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Jan 25th, 2009

Elections are Test for al-Maliki, Iraq

A supporter holds a poster of Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during a political rally in Basra, 260 miles southeast of Baghdad, Jan. 23, 2009. (Photo credit: Reuters / Stringer)

Jan. 24, 2009

BAGHDAD — Iraqis vote Jan. 31 in the first nationwide election in three years, choosing provincial leaders in what amounts to a test of Iraq’s stability as the U.S. plans to remove its troops. …

Although the races are local, the stakes are enormous — both for Iraq and the United States.

A credible election without significant violence would show that the security improvements of the past 18 months are taking hold. The outcome will also show which parties stand the best chance of success in parliamentary elections expected by the end of the year.

However, a deeply flawed election, marred by violence and allegations of widespread fraud, would cast doubt over Iraq’s future and could influence President Barack Obama’s decision on how fast to remove the 142,000 American troops.

Strong voter turnout expected

Obama pledged during the presidential campaign to end America’s role in the unpopular war and has ordered his national security team to prepare plans for a responsible withdrawal. U.S. officials warn that a hasty pullout could threaten Iraq’s fragile security.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the Pentagon is closely watching the elections because their outcome “will, I think, be a big indicator for 2009, which is a big year.”

U.S. and Iraqi officials have warned extremists may try to disrupt Saturday’s vote and are planning heightened security, including banning vehicles on election day and closing airports and land borders. But officials expect a strong turnout — possibly more than 70 percent of the 15 million eligible voters. …

More than 14,400 candidates, about 3,900 of them women, are competing for 444 seats on ruling councils in 14 of the country’s 18 provinces. So it could take weeks of dealmaking to determine which parties have gained control of key areas such as Baghdad, the oil-rich Shiite-dominated south and former insurgent strongholds of western Anbar province.

The vote is also effectively a referendum on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki personally as well as the entire Iraqi political establishment that has ruled since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003. …

Al-Maliki isn’t running, but his somber, stubbly-bearded face features on campaign posters throughout Iraq, and he has campaigned extensively, especially in the south where his followers are locked in a bitter fight with the country’s biggest Shiite party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.

A strong showing by al-Maliki’s Coalition of the State of Law would bolster him against political rivals, including Kurdish and Shiite parties that are nominally part of his ruling alliance but oppose him on key power-sharing issues.

Desire for self-ruled region

The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which is part of his government, would like to take the premiership away from al-Maliki after this year’s parliamentary elections.

The council, which maintains ties to both Iran and the U.S., also wants to build a self-ruled region in the Shiite south modeled on the autonomous Kurdish administration in the north.

Critics maintain a southern self-ruled region would fall under Iranian influence and could lead to the breakup of Iraq. Al-Maliki argues that the central government needs more power to defend and develop the country.

Sunni and Shiite religious parties that have run the country for years are expected to face a stiff challenge from secular-minded candidates who claim the incumbents governed poorly and fomented religious divisions. …


U.S. Troops Kill Iraqi Couple, Wound Daughter

Jan. 24, 2009

BAGHDAD — U.S. troops shot dead a couple and wounded their eight-year-old daughter during an early morning raid on their house in northern Iraq on Saturday, a senior Iraqi police officer said.

The U.S. military said the man was a suspected al Qaeda militant who had been running an assassination cell.

Major-General Turhan Abdul Rahman, deputy chief commander of police in Kirkuk province, said U.S. forces stormed the house of Dhiya Hussein, a former officer in the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein, in Hawija, 130 miles north of Baghdad.

In a statement, the U.S. military said its forces killed the woman when she reached for something in her mattress that later turned out to be a pistol.

It was a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation, the statement said.

“The force repeatedly gave instruction in Arabic for the woman to show her hands but she failed to comply,” it said. “Forces engaged the woman, killing her.”

The bullet went straight through her, wounding a girl in the leg, the statement said.

The Iraqi police general said no Iraqi troops were present during the raid.

Kirkuk is one of the northern provinces where unrest persists despite a reduction in violence in the country. U.S. forces there have yet to hand over responsibility for security to Iraqi troops as they have done in most of Iraq.


Security Developments in Iraq

Following are security developments reported in Iraq on Jan. 24, 2009, as reported by Reuters.

FALLUJA – A car bomb killed five policemen and wounded 13 other people, including six police officers, at a checkpoint in Garma, 20 miles northwest of Baghdad, Police Lieutenant Mohammed al-Jumaili said.

KHALDIYA – A roadside bomb wounded a civilian as a police patrol passed by in Khaldiya, 50 miles, west of Baghdad, Police Captain Kareem Ali said.

BAQUBA – A bomb placed on a bicycle wounded a civilian and a policeman when it struck a police patrol in the center of Baquba, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said.



Pakistan: Toll from U.S. Strikes Reaches 22

Pakistani tribesmen stand beside coffins of the victims of a suspected U.S. missile strike in Zharki village on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009. (Photo credit: Hasbunallah Khan / AP)

Jan. 24, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The death toll from two suspected U.S. missile attacks on al-Qaida bases in northwest Pakistan has risen to 22, officials and residents said Saturday. Eight suspected foreign militants were among the dead.

A senior security official said Pakistani authorities were trying to determine the seniority of an Egyptian al-Qaida militant believed to have been killed.

Friday’s attacks were the first since the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and suggest that he will allow U.S. forces to continue targeting al-Qaida and Taliban operatives inside Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt. …

Three intelligence officials told The Associated Press that funerals were held Saturday for nine Pakistanis killed Friday in Zharki, a village in the North Waziristan region.

The officials, citing reports from field agents and residents, said Taliban fighters had earlier removed the bodies of five suspected foreign militants who also died in the first missile strike Friday. Initial reports put the death toll from that attack at 10.

A senior security official in the capital, Islamabad, identified one of the slain men as a suspected al-Qaida operative called Mustafa al-Misri. He said it was unclear if the man was a significant figure.

The second strike hit a house in the South Waziristan region. Residents and security officials say eight people died in the village of Gangi Khel. …

Little control

Pakistan’s government has little control over the border region, which is considered a likely hiding place for al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders.

Obama is making the war in Afghanistan and the intertwined al-Qaida fight in Pakistan an immediate foreign policy priority. He has not commented on the missile strike policy, but struck a hawkish tone during his election campaign.

Also Saturday, Pakistan’s government welcomed Obama’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

A Foreign Ministry statement Saturday said Obama’s decision was a step toward “upholding the primacy of the rule of law” and would add a “much-needed moral dimension in dealing with terrorism.”

Pakistan helped the United States round up hundreds of militants in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including several al-Qaida leaders still incarcerated at Guantanamo.

3 Responses to “Poll Foreshadows Iraq’s Future”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Triple Bombing Rocks Baghdad Says:

    […] Poll Foreshadows Iraq’s Future […]

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    […] Poll Foreshadows Iraq’s Future […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » ‘Day of Defeating the Occupier’ Celebrated in Iraq Says:

    […] Election Foreshadows Iraq’s Future (Jan. 25, 2009) […]

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