Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

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Feb 2nd, 2009

Sunni Party Likely Big Winner in Northern Iraq

Election results could heighten ethnic tensions between Sunnis and Kurds

The coffin of Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, a Sunni Arab tribal leader, who was killed by a roadside bomb attack, is placed on the back of a truck during a funeral in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, on September 14, 2007. Sunni Muslim Iraqis and members of the Sahwa, or Sons of Iraq, celebrated as they held up an image of the murdered tribal leader following provincial elections in the western Anbar town of Ramadi, Feb. 1, 2009. (Photo credit: Stringer / Reuters)

Feb. 1, 2009

MOSUL, Iraq — In the last major urban battlefield in the fight between U.S. troops and Sunni insurgents, a Sunni party opposed to both Kurdish influence and the American military presence has emerged as the likely big winner in provincial voting.

That could heighten the ethnic tensions between Sunnis and Kurds that the U.S. military believes has helped sustain the insurgency here, while it has largely collapsed in most of the country.

Official results from Saturday’s vote for the government of Ninevah province have not been released. But an Iraqi official familiar with the count said the National Hadba Gathering was leading with about 370,000 votes of the 900,000 ballots cast – or about 40 percent. …

If those results are confirmed, the party would gain a major role in the government of the province which includes Mosul, the country’s third largest city.

The strong showing could also set the stage for further tension between Arabs, who make up 60 percent of the province’s population, and the Kurds.

The party, which the Kurds claim includes former Saddam Hussein loyalists with links to insurgents, was formed in 2006 with the avowed goal of ending the rule of Kurdish parties, which won control because Sunni Arabs largely boycotted the last regional balloting in January 2005.

Party candidates tapped into Sunni complaints of ineffective government and resentment over Kurdish efforts to incorporate parts of the province into their self-governing region which borders Ninevah. …

Control of the provincial council would allow Arabs to appoint a governor and try to roll back Kurdish expansion, which began soon after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The Kurdish autonomous government was allied with the U.S. against Saddam and sent its fighters into areas of Ninevah and other provinces that border the Kurdish region. …

Last year, the provincial government briefly shut down a radio station linked to the Hadba party for allegedly “sowing sedition and fueling tension” between Arabs and Kurds, who maintain their own armed force known as the peshmerga.

Kurdish fighters have been guarding contested parts of the province, setting up checkpoints and flying the flags of the self-ruled Kurdistan Regional Government atop many buildings.

With all signs pointing to victory, Hadba leader Atheel al-Nujaifi called on the Kurds to give up their territorial ambitions. …

“The Kurdish leadership should learn how to deal with the new situation and consider the Arabs after these elections,” he said.


Related reports

In Iraq’s north, vote tallies to define loyalties, disputes

Iraq tribes threaten to take up arms over poll


Iraqi Election Hints of Troubles for Shiite Group

Iraqis wave their national flag and hold placards for the upcoming provincial elections bearing portraits of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in al-Mina near Basra, on January 23, 2009. (Photo credit: Essam Al-Sudani / AFP — Getty Images)

Feb. 1, 2009

BAGHDAD — The biggest Shiite party in Iraq once appeared to hold all the political sway: control of the heartland, the backing of influential clerics and a foot in the government with ambitions to take full control.

But the days of wide-open horizons could be soon ending for the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, and replaced by important shifts that could be welcomed in Washington and scorned in Tehran. …

Some forecasts point to widespread losses [in Saturday’s regional elections] for the party across the main Shiite provinces. The blows could include embarrassing stumbles in the key city of Basra and the spiritual center of Najaf — hailed as the future capital in the Supreme Council’s dreams for an autonomous Shiite enclave. …

The Supreme Council’s leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, spent decades in Iran during Saddam’s rule and was allowed an office-villa in downtown Tehran. After Saddam’s fall, the Supreme Council was Iran’s main political conduit into Iraq even though the group also developed ties with Washington.

Iran now could face limits on its influence in the south with the Supreme Council forced into a coalition or second-tier status — and also confront resistance from a stronger al-Maliki government seeking to curb Tehran’s inroads. …

The political-militia movement of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has indicated it may be willing to strike deals with al-Makiki’s allies on the councils. It would be a starting turnabout.

Just last year, al-Sadr was denouncing the government as it joined American forces to dismantle his Mahdi Army’s main enclave in Baghdad.

“We have no red lines when it comes to al-Maliki’s coalition,” said Ayed al-Mayahi, al-Sadr’s chief representative in Basra. “We are looking ahead and will not be shackled by what happened in the past.”


Related report

Iraq Shi’ite party says still strong after vote



Bomber in Uniform Kills 21 Afghan Policemen

Image: A Pakistani paramilitary soldier
A Pakistani paramilitary soldier stands guard next to a vehicle rammed against a wall, where an American U.N. official was kidnapped in the main southwest city of Quetta, Pakistan, on Monday, Feb. 2, 2009. (Photo credit: Arshad Butt / AP)

Gunmen Kidnap American in Pakistan


Gunmen kidnap American in Pakistan (MSNBC, Feb. 2, 2009) — Police say gunmen abducted an American U.N. official in southwest Pakistan.’s Dara Brown reports. (00:28)


Minnesota U.S. Senate Recount Trial — Live Coverage

Coleman-Franken recount trial: Link to news updates from the Star Tribune and live streaming video or on-demand viewing from The UpTake.

2 Responses to “Election Sets Stage for Conflict”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Iraq-Afghanistan Casualties Says:

    […] Election Sets Stage for Conflict […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Violence Erupts in Egypt Says:

    […] Election Sets Stage for Conflict […]

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