Monday, February 14, 2005

War News 14 February 2005

Bring ‘em on News

Bring ‘em on: Kidnappers have abducted the head of a Christian party in Iraq and are demanding the withdrawal of US troops.

Bring ‘em on: A U.S. soldier was killed in fighting north of Baghdad and gunmen assassinated an Iraqi general and two companions in a Shiite neighbourhood of the capital Sunday. Three other U.S. soldiers were killed when their vehicle rolled into a canal Sunday. A fourth Task Force Danger soldier was killed and one was wounded in fighting near Samarra, a flash point of the insurgency 60 miles north of Baghdad, the military said. In the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, an Iraqi interpreter for Italian troops and his son were shot to death Sunday, a spokesman for Italy's military said.

Bring ‘em on: Insurgents attacked a U.S. convoy and a government building near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, leaving at least four people dead, hospital workers said. Two Iraqi National Guard troops were also killed while trying to defuse a roadside bomb. Insurgents fired on the convoy in Al-Qahira district, just north of Mosul, sparking a battle that left at least four people dead and two wounded, doctors at the Al-Jumhuri Teaching Hospital said. Insurgents also fired a rocket at the governor's building in Mosul, killing one woman and one man, as well as injuring four others.

Election News

Turkey has called for a recount: Turkey has urged Iraqi electoral officials and the UN to examine what it claims are skewed Iraqi elections results. Turkish officials said on Sunday that they were particularly concerned about vote tallies in the oil-rich and ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk. Turkey has long complained that Kurdish groups were illegally moving Kurds into Kirkuk, a strategic northern city, in an effort to tip the city's population balance in their favour. Officials did not make direct reference to the Kurds on Sunday, but the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that voter turnout in some regions was low and charged that there were "imbalanced results" in several regions, including Kirkuk.

Billmon says it’s the counting.

Juan Cole quotes a translation from Gilbert Ashcar of this recent article from al-Hayat, which is revealing of attitudes in the Sunni fundamentalist group, the Association of Muslim Scholars. “If the Shias secure a majority of seats in the Parliament, they must consider the sacrifices of Arab Sunnis against the Americans,” pointing to the fact that “the resistance was behind the pressure on the Americans to create a Governing Council, then an Iraqi Government, and finally to organize the elections.” Kubaisi asserted that if it were not for the Sunni resistance, US position would have been different in dealing with all issues and forces.

Meanwhile there is the armed wing: A well-organized faction of extremist Shiite Muslims is mobilizing to challenge the government that emerges from Iraq's election and push for a hard line against the United States. The religious and political leaders are loosely allied with cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and include supporters of Sadr's uprising in several cities last April. In recent days, including at prayer services Friday, they vowed to use seats they expect to win in the Transitional National Assembly to demand a timetable for the departure of U.S. forces.

Fatah al-Sheikh, seen as Sadr's most direct proxy in the political process, has pledged to lead the opposition to Iraq's unwritten new constitution. He also supports military resistance against U.S. forces. The rejectionist wing is already exerting pressure on the United Iraqi Alliance, the mainstream Shiite coalition poised to command a majority in the new government. The alliance has been busy fending off allegations by Iraqi secularists and some U.S. officials that it is influenced by Iran and that it plans to push for an Islamic government. Its leaders are trying to position themselves as moderate modernizers.

Back to the law of unintended consequences: When the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq two years ago, it envisioned a quick handover to handpicked allies in a secular government that would be the antithesis of Iran's theocracy. But, in one of the greatest ironies of the U.S. intervention, Iraqis instead went to the polls and elected a government with a strong religious base -- and very close ties to the Islamic republic next door. It is the last thing the administration expected from its costly Iraq policy -- $300 billion and counting, analysts say.

Almost immediately, they reiterated demands for the presidency or premiership - their success set to make them a powerbroker in national politics, serving as a bridge between Shiite religious parties and secular Arabs. "We stick to our demand for obtaining one of these two posts: prime minister or president," said Azar Zinbani, an aide to Talabani. "We congratulate the Iraqi people, in spite of the problems encountered by some Kurds who wanted to vote, especially in the Mosul region. We are satisfied by the results, considering this was a first experience in democracy," he said. But many expect the Kurds to capitalize on their newfound power to push their own agenda - in spite of objections from within Iraq and neighbouring countries with their own Kurdish minorities.

Financial News

“In sum: inexperienced officials, fear of decision-making, lack of communications, minimal security, no banks, and lots of money to spread around. This chaos I have referred to as a 'Wild West,’” Willis said in testimony he prepared to give Monday before a panel of Democratic senators who want to spotlight the waste of U.S. funds in Iraq.

14 February

“It's unsafe for couples to stroll Baghdad streets car bombs and explosions are everywhere,” Mousa said. “I don't want her to be hurt or kidnapped by gangsters.” Enjoy your Saint Valentine’s today, wherever you are.


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