuk was also the scene of two suicide bombings last month in which 14 people were killed. It is the center of northern Iraq's oil industry and home to a volatile mix of Kurds, Arabs, Christians and members of the Turkmen community.

Although vice-president Tariq al-Hashemi asked Iraqis to stay away from crowded places during the US pullback, his appeal has largely been ignored: more than 250 people were killed in bombings over the past 10 days. Thousands of Iraqis turned up in unprecedented numbers to mark this occasion in a public holiday called National Sovereignty Day.

"I never thought that this day would come," said Ahmed Aliyan, a reporter for one of the local television networks.

The attacks in Kirkuk are not a coincidence; this northern Iraqi city sits atop lucrative oil reserves where pipelines connect Kirkuk's oilfields to ports on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. Kirkuk has long been the prize sought after in an Arab-Kurdish competition for power and wealth, and for the many who wish to prevent stability in Iraq and wreak havoc, Kirkuk is the ideal launching pad. It was just such attacks which provoked Shi'a militias to take brutal revenge against Sunnis in 2006 and 2007, bringing the country to the brink of civil war and disintegration.

Will the "enemies of Iraq" (as referred to by Nouri el-Maliki) succeed?

This depends on whether Iraqi forces can prevent an upsurge of violence in the period leading up to the elections in January, 2010. Many skeptics worry that the US withdrawal will trigger another spiral of sectarian violence similar to the one the country witnessed three years ago because Iraqi forces still lack the training and capabilities to prevent it.

Meanwhile, military experts anticipate more violence in the days ahead. President Obama, who on the occasion of the handover said "Iraq's future is in the hands of its own people," also warned that Iraqis face "difficult days ahead."

Over the past several weeks, I have noticed a surge in confidence-building advertisement airing on the state television network, Al Iraqiya, and the Saudi-sponsored Al Arabiya TV targeting Iraqis to trust their own security forces in protecting them. One such promo ran a "Countdown to Sovereignty" clock but also broadcast promotional spots glorifying Iraqi history, culture and people. It ran images of ordinary Iraqi citizens walking shoulder to shoulder with members of the armed forces and police on the "path of freedom" as they dubbed it.

The upcoming days will be a real test for the Iraqi forces. Now that the United States can take credit for restoring democracy to Iraq, is it sufficiently rooted to survive the US withdrawal?

Follow Jamal Dajani on Twitter:

Originally posted to mosaicnews on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 10:20 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The quiet pull out (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rogerdaddy, dauntingideas

    So strange how very little media coverage the pull out is getting.

    "All possibilities are contained within the Tenth Dimension"

    by bagman on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 10:29:46 PM PDT

  •  It's so sad that people will act with violence (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to prove a point. That is what will happen, but I have faith that this transition will succeed. That doesn't mean it won't come without a test. The test isn't really necessary though..........just innocent lives that will be lost.

    by dauntingideas on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 10:32:36 PM PDT

    •  It better succeed, (0+ / 0-)

      there's no going back.  At least that's what commanders are saying; once we're out of the cities, getting back in will be very difficult militarily and politically

      "All possibilities are contained within the Tenth Dimension"

      by bagman on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 10:37:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Now that the US can take credit for restoring (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rogerdaddy, Marcion

    democracy in Iraq".  What?  Are you kidding?

    "Peace cannot be achieved by force. It can only be achieved by understanding" Albert Einstein

    by BigAlinWashSt on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 10:37:16 PM PDT

  •  the real threat to Iraq (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BigAlinWashSt, Gracian

    doesn't come from the "terrorists," it comes from its government and its ability or lack thereof to resovled the minority questions, regarding Sunnis and especially Kurds. If you ask the Kurds, they will tell you that the terrorist actions in Kirkuk are government sponsered already. The Kurds just passed their own constituion declaring Kirkuk a part of indivisible Kurdistan and the Baghdad governmetn is refusing any movement on Kirkuk, they weren't even allowed to participate in the latest round of provincial elections because the government doesn't want to hold a census there, since a census is a necessary (and constitutionally guaranteed) prerequisite for holding a referendum on Kirkuk's future, which under the Iraqi Constittuion, was supposed to be held last year.

    Of course we will have Fascism in America, but we will call it Democracy. - Senator Huey Long

    by Marcion on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 10:51:49 PM PDT

    •  Maliki; enemy of the nation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I was wondering the same thing; Dajani quotes maliki in opposing his rule with "the enemies of Iraq"; But these enemies of iraq can be found in different tribes, factions, and political and terrorist organizations. Maliki himself has shown on several occasions how much his rule is infiltrated and is helping a sjia dominance agenda to the exclusion of primarily sunni majority; the kurds in the meanwhile are strenghtening their region and will play their own part in the powerstruggle. By framing it this way, maliki excludes many groups from his national government. The only way for him or another to succeed is to tap into a strong iraqi nationalism, but it will take more than some slick tv ads to persuade sunni's and kurds to peacefully join in the democratic process. And this far Maliki has shown litlle he wants it any other way.....

  •  Americans sit and tut-tut (0+ / 0-)

    at the sectarian and ethnic violence in Iraq.  Geez, it makes you wonder how all that stuff got started there in Iraq, I forget.  

    "When the government becomes a lawbreaker, it invites every man to become a law unto himself." ~ Justice Brandeis

    by ActivistGuy on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 12:27:05 AM PDT

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