On Monday two car bombs ripped through the city of a Karbala, killing as many as 20 Shia pilgrims who were visiting the city. The city, which sits atop the ancient site of the Battle of Karbala, for which it is named, is revered by the Shia as the place of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn.
In another incident in Baghdad, the offices of the popular Arab satellite station Al-Arabiya were bombed, killing four. Al-Arabiya is Saudi owned and some see its views as too pro-western. These incidents make it both clear that sectarian tensions are still very high and that extremist Sunni groups such as Al-Qaeda in Iraq are still very capable of conducting violence.
Iraq seems divided in an almost intractable conflict, with no functioning government and a parliament that has not met for any considerable amount of time since elections took place in March. There has been little development of infrastructure and there are increasing numbers of internally displaced Iraqis that are not able to sustain themselves for various reasons, from the threat of violence to the lack of available jobs.
As Patrick Cockburn pointed out in a very interesting piece he did for the Independent a week ago, although media coverage has largely shifted to Afghanistan, “civilian casualties in Iraq are still higher than in Afghanistan.” Many refugees refuse to return for the simple fact that it is too dangerous to do so. It is worth noting that since the Invasion of Iraq by United States and Coalition forces on March 20, 2003 violence in that country has rarely ceased. Although the scale of the violence may have decreased in recent years, some would say that this is simply because the sectarian violence killed so may that there are simply fewer targets for extremist groups. Iraq is still very much a place you ought not to be, and those who must cope with the violence on a day to day basis are no doubt psychologically drained from this seven year ordeal.