A series of well-coordinated bomb attacks across the Iraqi capital killed more than 60 people, dealing a major blow to the country's prospects for peace. The BBC puts the death toll at 63, though that number is likely to rise. Close to 200 people were injured by 12 to 14 bombs that all went off during the morning rush hour on Thursday.
The attacks are among the worst of 2011 and come just days after the withdrawal of the U.S. military presence from the country. The targets were mostly in Shia communities — at least one bomb went off near school filled with young children — suggesting that the bombings are meant to undermine a fragile government that in recent days has sought to remove two of its most profile Sunni officials. Earlier this week, an arrest warrant was issued for Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, who has been accused of organizing and directing an assassination squad. Al-Hashemi is a part of a Sunni block of legislators who are in a power-sharing arrangement with the majority Shia, but have been boycotting Parliament in recent days. Shia Prime Minister Nuri Kama al-Maliki has even threatened to end power-sharing arrangement and form his own majority (i.e. Shia) government if they don't cooperate, and possibly exposed more of al-Hashemi's allies.
Al-Hashemi is currently in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the North, and is largely out reach of his enemies in Baghdad. Al-Maliki's demand that the Kurds turn him over, has angered the other large minority bloc creating even more problems for the future of a coalition government.
The removal of American forces has to lead to fears of a return to the sectarian violence that tore the country in half at the height of the Iraq War. Violence had been reduced considerably from its peak in 2006-07, but without U.S. troops providing security (and attractive targets for militants) the concern is that Sunni and Shia groups will once again turn on each other, leading to a full blown civil war. Today's attacks will only raise tensions between the two groups and push those fears closer to reality.