At Least 24 Dead, Dozens Wounded
AP reports that guerrillas fired a rocket into the Sunubar Hotel in Tikrit, leaving 15 Iraqis dead and 8 wounded.
Guerrillas in Fallujah responded to days of bombings by the US by firing mortar rounds and rockets at US Marines. The Marines fired artillery back and called in air strikes on guerrilla positions.
Back in August one Marine told the Washington Post that the Shrine of Ali in Najaf “may not be there much longer.” That disaster was averted. But now the likelihood is that they city of Fallujah, which once had a population of 300,000, “may not be there much longer.”
In Ramadi, fighting broke out between guerrillas and US forces, leaving 7 Iraqis dead and 11 wounded. On Saturday or very early Sunday, 3 Marines were wounded at Ramadi.
Sunni clerics are threatening to call for a nationwide movement of civil disobedience if the US flattens Fallujah, as now seems likely to happen in only a few days. (If Bush ends up a lame duck, razing Fallujah may be among his last major decisions).
Fresh U.S. troops are rotating into Iraq. It is being rumored that US troop strength may be brought up to 160,000 in order to have the manpower needed to keep voters safe while at the polling booth.
Someone set of a huge explosion near Samawah, where Japanese troops are stationed. no word of casualties.
Assassins killed Abdul Hayy Kadhim, a leader of the Da`wa Party in Basra, a southern port city of 1.3 million. (-az-Zaman). I fear as elections near there may be more such assassinations.
Nancy Youssef of Knight Ridder reports on the mixed signals Sunni Arabs in Iraq are getting from their leaders. The Association of Muslim Scholars has so far urged them to boycott the elections in January. In contrast, the Iraqi Islamic Party hands out pamphlets at mosques after prayers warning Sunnis that they had better vote, or the country will get a government that pursues policies abhorrent to Sunnis.
Since voters will be voting for party lists, and seats in parliament will be assigned in accordance with the percentage of votes a list receives, if Sunnis boycott they could doom their parties to holding 5 percent of the seats in parliament instead of 15 to 20 percent. Such an outcome would in turn make them irate and sullen about the new government and possibly prolong the insurgency.
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reports that Mahmud al-Hadithi, leader of a group of persons damaged by the war, is saying that there will be a Sunni coalition of parties in the elections. Adnan Pachachi and Nasir Chaderchi both have small Sunni nationalist parties. Iyad Allawi has the Iraqi National Accord, a small party that will do poorly on its own. The two Kurdish parties may join this coalition. Al-Hadithi says there is a serious plan for these three groups to ally with the two major Kurdish parties to form a single party list. Such a coalition could hope to get some 35 percent of the vote, if we count both Sunni Arabs and Kurds.
This coordination would allow Allawi’s party to get some seats in parliament, on the coattails of the Kurdish leaders (popular among Kurds). Otherwise, his Iraqi National Accord is not that popular.