A series of bomb blasts in the Iraqi capital killed over 90 people and injured more than 500. The attacks were the worst since the beginning of the US withdrawal, writes Rainer Sollich, head of DW's Arabic service.
Statistics frequently say little about actual circumstances, such as whether or not the most recent terror attacks in Iraq are a result of the US troop draw down. The number of victims in the weeks before American troops began leaving Iraqi city centers had actually increased. After their withdrawal, the violence decreased at first, only to re-emerge in the form of a bloodbath in the middle of Baghdad.
If there are any conclusions to be drawn from this, then only that with or without US troops, Iraq remains in the clutches of violence and terror.
Security, of course, has markedly improved in the last couple of years, but the official Iraqi and American claims that the situation is under control display a rather peculiar interpretation of calm. Iraq is still gripped by the constant threat of violence.
Attacks continue unabated
Attacks are reported on almost a daily basis, although the general public is not aware of many of them. It is a sad but logical consequence of the never-ending media coverage that the topic of "terror in Iraq" has worn thin and now garners little international interest. An attack with "just" four or five dead no longer warrants a headline, but then, when the number of victims jumps dramatically, the customary response mechanisms shift into gear.
The UN Security Council, the White House and the European Union all condemn the violence in unison, and media outlets provide the public with the gory details of death and destruction as well as displays of dismay, anger and sympathy. People around the world see the images on television and ask themselves: where does all this hate come from and how can people be capable of subjecting others to such senseless pain and suffering?
The answer is as simple as it is cynical. It is done expressly for that purpose. The perpetrators intended to strike the innocent and spread fear. They do not want Iraq to be peaceful; they enjoy the international condemnation. And they want to see their deeds on television. Every form of media attention lends weight to their acts of terror.
However, no revamping of media ethics – no matter how sophisticated – can help. What is needed, first and foremost, is drastically improved security.
Fertile ground for terrorists
The latest wave of violence in Baghdad illustrates the deficits within the Iraqi government to guarantee security and promote national reconciliation.
The government has announced plans to close the existing gaps in security, and that is an important first step. But it cannot be the only one.
Terrorists will always find fertile ground and support from segments of the Iraqi population, or from abroad, as long as the conflict between ethnic and religious groups and their leaders is unresolved.
The lack of mutual respect and the thirst for revenge will not disappear overnight – and neither will the thirst for power and the country's oil reserves.
It may seem bold, even risky, that the United States is sticking to its plan to withdraw from Iraq completely by the end of 2011. However, this may be the appropriate leverage to force the government in Baghdad to undertake greater efforts to solve its domestic conflicts and pursue a path of national reconciliation.
Author: Rainer Sollich, head of Deutsche Welle's Arabic service (gb)
Editor: Nancy Isenson