Suicide bombing rocks Iraq

A suicide bombing at a security checkpoint struck Hila, Iraq at noon local time. The attack, to which ISIS has claimed credit, left sixty dead while an estimated forty are believed to be civilians.

This is the second major suicide attack to rock Iraq in just over a week, the previous of which being a twin suicide bombings on 29 February in the Sadr District, Baghdad which left an estimated eighty dead and scores more wounded. As with the attacks which ravaged Paris in November 2015, it is the ultra-violent terrorist organisation's response to recent setbacks which has seen the groups' territory recede under the coordinated pressure of Iraqi Security Forces (with affiliated Shiite militias), NATO and Russian airstrikes and coordinated ground pressure by Syria forces, Hezbollah and various Kurdish groups in Iraq and Syria.

Since the violent crackdown on the Hawji protests in 2013, Iraq has descended into bouts of serious tribal and sectarian violence, comparable to Yemen and Pakistan, violence which has crossed borders and threatened instability. This chaotic environment, partly nurtured by the Iraqi Security Forces (little more than a sectarian militia) in Iraq has been a factor in allowing ISIS to establish itself as a major faction in northern Iraq and western Syria. 

ISIS is a symptom of chronic corruption, economic instability, poverty and identity-based violence perpetrated by the government of Iraq and Shiite militias. These grievances against various ethnic, religious and tribal groups within the country has been exploited by the so-called Islamic caliphate established by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014.  Since 1 January 2015 is estimated (according to a UN report) that 18,800 Iraqis have been killed while 3.2 million people have also been displaced internally over the same period. However the wider death toll is expected to be as high as 50,000 - 70,000 since violence began in 2013. 

While the fragile ceasefire in Syria established by Russia-U.S diplomacy continues to endure (despite continued shelling and attacks by Al-Nusra, ISIS and affiliated cells), Iraq continues to burn. The organisation's reversion to savage, assymetrical warfare in and around the outskirts of Baghdad is an indication that while ISIS's conventional strategies are being slowly counteracted by international, regional and local groups there is still much to be done by the international community to resolve the Iraqi civil war and its root causes. Without resolving the Iraqi civil war, the ability to resolve the ISIS question in Syria will be made considerably more difficult. 

Matthew Williams