Three large explosions Oct. 24 in the Iraqi capital struck hotels where foreign journalists are staying. Given the details, it seems that this is likely the work of transnational jihadist elements who have timed it to coincide with the constitutional referendum results. That the perpetrators were able to breach a relatively high-security area in Baghdad demonstrates that the political process will not necessarily lead to a decline in violence.
Three large blasts Oct. 24 targeted the Palestine and Sheraton hotels in Baghdad and left 12 dead and at least another dozen wounded. Reports on the details of the explosions conflict; some reports say the explosions were a mix of car bombs and projectiles, others say all three were vehicle-borne bombs, and Reuters and ABC News report that there were two suicide car bombers and a separate car bomb involved. Regardless, the damage done was relatively small, compared to the resources used in the bombings. The media attention the bombings have garnered has less to do with the size of the attacks than with the bombings' proximity to news crews; journalists were staying in the targeted hotels. If it turns out that no suicide bombers were involved, then the blasts likely are the work of Sunni nationalist insurgents who might sense that the referendum will pass, and that they need to make their countermove. In other words, it is probably a warning shot from the Sunni nationalists ahead of the referendum results, and a signal that the United States, the Shia and the Kurds need to cut a deal with the Sunnis if they want them to keep quiet after the approval of the charter. However, Sunnis have not staged attacks on this scale in some time; most such attacks have come from jihadists. If the bombings are found to have been suicide attacks, then they are probably the work of jihadists. They have just as much to fear from a successful referendum on the constitution as the Sunni nationalists do, because it will draw the Sunnis into the political process and detract from the environment of disorder that helps the jihadists operate. Or, the jihadists could have launched the attacks simply to add to the pressure and sense of instability in Iraq. Continued violence, even as the referendum appears to be heading toward approval — albeit with a slim margin, and in the face of upcoming general elections on Dec. 15 — shows the political process is no guarantee of security.