Pace of Attacks picks up in Iraq, with Explosion Tuesday Morning in Baghdad, 24 Dead on Monday
A big car bomb exploded outside the headquarters in Baghdad of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq on Tuesday morning. The number of casualties is unclear as I write. SCIRI is a leading Shiite party and part of the United Iraqi Alliance list that is expected to do very well in the January 30 elections. SCIRI was based in Tehran from its formation in 1982, and hit the Baathists in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war and all through the 1990s. The Baathists hate it as a party of quislings, and were probably behind the murder by car bomb of its leader, Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, on August 29, 2003, as well as the recent car bombing that targeted his brother and successor, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.
Two US troops assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force died in action in Anbar Province on Monday.
Guerrillas targeted police officers in Baiji with a car bomb on Monday, killing 10 and wounding 28. In the eastern city of Baqubah, guerrillas fired rpg’s at an Iraqi military vehicle, killing 8
soldiers and wounding 4.
‘ “In other pre-election violence, clashes erupted in the southern town of Musayib after guerrillas fired on a polling station. One guard was killed and two wounded.” ‘
This incident is further evidence that the guerrillas can strike deep in the south of the country, and are not limited to operations in the Sunni Arab heartland. They can be expected to strike there on Election Day.
Guerrillas in Mosul kidnapped Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa, 66, of the Syrian Catholic Church an arm of the Roman Catholic church on Monday, prompting a protest from the Vatican.
A poll published in the al-Mada newspaper suggested that 2/3s of registered voters in Baghdad intended to vote on January 30. I would not make too much of this finding. Baghdad has a population of 5 million, with about 2 million Shiites and nearly a million Kurds, the populations most enthusiastic to vote. The poll is skewed toward likely voters, since it is reporting the attitudes of those who have already bothered to register. The poll would only be counter-intuitive if it told us that most Sunni Arabs in the capital planned to vote, something Reuters is not alleging. So I don’t think the poll tells us anything we didn’t already know. We expect big Shiite and Kurdish turnouts. It is the one-third of registered voters who do not plan to vote who worry me, since they are probably mostly Sunni Arabs, and are being joined by some rejectionist Shiites.
The All India Ulema [Clerical] Council has submitted a demand to the US government that they be allowed to send election observers to Iraq. They note the suspicion in which the US is held in the Muslim world, and the importance of Iraq in Islamic history for Muslims. Bush said Sunday that he hoped Muslims who wanted peace could be persuaded that the US did as well. Here is an opening. The Indian Muslim community is about 130 million strong.
Al-Hayat is reporting that a compromise has been reach over Kirkuk, whereby Kurds from that city who were deported by Saddam will be allowed to vote in local and provincial elections as residents of Kirkuk. The city is contested by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, and is an armed camp. The Kurds had earlier threatened to boycott the elections if Kirkuk residents were allowed to vote (the implication being that the 1/3 of the city that is Arab is actually interlopers given Kurdish property by Saddam).