4 Awakening Council Members Killed; Iraqi Army enters Sadr City; Provincial election Date provokes Row

The Iraqi Army moved into part of Sadr City without meeting resistance on Tuesday, according to McClatchy.

Raheem Salman of LAT blogs the scene in Sadr City.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Iraqi security forces began their search of Sadr City (East Baghdad) in an operation aimed at imposing a rule of law on the district. They met no resistance from the Mahdi Army, which said that the operation did not constitute a breach of its agreement with the United Iraqi Alliance coalition of other Shiite parties. Mahdi Army leaders did express their fear that the official security forces would attack ordinary citizens. The Mahdi Army itself begain withdrawing from government buildings in Baghdad and the provinces. MP Maha al-Duri said that Muqtada al-Sadr himself had ordered the government buildings abandoned.

Government armored vehicles came into the district for the first time since fighting began 8 weeks ago. In some instances they cut off the road to the north and began search and destroy operations. An army spokesman said that they had discovered 100 roadside bombs, and that the operation enjoyed the backing of Muqtada al-Sadr in restoring law and order to the district. Another spokesman more or less admitted that because the district was so densely populated, it depended for success in capturing arms caches and arresting guerrillas on tips from the inhabitants of Sadr City. [I wouldn’t count on it getting much information about most Mahdi Army personnel; maybe commanders local consider rogues. The Mahdi Army like all good guerrilla groups will melt away and lie low while the conventional forces are around.]

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that a political fracas is brewing over the provincial elections now scheduled for November (I had thought, October?). Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had announced last Sunday that the government will hold the elections for provincial councils over several days so as to guarantee their uprightness, to ensure that they are not interfered with, and to guarantee the safety of the voters.

Umar Sattar reports from Baghdad that Iyad Allawi, leader of the Iraqi National List and former appointed PM, has expressed doubts about whether the elections will be fraudulent.

Also, Salim Abdallah of the Iraqi Accord Front [Sunni fundamentalist] said, “The Front would prefer that the elections be held in all the provinces on the same day if it is desired that their probity be guaranteed. But the government is the decider in setting the election dates, according to the election law that it presented to parliament.” He worried that the results of the election in one province might affect those in another province if they were not held simultaneously. He said he hoped that the United Nations would be deeply involved in the holding of the provincial elections, and that Iraqi military forces would be careful to remain neutral.

Speaker of the Iraqi parliament Mahmud al-Mashhadani also came out against holding the elections over several days. He argued that it would be easier to arrange security through curfews if the elections were held on the same day throughout the provinces.

Iyad Allawi sent a letter to several governments and to the UN, expressing his fears that the elections may be fraudulent.

Bush is clearly intent on keeping 140,000 troops in Iraq throughout the rest of hist term. He called up 7 combat brigades to replace those who are cycling out.

Rami El-Amine sums up the state of the ‘Surge’ as it winds down.

McClatchy reports political violence on Tuesday in Iraq:

‘ Baghdad

A roadside bomb targeted a US military convoy in al-Qanat Street, near the Talbiyah traffic fly over bridge at 7.45 am Tuesday. One hummer vehicle was damaged.

A roadside bomb targeted civilians in Zayuna in the service lane at 9 am injuring 2 civilians.

An IED left in a Kia minibus exploded as the Kia pulled in Rustamiyah area at 10 am killing 1 civilian, injuring 4.

2 unidentified bodies were found in Baghdad by Iraqi Poloice. 1 in al-Kamaliyah and 1 in Abu Disheer.

Sulaimaniyah

3 people were injured in Sulaimaniyah city during a fight that was related to a vengeance killing, in Hachi Awa neighbourhood at 8 pm Monday. One of the gunmen is a captain in the armed forces and has been handed over to the military authorities for disciplining.

1 woman was injured in the continued Iranian bombardment of border villages. Halima Ibraheem was injured by flying shrapnel Monday evening and was taken to hospital for treatment. 5 border villages were targeted Tuesday from 11 am until noon.

Diyala

A five year old girl was killed and 4 other civilians were injured when a suicide bomber wearing a suicide belt detonated targeting Sheikh Mutlab al-Nidawi, head of Nidawi tribe and head of the Sahwa of Mutamar Ahl al-Iraq in the town of Mendili Tuesday morning..

2 mortar rounds fell on Baladruz open air market, Baladruz town killing 2 civilians, injuring 9.

Salahuddin

4 Sahwa council members including Qassim Dlaiyil al-Dulaimi head of the Sahwa council in Yeshkan village, 5 km to the east of Dhuluiyah were killed by gunmen in an ambush Tuesday. ‘

Al-Zaman [The Times of Baghdad] is celebrating 11 years of publishing. A warm congratulations from IC to this newspaper that has been so important to this column. (Since it is Sunni Iraqi nationalist, I find it a useful corrective for the Shiite and pan-Arab newspapers I also use).

Nick Turse at tomdispatch.com looks at the film Iron Man as part of the military-entertainment complex.

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