Sunni Party Joins Call for New Elections in Iraq

Turkish aircraft struck at targets inside Iraqi Kurdistan on Tuesday, seeking to inflict damage on the Kurdish Worker Party guerrillas who have crossed over into Iraq in search of safe haven.

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars (mostly the Iraq War) have cost the US taxpayer $1.8 trillion, twice what Bush has alleged.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is preparing to extend for another 6 months his freeze on the activities of the paramilitary Mahdi Army. Since the Shiites have been able to increase their proportion in Baghdad from 65% to 75% even with the supposed ‘freeze,’ probably in part because the US disarmed the Sunnis in the capital, it is hard to see what extra advantage al-Sadr would gain from keeping the Mahdi Army deployed.

The Sadrists in parliament called on Monday for a dissolution of parliament and new elections. On Tuesday MP Baha’ al-A’raji asked President Jalal Talabani to dissolve parliament and hold new elections, but not on the closed list system. (The UN and US imposed on Iraq a system similar to that used in Spain, which involves parties campaigning on the basis of a ranked list of potential members of parliament, and how many they seat depends on what proportion of the vote the list gains. In Iraq, the system has led to people voting for lists in virtual ignorance of which actual candidates are running. Al-A’raji argued for open parliamentary elections.

On Tuesday the Sunni fundamentalist Iraqi Accord Front joined in the call for new elections, according to al-Hayat. The pan-Arab London daily reports that they argue that parliament is dysfunctional and paralyzed by internal disputes.

The Sunni Iraqi Accord Front also rejected Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s offer of a window of time during which it might rejoin his cabinet. The MPs said that they considered al-Maliki’s offer a veiled threat and would not negotiate with him under such circumstances.

A government source told al-Hayat that the US and the Iraqi military are about to launch a military operation in Qadisiya province (capital: Diwaniya), about half of which is run by armed paramilitaries, and where assassinations and firefights among rival Shiite militias are common.

Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that there is continued tension in Karbala, with police on police violence (each faction of the police is dominated by a different political party, the Sadrists or the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq). The police chief and his deputy have just been arrested, apparently on charges of being close to the Mahdi Army.

At the Global Affairs blog: Manan Ahmed on Pakistan, Barnett Rubin on the deterioration of security in Afghanistan, and Avi Shlaim on interference in freedom of speech by the Israel lobby, even unto Oxford.

In memoriam, Steve Gilliard.

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