Iraq Still Central to Campaign; The Dark Side of McCain; Turkey Kills 10 Kurdish Guerrillas

Frank Davies of the Mercury News Service challenges the conventional wisdom that Iraq has faded as a campaign issue. He writes:

‘ But as the war nears two grim milestones – five years since the invasion and nearly 4,000 Americans killed – the question of what to do in Iraq is never far below the surface. In California, where polls show 42 percent of Republicans and 91 percent of Democrats oppose U.S. policy in Iraq, strong anti-war sentiment gives the issue staying power.

When both parties held debates this week in California, the candidates’ differing positions on the war were aired much more prominently than they have been in primaries and caucuses elsewhere.

“From town halls to phone calls I get, it’s the big thing I keep hearing about: What can we do about this war?” said Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Palo Alto Democrat. She was part of the unsuccessful effort last year by congressional Democrats to force President Bush to change his war policy. ‘

David Olive on the dark side of McCain— contrasting his flipflops to his more principled stances against tax cuts for the rich, against torture, and against drilling in the arctic:

‘ But there is another McCain, one who is among the least-principled major American political figures – all the more notable for how central “standing on principal” is to McCain’s self regard.

To win the conservative Republican votes so critical in the primaries and caucuses this year, McCain has flip-flopped on numerous of his most “principled” stands. Those unfair tax cuts? He now favours extending them. His compassion about illegal immigrants has given way to a pledge to build walls to keep the Mexicans out. McCain has gone from opposing the repeal of Roe vs. Wade to asserting his pro-life credentials. McCain’s opposition to federal subsidies for corn-based ethanol, which consumes more energy to produce than it yields, gave way to a pro-ethanol stand as the caucuses in corn-belt Iowa approached. . .

McCain is no less delusional than the Bush administration in detecting progress in Mesopotamia. Iraq still has no functioning government, no army capable of defending the nation, no oil-sharing law, and no effort at ethnic reconciliation one year after the “surge” of 30,000 additional U.S. troops and five years after the U.S.-led invasion. ‘

The Turkish military killed 10 separatist Kurdish guerrillas in eastern Anatolia near the border with Iraq on Sunday. The Turkish authorities accuse Iraqi Kurdistan of sheltering the guerrillas, who have killed scores of Turkish soldiers in recent months. Turkey has repeatedly bombed villages in Iraq that it considers guerrilla hideouts, but Iraqi Kurds say it has killed and displaced innocent civilians.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that a Turkmen political grouping had a conference in Baghdad this weekend to complain about the predations of the two major Kurdish parties in Kirkuk. These Turkmen do not want oil-rich Kirkuk to be annexed to the Kurdistan regional authority. The Turkmen are generally supported in their demands by Turkey, to which they have close links of language and culture, and which opposes Kurdish annexation of Kirkuk. This is a shoe waiting to drop.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Salah al-Ubaidi, the head of the Sadr office in Najaf has gathered up the preferences of 10 Sadrist committees charged with considering whether the freeze on the activities of the Mahdi Army militia should be extended. He says that the majority wants the Mahdi Army returned to active duty, on the grounds that state security forces have taken unfair advantage of the freeze to arrest or purge members of the militia, who are thus at heightened risk because of the freeze. The state security services are dominted by the Badr Corps paramilitary of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), a political rival of the Sadr movement.

LAT says that a campaign of behind the scenes assassinations of former Baath Party officials continues to stalk ex-Baathists in Iraq. Some of them were just minor municipal officials who committed no particular or major crimes, but now are marked men.

The presidency council is asking for revisions of a debaathification law submitted by parliament, but will allow it to be implemented as is for the moment. The law, supposedly aimed at effecting national reconciliation, actually has punitive provisions toward ex-Baathists that will forcibly retire them or exclude them from current government service.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Falah Shanshal, the Sadrist MP who heads the committee that produced the new debaathification legislation, says that parliament is reluctant to amend the law it submitted, but might consider minor revisions that did not contradict the thrust of the legislation. The Sadrists appear to be using the opportunity to revise the laws on former Baath members to disadvantage Sunni Arabs in some ways, and they are resisting VP Tariq al-Hashimi’s attempts to remove those parts of the legislation. The new law is not likely actually to lead to greater harmony or reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites.

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Sunday:

‘Baghdad

– Around 8 a.m. a private security company’s guards shot and injured an Iraqi citizen as their convoy passed near Al Zawra Park in central Baghdad, Iraqi police said.

– Around 8:30 a.m. Lt. Col. Ahmed Ibraheem, the director of Iraqi national police affairs in the Ministry of Interior, was killed when a bomb attached to his car exploded and injured two as he was driving his car.

– Around 8:30 a.m. a roadside bomb targeted an U.S. military convoy in Al Bayaa, western Baghdad, Iraqi police said.

– Police found three bodies in Baghdad, one in Ur, one in Shaab, and one in Hurriyah.

Diyala

– A bomb exploded inside the office of Dr. Hussein Al Zubaidi, the head of the security committee for the Diyala provincial council, in Baquba. The blast injured him, two bodyguards and two U.S. soldiers according to Iraqi police. Iraqi police imposed a curfew in the city. U.S. military said no coalition soldiers were injured.

– Iraqi police said al Qaida gunmen attacked the headquarters of a local awakening council in Al Katun area, killing four guards.

Salahuddin

– Iraqi police said that seven civilians were killed early Sunday morning as the U.S. military bombed Al Milah town in eastern Samara. US military didn’t respond to e-mail for confirmation.

Kirkuk

– Gunmen attacked a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan headquarters south of Kirkuk and injured one of the guards yesterday, Iraqi police said.

Mosul

– A parked car bomb targeted a U.S. military convoy in Mosul, Iraqi police said. U.S. military said two Iraqi civilians were wounded and no coalition soldiers were injured.

– Gunmen killed citizen Subhan Hammed as he was driving his car in Al Hamdaniyah town yesterday.

Basra

– Iraqi police said that the police force defused three IEDs and seven mines that were attached to an oil well about 110 kilometers north of Basra.

Al Anbar

– A roadside bomb targeted police officer Lt. Col. Issa Al Essawi as he was driving his car in central Fallujah yesterday. Al Essawi was injured in the attack.’

McClatchy reports on the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan and the spread of political Islam in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A recent Atlantic Council study concluded that NATO is not winning in Afghanistan.

But what is the mission in Afghanistan? If it is that Pushtuns should give up being conservative Muslims and stop opposing foreign troops being in their regions, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

If you did not see it, look at Barney Rubin’s blog entry on the new reports suggesting failure in Afghanistan, at our joint Global Affairs blog.

See also Farideh Farhi on the attempted closing of the feminist Zanan newspaper in Iran, also at IC: Global Affairs.

At the Napoleon’s Egypt blog, new letters by Napoleon Bonaparte and by Gen. Berthier on the Syria campaign of spring, 1799.

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