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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fresh Wave of Iraq Bloodshed Raises Doubts About U.S. Withdrawal

In addition to making John McCain’s “the surge worked” argument that helped him lock up the 2008 Republican presidential nomination look a bit silly, attacks like these will create problems for a president already testing the patience of his anti-war base with a hawkish Afghanistan policy.

Double blasts from a car bomb and a roadside bombing at a parking lot outside a city council building north of Baghdad killed at least 35 people on Tuesday, Iraqi police and hospital officials said.

The explosions in Taji, a Sunni-dominated town about 12 miles (20 kilometers) north of Baghdad, are the latest in a series of attacks across Iraq as the government and political leaders debate whether to ask the United States to keep some American troops here past their year-end withdrawal deadline from the country.

While violence in Iraq is now well below levels it was at during intense Shiite-Sunni sectarian fighting in 2006 and 2007, militants have again stepped up deadly attacks. That has prompted concerns about what will happen when the 47,000 remaining U.S. troops pull out.

On June 23, bombs ripped through Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, killing at least 40 people. Two days earlier, a twin explosion that included a suicide car bombing outside a government compound south of Baghdad killed 22 people.

Iraq could ask for U.S. troops to remain after the December 31 deadline for withdrawal set by the Status of Forces Agreement, but it is tough to see how this wouldn’t alienate the public from whatever Iraqi politician had the courage to do so.

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