Poll Iraq Could Cost Republicans In

Poll: Iraq could cost Republicans in November Election
Muqtada: US must Set Withdrawal Timetable

A new poll shows that Bush is so disliked that for 36 percent of the public, his endorsement of a candidate would be a negative. Less that half that would view it as a positive. And although American men are evenly divided between the Republican and Democratic Parties, women have migrated to the Democratic ranks in such numbers that they support the Dems by a factor of 2 to 1. Overall, potential voters favor Democrats over the Republicans by 49% to 35%.

Guerrillas set off three bombs around Kirkuk
on Friday, killing 4 and wounding 21. Four bodies were found south of the city at Rashad. In the southern city of Kut, gunmen assassinated a former Baath official.

Young nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr
said in his Friday prayers sermon in Kufa that the Askariyah Shrine in Samarra must be rebuilt and that the US must set a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops and leave Iraq. He also rejected any amnesty for radical Sunnis who have killed Shiites, and for “the Baathists of Saddam’s regime.” He demanded the release of still-imprisoned Mahdi Army fighters. He also called for continued de-baathification and the execution of Saddam. Muqtada’s call for continued debaathification is being interpreted as a rejection of Maliki’s reconciliation plan. Note that Muqtada puts the US on a par with radical Islamists and with Baathists as undeserving of forgiveness or reconciliation.

Al-Hayat reports a demonstration against the reconciliation plan in Nasiriyah, a southern Shiite city. They are especially angry at the prospect of amnesty for Baathists.

Al-Hayat reports that Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, the representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in the holy city of Najaf, welcomed the reconciliation plan. He said he approved of any plan that reduced the level of tension in the country.

Al-Hayat also reports that one Sunni Arab neighbor of Iraq that had been giving some support to the Sunni Arab guerrillas has now cut them off and instructed them to work with Maliki’s reconciliation plan. Maliki will visit Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, seeking to drum up support for his plan

Harith al-Dhari of the Association of Muslim Scholars (hard line Sunni) expressed disappointment in the reconciliation plan and called it “meaningless.” He said it is “meaningless because he has excluded everyone”.

Yet another investigation of US troops has been launched, this time involving charges of rape and murder against an Iraqi family.

Al-Zaman reports that the US is engaged in discussions
with the governor of Ninevah province on the possibility of the draw-down of US troops in that province. Its capital of Mosul, at least, does not seem very stable. A high officer was assassinated on Friday and his wife wounded; a US soldier was announced killed there; and it was revealed that Thursday afternoon a running gun battle broke out between guerrillas and a police patrol in Hadba’ District.

The Iraqi Christians of Baghdad
are fleeing north to Kurdistan, where they are living in penury. They are fleeing faith-based violence just as are Shiite and Sunni families.

US troops in Ramadi are constantly facing incoming mortar fire and gun battles with guerrillas.

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