Sigh. Another month, another bombing. Baghdad was rocked by massive car bombs in August and October. Now comes another one, this time killing at least 120 people. Odds are that al-Qaeda in Iraq is responsible for all these blasts, which underscores just how fragile the security situation remains despite all the progress that has been made since 2007. But in the “two steps forward, one step back” (or is that one forward and two back?) routine that has become characteristic of Iraq, there is also good news to announce: a date has finally been announced for Iraq’s next national elections — March 6. That’s later than was supposed to be, but better a late agreement than none at all.
Will the good continue to outweigh the bad in the future, as it has so far in 2009? Or will al-Qaeda’s attempts to trigger a wider conflict pay off? It is impossible to know. All we can know for sure is that the presence of U.S. troops provides a vital stabilizing element that prevents Iraq from going off the rails entirely. That is why it is so important that the Obama administration continue to show flexibility in its troop drawdown and not get locked into a premature exit that could jeopardize all the progress that has been made so far.