Thousands of Shiites Demonstrate against Aljazeera;
Four US troops were killed and a Sunni politician (Mizhar Dulaimi of Ramadi) was assassinated on Tuesday in the run-up to the Iraqi elections (scheduled for Dec. 15). Two days ago, another Sunni parliamentary candidate had been killed in Mosul. On Monday, Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, a Shiite candidate from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was subjected to a failed assassination attempt in Taifiyah on his return from campaigning.
On Wednesday, guerrillas managed to launch two attacks in Mosul and one in Baiji, despite the lockdown of the country by the US military.
Thousands of Shiite demonstrated in Najaf, Baghdad and other cities against comments made on Aljazeera satellite television by a guest, saying the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani (the spiritual leader of the Shiites) should stay out of politics. Similar statements have been made in the past by former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi. In the southern Shiite city of Nasiriyah, a mob headed toward Allawi’s campaign offices, but they were turned back by the police. [Later reports say that the mob did indeed set fire to Allawi’s offices in Nasiriyyah.]
Al-Zaman: Sistani’s office issued another communique making it obligatory on believers to vote, but declining to back any particular list. A similar statement was issued the by Shiite nationalist young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, which underscored his neutrality on the elections. The United Iraqi Alliance nevertheless widely uses Sistani’s picture in its campaigning, as well as photos of Muqtada’s father, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (d. 1999).
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad announced that 120 largely Sunni Arab prisoners had been found in Ministry of Interior jails, who had been tortured.
Shiite candidate Adel Abdul Mahdi warned against the reemergence of the Baath party. He was referring to the Iraqiya list of former transitional prime minister, Iyad Allawi, an ex-Baathist who is attempting to appeal to the secular, Arab-nationalist remnants of the Baath Party.
Al-Hayat [Arabic] reports that 1,000 Sunni clerics issued a joint ruling calling on Sunni Arabs in Iraq to vote in Thursday’s elections. Sunni Arabs mostly did not vote in the Jan. 30 elections, and feel marginalized in the new Iraq. Also, a neo-Baathist guerrilla group, the Army of Islam, issued instructions to its fighters not to target polling stations, so as to avoid indiscriminate attacks on civlians.
Al-Hayat also reports on the building grip of the Shiite militias on the southern port city of Basra. Its reporter says that militiamen who have infiltrated the police used unmarked police cars to kidnap and kill a Sunni cleric a few weeks ago. Militiamen impose veiling on women (even Christian women!) and forbid alcohol sales,
Anthony Cordesman argues that the US must learn to fight limited conflcicts instead of going for total victory. In insurgencies, victory cannot come from US firepower alone, but must involve political arrangements with local and international allies.