Hope, skepticism and bombs greeted the naming of Iraq's interim president on Tuesday.
Within the barbed wire and concrete confines of the Green Zone, the area that houses the headquarters of the U.S.-led occupation administration, politicians made brave speeches about taking control of the country's destiny. Outside under the white-hot sun, the hidden opponents of both the occupation and the new ministers who aspire to lead Iraq to stability and democracy exhibited their unchecked capacity to sow mayhem.
A suicide bomber detonated explosives packed into a Chevrolet Caprice sedan in front of the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a U.S.-allied party that represents part of Iraq's Kurdish minority. The blast killed at least five people, hospital officials said, when it sprayed metal 50 yards, smashed windows and brought down a first-floor ceiling in the building.
The attack occurred just an hour after a rocket landed in the Green Zone, near an ornamental gate fronting the grounds of the main Baghdad palace of Iraq's deposed leader, Saddam Hussein. The rocket arrived just before noon as Arabic-language television announced the appointment of Ghazi Yawar as Iraq's interim president. No one was hurt in the attack.
The contrast between the orderly announcement of the new interim Iraqi leadership and the lack of security on Baghdad's streets elicited expressions of both helplessness and determination from survivors of the car bombing. "No one does anything against the terrorists," said Muwaffak Khasrae, an office worker at the Kurdish party's headquarters who suffered lacerations on his left arm. "Maybe we have to pay for freedom with blood."
"These things are happening every day. Maybe the new government will help or maybe not, but the sacrifices are great," said Sajde Nawe, a secretary in the building. She had cuts on her head, back and hands.
The car bombing was the second in the capital in two days and appeared to be part of a developing pattern of striking at political targets after months targeting police stations, hotels and military installations. On May 17, a car bomber assassinated Izzedin Salim, the president of the Iraqi Governing Council.
Kurds at the scene interpreted the targeting of the Kurdish political building as an assault by Iraqi Arabs on the Kurdish campaign for autonomy in the new Iraq. A group of Kurdish men became angry when an Arab suggested to a reporter that the explosion was caused by a rocket from a U.S. helicopter rather than a car bomb.
The Arab shouted that Kurdish guards had sprayed the street with gunfire, killing Arab passersby. There was shooting, but the assertion of casualties could not be confirmed.
Meanwhile, near the town of Baiji north of Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. military base and killed 11 Iraqis, including seven members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, a U.S.-trained paramilitary organization charged with helping to keep order in Iraqi towns. In the turbulent west, a U.S. Marine was killed while on patrol, a U.S. military statement said.
In the south, politicians tried to patch up a frayed cease-fire between U.S. troops and insurgents loyal to the Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr. Sadr's forces clashed with an American patrol in the city of Kufa on Monday. Two soldiers and about 20 guerrillas were killed in an hour-long firefight.
Reaction to Yawar's appointment among people in Baghdad was subdued. At Al Nour cafe, Shamoun Hermiz rang up orders for lamb and falafel sandwiches, while a long line of cars waiting for gasoline snaked along the busy commercial street outside. Hermiz, 40, said Yawar was the right choice because he would represent the Iraqi people, even though the people did not elect him.
"Ghazi Yawar is a good person," Hermiz said.
While Hermiz was talking, Ali Hussein Radhi approached from behind the counter, where he had been cooking a side of meat on a rotating spit. "The Iraqi people do not know Yawar and have not even heard about him," Radhi said, interrupting. "The Americans are the ones who appointed him. His job will be just filling orders."
Radhi said Yawar "represents America only. . . . It is just a drama performed in front of the people."
Outside, two college students sipped coffee under the bright red canopy of the cafe. Yousif Ali Hasan, 23, said Yawar's presidency was not legitimate because the U.S.-appointed Governing Council chose him. The council "does not represent the Iraqi people," he said.
Ali Hussein Mohammed, 25, nodded his head while his friend talked. "America interfered in choosing the president," he said. But Mohammed said he was optimistic that Yawar would be a good leader. "Yawar seems to be a good man," he said. "He seems to be just and moderate. The question is: Will he be able to make his own decisions or will he fill orders?"
Mohammed said people were tired of waiting for change. "People want security and work, and for these things they are ready to give even the oil to get them," he said. "Enough. We went though wars and oppression for 35 years."
In the gas line in front of the cafe, Amer Isa Mohammed, a taxi driver, stood outside his beat-up brown hatchback and waited for the line to move. "I hope the new president can govern Iraq to achieve security," said Mohammed, 30. "Ghazi Yawar is an Iraqi, and he will feel like us and will try to fix everything."
Across the street, Luei Khazal weighed bags of potato chips for sale at his stall. Yawar "is a good personality and has good and wide relations," Khazal said. "He is well educated and diplomatic. I think he will be able to run the country, and he'll get wide authorities for the benefit of Iraq."
Special correspondents Muhanned M. Salim and Bassam Sabti contributed to this report.