Another wave of bombings in Iraq killed dozens of people today and wounded about 200 in more than a dozen cities and towns.
According to The Associated Press, it's the kind of violence "officials had dreaded in the run-up to a Baghdad meeting of the Arab world's top leaders, which the government hoped would showcase the nation's stability." That summit is scheduled for next week. As the AP adds:
U.S. intelligence officials tracking the situation in Syria have their eye on one group in particular: al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq.
The group has longstanding ties to Syria, and its early members weren't just Iraqis; many of them were Syrians. The former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, not only established a network of fighters in Syria, but he also folded them into his northern Iraqi faction of al-Qaida.
"A rapid series of attacks spread over a wide swath of Iraqi territory killed at least 50 people on Thursday, targeting mostly security forces in what appeared to be another strike by al-Qaida militants bent on destabilizing the country," The Associated Press reports.
The $750 million embassy building is the largest of its kind in the world and the Times adds that a major cut in staffing just two months after American troops withdrew from the country signals a "declining American influence."