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BAGHDAD — It was just before 7:30 in the morning as Western and Iraqi reporters waited outside Haider's Double Falafel shop on Tuesday that the car bomb exploded. One of three that morning, this was in a parking lot near the Green Zone, close enough to shake the cars we were in but not powerful enough to shatter the glass. Five people were killed and 16 wounded in the coordinated bombings all before most Iraqis began their day.
When the U.S. organizes press events, it has reporters meet them in the green zone. When the Iraqi government organizes them, the meeting point is a falafel shop. Both methods have their own challenges. Walking to the relative safety of the Green Zone with billowing black smoke overhead, the sound of sirens competed with the random gunfire. On mornings like this, the green zone is only a haven for those already inside. The entrance was choked with parliamentary officials and others barred by Iraqi soldiers at the gate from entering. Parliament has been holding hearings all week on the security breaches in Baghdad.
"The Americans won't let us in," said one Iraqi employee in the crowd. I asked a U.S. soldier going out to take a look why no one was being allowed in. "The Iraqis control the entrance," he pointed out.
Another of the bombs exploded in a parking lot across from the Foreign Ministry, where a huge suicide truck bomb in August killed dozens of people and sent buildings across the street tumbling down. A long, shiny trail of blood glistened in the deserted street.
"There's supposed to be another car bomb here that hasn't exploded — that's what the police tell us," said a ministry guard in the street. I asked him if he wasn't afraid. 'Why should I be afraid?" he responded, whipping off his sunglasses. "I am Kurdish. We are used to this."
The buses arranged for reporters showed up an hour late and took the remaining reporters who hadn't chosen the somewhat safer of their own cars to Camp Ashraf, the home of 3,500 Iranian dissidents an hour north of Baghdad.
This was the day the Iraqi government had chosen to give the residents notice that they were shutting down the camp — a decision that Iran has been pressing them for for over a year. With a second car bomb exploding near the Iranian embassy, the timing of the attacks wasn't likely a coincidence. Iraq is still a turbulent mix.