THE BOMBINGS that killed hundreds of civilians last week in Baghdad represented a worrisome security lapse on the part of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government - but one that Maliki, not the United States, must rectify. Coping with acts of terror is a vital step for the Iraqi government. As tragic as the bombings may be, they should not deflect President Obama from keeping to his timetable for pulling US combat troops by the end of next August. And in the days following the recent carnage, some of Iraq’s feuding political factions made an encouraging effort to resolve remaining disputes about January’s parliamentary elections.
Al Qaeda in Iraq took responsibility for striking “the dens of infidelity’’ in an Islamist website posting that also expressed contempt for Iraqi Shi’ites in thrall to Iran. Al Qaeda is carrying out terrorist acts because it has become too isolated and weakened to do much else. By striking at Baghdad ministries, Al Qaeda no doubt hopes to humiliate Maliki’s Shi’ite-dominated government, provoke sectarian vendettas, and derail the upcoming elections.
But the latest bombings have motivated Iraq’s political and clerical leaders to urge compromises that should enable the elections to take place on time. Iraqis are moving away, tellingly, from the sectarian enmities Al Qaeda is trying to inflame. They are forming big-tent alliances based on varying conceptions of government and nationhood.
In their own nihilistic way, Al Qaeda fanatics are showing their true colors not only to Iraqis but to the rest of the Muslim world. They are massacring children and other innocents in the name of a holy war to replace all existing Arab and Muslim governments with the fantasy of a multinational Islamic caliphate. The less Americans are caught up in this war within the Muslim world, the harder it will be for the regressive forces of Al Qaeda to survive.