Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - "The country's main political leaders and parties are vying for political and economy hegemony," said Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk (northern Iraq), who spoke to AsiaNews in the wake of the recent wave of deadly attacks that left more than 80 people dead and 200 wounded in 18 car bombs and 40 explosions. Such carnage had not been seen since US troops pulled out in December. Targets included Kurdish offices, Shia pilgrims, and Sunni police and civilians.
One has to go back to 2006 and 2007, when tens of thousands of people died, to find anything similar, local political analysts and experts said. Now, the latter fear that the country might plunge again into a bloody ethnic-confessional conflict. The involvement in Iraq of regional rivals like Saudi Arabia and Iran can only increase insecurity and cause greater violence.
"Yesterday, we had bombs and explosions everywhere," Mgr Sako said. "Attacks occurred in the capital Baghdad, Mosul, Hilla, Baaquba, Tikrit, Ramadi and Samawa. In Kirkuk, one person died when three bombs went off near the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the Rahim-Awa District. A Christian journalist was wounded by the blast."
In the capital, four bombs killed 30 people, mostly Shia pilgrims. In Hilla, south of the capital, two car bombs targeted a restaurant frequented by police and security agents, killing 22.
Iraq's government "was formed only eight months ago and is not fully complete," the archbishop of Kirkuk explained. "Yet, it's already the object of distrust and attempts to change it."
The country's political factions "cannot agree or work together. They are only looking out for their own interests rather than the overall good" of the nation. "Kurds, Sunnis associated with the Iraqiya party and Sadrists distrust Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki," who is instead backed by "a majority of Shias and some Sunni groups."
Regional power games are also affecting the domestic political scene. "Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar favour change, whilst Iran and the United States are close to the current Iraqi prime minister," the prelate told AsiaNews.
This dual internal and external fight is "causing great tensions," he noted. "Yesterday's attacks are part of the overall picture;" not to mention what is "happening in Syria and other countries."
"Each ethnic and confessional group is carving out its own space and taking land. It is building its own houses and institutes to project power. This is not the time for a formal change, because it would create a power vacuum that would progressively worsen security conditions."
Attacks are further indication of the widening conflict among the country's various ethnic (Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds) and confessional (Shia and Sunni) groups, once held together by Saddam Hussein's dictatorship but now fighting for the country's territory and wealth (oil and gas).