BAGHDAD — Bombs killed at least 18 people and wounded dozens in Iraq on Tuesday in a sign that insurgents, though weakened, remain intent on destabilizing a country that is struggling to consolidate U.S.-backed security gains.
Children, shoppers and men looking for a day's work were among the dead in attacks in Baghdad, Ramadi and Baqubah, cities that saw some of the most intense fighting of Iraq's long war but that have since experienced sharp drops in violence. American combat troops completed a pullout from urban areas on June 30, and Iraqi forces now take the lead in securing the cities.
The violence came as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki traveled to Washington for a meeting today with President Barack Obama, who plans to withdraw all American soldiers from Iraq by the end of 2011 and is shifting military resources to the war in Afghanistan. There was no indication that insurgents timed the attacks to coincide with the U.S. meeting, though they have in the past carried out operations around election days and other politically significant dates.
One of Maliki's goals is to convince U.S. investors that oil-rich Iraq is an attractive place to do business. But continuing attacks, even at a relatively low pace, as well as American concerns that reconciliation among Iraq's factions is not moving fast enough, could hurt the prime minister's efforts. With six months left before Iraq's next general election, Iraq's main Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish groups remain divided over issues, including how to share the country's vast oil wealth, the authority of the central government and political power-sharing.