Update: Zogby et al. is showing a last minute boost among voters for Obama and Huckabee in Iowa. But obviously many Iowans are undecided and the race is extremely volatile.
Activists campaigning down to the wire in Iowa are invoking stances on the Iraq War. Joshua Holland argues that among the three leading Democratic candidates only John Edwards will completely and quickly get out of Iraq.
Michael Moore contemplates the Democratic frontrunners without giving any an endorsement. It seems to me he is leaning toward Edwards, though.
Meanwhile, Romney has finally come out and has slammed Bush’s handling of the Iraq War. (For the Republican candidates, it wasn’t bad to unilaterally invade and occupy a country that had not attacked the US. It was just bad to do it incompetently.)
Back in Iraq, a suicide bomber in Tarmiya near Baquba threw himself on a car driven by a member of a local awakening council, killing 10 and wounding 44. Diyala province northeast of Baghdad is ethnically mixed and has been the main center of violence since attacks in al-Anbar declined from 400 a week to 100 a week. The attack probably reflected the rivalry between Sunni fundamentalists or Arab nationalists and the members of the Awakening Councils, which cooperate with the US and attempt to limit bloodshed in their neighborhoods.
5 people (3 policemen and 2 civilians) were wounded in an IED explosion targeting police patrol in Shaab stadium intersection in Zayuna neighborhood east Baghdad around 10,30 am.
Police found three anonymous bodies in Baghdad today in the following neighborhoods (1 body in Sadr city, 1 body in Saidiyah and 1 body in Bayaa neighborhood.
Gunmen opened fire randomly targeting civilians in Al Abla area north Basra city early morning today. Two civilians were injured in the incident. ‘
McClatchy reports on the dilemma of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis displaced from Baghdad to other Iraqi cities or abroad to Syria and Jordan. They are often facing straitened circumstances in their exile, but despite a reduction in violence in Baghdad, the situation is still not inviting in the capital. Plus, often somebody else is now living in their old home. Will the mostly Sunni Arab returnees have to fight hand to hand with the mostly Shiite squatters? Jamie Gumbrecht’s article includes this important passage:
‘ Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said that goal would be difficult to meet, and he predicted violence as homeowners and squatters battle over property. Petraeus warned that some people will have to resign themselves to never being able to reclaim their homes.
“That is not ideal, not right, not legal, not a lot of things, but it is reality,” he said last week. “This is just going to remain a very, very tough issue for some time.”
Coalition forces will offer some aid, but Petraeus said he didn’t have ground forces capable of organizing returns, settling property debates and maintaining safety. Those solutions will have to come from Iraqis, he said. ‘
The problem is that the government of PM Nuri al-Maliki is a Shiite government, and Sunni Arabs, at least, think it is complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from the capital. How likely is it that al-Maliki’s security forces are going to bring Sunnis in large numbers back into, say, Shaab district, which used to be mixed? I hear something ominous in Gen. Petraeus’s resignation here. A future ethnic war that the US might not be able to stop.
I can’t imagine the Sunni Arabs, whether Iraqis or their coreligionists in the region, giving up on Baghdad and ceding it to the Shiites. So they are likely to organize over time to try to take it back. The oil monarchies of the Gulf are Sunni-ruled, and $100 a barrel petroleum gives them lots of resources with which to support the Iraqi Sunni Arabs. The US troop escalation had the accidental side effect of worsening the position of the Sunni Arabs for now, so that Baghdad must be 80% or so Shiite (way up from about 50/50 in 2003). As the US troops are drawn back down, the Sunni Arabs will come back. (Although the Iraqi government makes a big deal out of the returnees, in fact only a tiny number of people have come back, and some people are still leaving).
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic on a campaign by the provincial government of Basra to tear down the shop stalls and shacks that have been thrown up without any building licenses in the port city, often erected on sidewalks on other public space. On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters rallied against the campaign.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the United Iraqi Alliance has reaffirmed its support for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and its strategic partnership with the Kurds. The UIA is a coalition of Shiite reliious parties.