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Behind Baghdad's '9/11'

Regret, rage and recrimination follow last week's deadly attacks.

Neither Zebari, who negotiated the security agreement with the U.S., nor the average Iraqi would go back to having U.S. soldiers in the streets. But Maliki, who has staked his political fortunes on improving security and the U.S. pullout, has been reluctant to allow the security apparatuses his prime ministry directly controls, and to ask the U.S. for help even within the confines of the security pact.

The loss has been most apparent in those areas needed to fight a still-adapting insurgency. Together, the Iraqis with their knowledge of their own country and the Americans with their technology and logists, virtually crippled insurgent networks in and out of Baghdad.

In the post-June 30 world, the Americans don’t have a physical presence in the cities and are reluctant to share much of their intelligence with Iraqi forces prone to being infiltrated by the very insurgents they are fighting. In an ongoing war with an enemy that has shifting tactics and changing alliances, Iraqi security forces are focused on manning fixed checkpoints easily evaded by determined attackers.

Following Wednesday’s bombings, Iraqi officials are warning their citizens that more attacks could be in store.

A televised confession of the alleged mastermind of the Finance Ministry bombing has done little to reassure Iraqi citizens. The middle-aged man, oddly calm, described himself as a former Diyala policeman and said he had taken orders from Baath party leaders in Syria.

In the initial account of both bombings, interior ministry officials said last week that the truck bombs were assembled in Baghdad — loaded with sodium nitrate, fertilizer, rockets and mortars and driven to the foreign and finance ministries where the suicide bombers detonated. Trucks half the size of those used are banned on those roads in daylight hours, leading the government to arrest 11 local security members for negligence and possible complicity in the attacks.

The checkpoint closest to the Foreign Ministry which might have stopped the truck bomber had recently been taken down, against the advice of senior foreign ministry officials.

“The success of the government — any government is to protect and provide security for its people — that’s the main yardstick for seeing a successful competent government,” said an angry Zebari at a press conference in a ministry where they were intent on resuming work while still removing human remains.

The government is so fragmented that even what would seem to be political necessities fall by the wayside. Maliki neither visited the site of the bombing nor sent a senior official until he asked the governor, who had been out of the country, to go there five days after the attack.

Whether Maliki’s political fortunes will fall over the serious security breaches will be tested in the run-up to the elections with the new wider coalition he’s expected to form. His former partners, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, announced Monday they were teaming up with the Sadrists and others but holding the door open for him should he wish to come back to the fold.

As for the U.S., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen said on the weekend he was "extremely concerned" by the bombings in Baghdad. The concern of U.S. officials is that the attacks could spark another cycle of sectarian violence.

The concern on the Iraqi side is that the attacks have exposed the depths of instability beneath the thin veneer of security.