So I’m standing outside the Iraqi parliament building with my translator, who we’ll call Mr. Mohammed. It’s about 10:30 am. We’re waiting for approval so we can go inside and talk to Iraqi politicians, supposedly at work at passing an election law so they can hold a vote in January. After the election, the Americans are supposed to go home.
Hastings: Gee, there haven’t been any real big bombings in Baghdad since August 19.
Mr. Mohammed: No, there haven’t been.
Three minutes pass.
Boom, the ground shakes. A black plume of smoke appears about a mile or so away.
30 seconds or so pass.
Boom, same deal.
Sirens, random gunshots, folks light cigarettes etc.
Mr. Mohammed: Mike, you shouldn’t have said anything.
Hastings: I know, and just when I was begining to convince myself that things were kind of peaceful here.
Anyway, a pretty horrible day in Baghdad. At least 10074 people two dozen people were killed, scores more wounded. Nobody seems to know who’s really behind the bombings, though the consensus “on the Iraqi street” (and even claims made by parliamentarians) is that the violence is politically driven. That is, the people conducting the violence are also involved in the political process, and the aim of today’s attack(on the Ministry Justice, which is right near the Baghdad Mayor’s office, and also an important hotel where Iraqi VIP’s stay) is to destabilize the Maliki government before the elections in January. To make Maliki look weak, in other words. Both this attack–and the Aug. 19 attack–seem to be testing the government, striking in an area that is supposed to be well protected and secure. But, like I said, it’s Iraq, and no one seems to really know.
UPDATE: The WSJ’s Gina Chon has immediate onscene details.
The Baghdad municipality is just a few hundred yards from the ministry of foreign affairs, which was heavily damaged in the August attacks. The two explosions Sunday blew out windows on many of the floors of the nearby Mansour hotel, one of Baghdad’s best hotels. The ceiling of at least one floor of the hotel caved in.
The hotel hosts the Chinese embassy. Shortly after the blast, residents and visitors weren’t allowed to leave the hotel. Body parts littered the hotel parking lot. Dozens of charred cars smoldered in the area around the blast.