Iraq Body Count figures for July 28: 12 killed
IBC total to-date for July, 2013: 831 civilians killed
The 17 blasts, which appeared to be coordinated, were concentrated on towns and cities in Iraq’s mainly Shi’ite south, and districts of the capital where Shi’ites live.
The worst of the attacks was a bus station bombing in the southeastern city of Kut that killed 10. Four were killed in Mahmudiyah, just south of Baghdad, two more in two bombs in Samawa. The remainder of the attacks struck Shi’a neighborhoods in Baghdad. There is some feeling that the major prison break that ISIS pulled off last Sunday is connected to today’s large and well-coordinated attacks. Reuters again:
“Today’s attacks are closely linked with the Taji and Abu Ghraib prison breaks, which have encouraged terrorist groups to launch further attacks in areas of a specific sect to put more pressure on the government and undermine security force morale”, Hakim Al-Zamili, a senior member of the security and defense committee in parliament, told Reuters.
Jane Arraf, who reports for Al Jazeera out of Baghdad, spoke with representatives of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, probably the largest Shi’i paramilitary outfit in Iraq (although it’s hard to say since they’ve been inactive since 2008), about whether the Shi’i network was about to go active again, which would push Iraq closer to civil war. She tweeted this response:
#Iraqi Sadr official tells AJE after bombings that Mehdi Army will be reactivated only if holy shrines threatened or ‘people demand it’.
— jane arraf (@janearraf) July 29, 2013
On the one hand this seems like an encouraging statement. Al-Sadr is difficult to pigeon-hole when it comes to sectarian issues; in the 2004-8 period he and the Sunni extremists were allied in spirit (i.e., both openly fighting coalition and government forces), even if they weren’t allied in practice. Even now, it’s likely that al-Sadr, a Shi’i, is pulling for the Sunni rebels in Syria because of his opposition to the secularist Ba’ath Party that Assad leads. But the Mahdi Army has fought Sunni extremists in the past, and with his history of militancy al-Sadr would certainly be a candidate to initiate Shi’i reprisal attacks against ISIS. At any rate, his profile should still be high enough that he can influence other Shi’i paramilitaries to follow his lead. If his group is setting a relatively high bar for reactivating itself, that suggests that they, and hopefully other Shi’i militias, understand what’s at stake if they do get into an open war with the al-Qaeda types like ISIS. On the other hand, that “if…people demand it” caveat is pretty wide open, and if, say, ISIS actually wanted to instigate a sectarian war by provoking the MA to reactivate itself, now it knows exactly what to do (i.e., target Shi’i holy sites).