A series of explosions ripped through Baghdad, killing 35 people and wounding at least 140 others. The blasts are the latest in a string of attacks, raising new fears about Iraq's ability to maintain security as U.S. forces withdraw from the scene.
Bombs tore through several apartment buildings in mainly Shi'ite neighborhoods in the capital.
There has been no claim of responsibility, but a Baghdad security spokesman blamed the attacks on the local al-Qaida affiliate.
Rescue workers converged on the blast sites, scrambling to free those trapped beneath the rubble.
Baghdad resident Abu Ala said two of the bombs went off in quick succession. Ala said the victims were innocent people, children and women, and asked "what crime have they committed?"
It was the fourth major attack in Iraq in the past five days, including bombings Sunday in Baghdad.
As political groups try to come up with a new government after last month's parliamentary elections, fears are rising a new wave of violence could form in the political vacuum and signal a return to the bloodshed that followed a similar period of uncertainty in 2005.
A massive influx of U.S. troops is credited as one of the factors that reversed that downward spiral of sectarian and insurgent violence. No such option appears available now, as the United States is committed to withdrawing 50,000 troops by September, with the remaining 46,000 out by the end of next year.
U.S. President Barack Obama has stressed U.S. forces are leaving, although one of his top generals, Ray Odierno, suggested recently that plans could be changed.
Abdulla Al-Ashaal, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo, is among those who have noted a "divergence of views between the military and the administration." He believes Mr. Obama's strategy is mainly based on trust in a new Iraqi government.
"To my mind, the United States is not very sure that the Iraq that it wants would be the same as it is in its imagination, because it is very much afraid of the influence of Iran. And at the same time the Arab world is nearly absent from the scene," he said.
An unstable Iraq under the influence of Iran may just be one of the problems facing the United States as it prepares to leave.
Arab Affairs writer and commentator Sa'id Nassar says there is really no good way for America to get out.
The Cairo-based analyst argues America got involved in a swamp deeper even than the swamp of Vietnam, with the oil-rich region the focus not just of neighboring countries, but also global interests.
The specter of the Vietnam War is potent for some of the U.S. generals overseeing the drawdown. Many came into the military just after the debacle of the American withdrawal in 1975.