Over 20 Dead, 46 Wounded in Guerrilla War;
Governor of Diyala Wounded in Assassination Attempt
Sunnis Threaten Boycott
A wave of guerrilla bombings and apparently coordinated small arms attacks around north-central Iraq left over 20 dead and over twice as many wounded on Monday. (Actually, it is worse; the average estimated dead in the guerrilla war ranges between 38 and 60 per day, but wire services seldom report more than a fraction of these deaths).
Guerrillas launched a series of 4 car bombings around Baghdad, killing 5 and wounding 15. Later they detonated a motorcycle bomb in a Shiite neighborhood of the capital near a funeral, killing 3 and wounding 23. According to al-Sharq al-Awsat, guerrillas assassinated Nawfal Ahmad, a professor at Baghdad’s Institute of Fine Arts when he came out of his house in al-Tubji, in north Baghdad. (Hundreds of Iraqi professors have been assassinated; it is not clear that this death is included in the totals given by the wire services, since none that I saw mention it explicitly). Police in Baghdad also happened upon 3 corpses on Monday, one of them that of a police officer.
In Buhriz near Baqubah northeast of Baghdad, a guerrilla platoon of more than thirty men launched a well-planned attack on local police at a checkpoint, jumping out of a minivan and firing rocket propelled grenades. They then advanced, throwing grenades. Late reports say that they killed 10 of the policemen and wounded others. They claimed on the internet to have killed or wounded all 20 policemen at the checkpoint, which may be near enough the truth. Iraqi police claimed to have killed six of the guerrillas.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat says that guerrillas at the same time assassinated Su’ad Jaafar, a member of the Diyala governing council along with 3 of her bodyguards while she was returning home. A member of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, she was a candidate for parliament in the Dec. 15 elections. They also tried to kill Raad Rashid Jawad, the governor of Diyala province (in which Buhriz is located), with a bomb planted on the route of his motorcade; one of his bodyguards was killed and he and two other bodyguards were wounded. US officials and officers have frequently said that US troops would be withdrawn when Iraqi security forces can handle the guerrillas themselves.
In Dhahab, north of Buhriz, another guerrilla band shot dead 5 Iraqi soldiers, in what may have been a coordinated attack. In Fallujah to the west, a guerrilla wearing a suicide bomb belt killed himself as he waded into a crowd of persons trying to join the police, killing two of them, as well.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that guerrillas set ablaze a gas pipeline carrying gas from Kirkuk to Samarra, via an improvised explosive device that they detonated in southwest Samarra, a city of some 200,000 an hour north of Baghdad. The Washington Post reports that the US military has imprisoned the rebellious Samarra population behind an earthen berm in an attempt to keep guerrilla fighters out, in which they have had some success. US forces have on several occasions declared that they have made substantial progress in Samarra, but violence usually breaks out there again after a time. One suspects that a lot of the violence is not actually coming from the outside.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat[Ar.] : The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq announced Monday early results of the special voting held for certain groups, such as expatriates, members of the armed forces and security forces, and for prisoners. Among these groups (which total just under 500,000 or less than 5 percent of the electorate), the Kurdistan Alliance received 36.5%, the United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite) received 30.2%, and the National Iraqi list headed by Iyad Allawi received 11.1%. The National Accord Front (Sunni fundamentalist) received 4.8%. These results are incomplete and could change. The majority of these voters were expatriates, helping explain the disproportionately large Kurdish showing and the disproportionately small vote for Shiite fundamentalists. These numbers will not affect very much the overall shape of the election, which the Shiite religious parties appear to have dominated.
The NYT saw separate statistics for the voting patterns of the 200,000 military, police and prison voters, which gave the Sunni parties about 7 percent, and concludes that Sunni Arabs are under-represented in the new military. The Kurdistan Alliance got 45% of the votes from the security forces, while the UIA got 30%. I am not entirely sure that you can read off these totals as the ethnic make-up of the military and security forces, though, since it is possible that Sunni Arabs in the military did not vote as enthusiastically as Shiites and Kurds. But the NYT and its sources are correct that these proportions are suggestive and disturbing.
The National Accord Front denied earlier reports that it had asked the Shiites to give Sunni Arabs ten seats. (Actually, the report I saw said that the request came from some Sunni Arab cabinet ministers).
The Sunni fundamentalist National Accord Front, along with the secular National Dialogue Council and the National Iraqiya list of Allawi, have planned a big demonstration in Baghdad for Tuesday. They, along with 39 other political parties and lists have formed an organization, the Conference for Rejection of the Fraudulent Elections, CRFE (Muram in Arabic). They charge that the Shiite fundamentalist coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, stole the election through electoral fraud. They also accused the IECI of not actually being an independent electoral commission, implying that it was serving Shiite interests.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat has sources who attended meetings of the rejection front in Amman, which included Iyad Allawi, Adnan Dulaimi and Salih Mutlak, and who reported that these politicians will inform the Arab League Secretary General, Amr Moussa, of their demands that the election be held all over again in the provinces where widespread fraud occurred, especially in the northern cities and in Basra and Baghdad. They sources say that the three leaders have decided to boycott parliamentary sessions in an effort to paralyze it if it will not heed their demands. They are also planning to write a letter to Kofi Annan.
Cole: Parliament requires a 2/3s vote to elect a president, who must appoint a prime minister from the coalition with a simple majority. I figure 2/3s as about 184 votes. Allawi and the Sunni Arabs probably won’t have more than 50 or 55 seats all told, leaving around 220. The Kurds will have about 50. If we subtract them, we come down to 170. Therefore, an Allawi/Sunni boycott would force the Shiites into another coalition with the Kurds if they are to form a government, and the Kurds can extract promises moderating Shiite fundamentalist policies before they agree. Since the Rejectionist Conference is alleging fraud in “northern cities,” probably a euphemism for Kirkuk, it may in fact push the Kurds to ally with the Shiites again, since both have an interest in protecting their electoral victories in their provinces. On the other hand, if the Kurds and the Shiites can do business, then the Allawi/Sunni boycott would become meaningless and would simply deprive them of a vote in parliament.
Once a Shiite-dominated government is formed, the United Iraqi Alliance could simply vote down its rivals by simple majority, though it would risk a presidential veto if it failed to get a consensus. The president (who likely will be a Kurd and likely will be Jalal Talabani) and the two vice presidents (likely a Sunni Arab and a Shiite) each can exercise a separate veto over legislation for the next 4 years. If the Kurds and the Shiites can find a pliable and complaisant Sunni Arab to serve as vice president, though, they could just run roughshod over the Sunni Arab and secularist minority.
Generally speaking, in parliamentary systems boycotts usually backfire and a poor political strategy. If the Sunni Arabs and secularists were smart, they’d make themselves swing votes in parliament and use their economic power to lobby for policies they want, thus leveraging themselves into great influence. The Sunni Arabs and ex-Baathists were used, however, to ruling by the iron fist from above, and so are hardly canny parliamentarians, and don’t know how to make themselves indispensable as a minority.