The savage suicide bombings in the heart of Baghdad yesterday show how far the violence in Iraq is from being over.
The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki makes itself even more vulnerable by boasting that it is improving security. Iraq is a safer place than it was three years ago, but it is still one of the more dangerous places in the world.
Suicide car bombings, even when the driver is not planning to detonate his deadly cargo personally, are extremely difficult to stop.
After a bomb eviscerated the Iraqi Foreign Ministry on 19 August the Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said its passage must have been helped by collaborators at army and police checkpoints. This may be true. But it is impossible for Iraqi security to search every vehicle. It will also have occurred to Iraqi soldiers and policemen that any awards for stopping a suicide bomber are likely to be posthumous. Enthusiasm for investigating suspicious vehicles is limited.
The bombings do not by themselves prove that Iraq remains unstable. Unfortunately, there are other pointers such as the failure of 1.6m internally displaced people to return to their homes. A study by the International Organisation on Migration explains why these internal Iraqi refugees are not going home. It says that security may have got better but refugees are still trying to survive “without work, their own home, schooling for children, access to water, electricity and health care”.
Who is behind the bombings? Almost certainly it is a cell of al-Qaida, possibly acting with the guidance or help of the Baath party or the security service of the old regime. Al-Qaida is not as strong as it was in 2007, but it does not have to be to create mayhem.