Over all, violence has declined precipitously in Iraq since 2007, but the Iraqi and American militaries have predicted that there would be an increase in attacks around the elections.
The above is from Alissa J. Rubin's "Bombs Kill 5 in Baghdad, but Officials Avoid Harm" (New York Times) and Rubin apparently decided, "Why cite the United Nations -- which actually prepared a report documenting their thesis -- when we can cite the US military and the Iraqi military -- known far and wide for their abilities to predict life on the ground in Iraq as well as future rainfall?"
Ernesto Londono's "Iraq Accuses Iranian Exiles of Plotting Attack" (Washington Post) includes this:
The Mujaheddin-e Khalq, or MEK, on Tuesday denied Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie's allegation that it was planning an attack. Rubaie, who made the charge Monday during a visit to Tehran, offered no evidence to back up his assertion.
The fate of the MEK has long been an irritant in relations between the government of Iraq, which has built close ties with Iran, and the U.S. government. The MEK received support from Saddam Hussein's government and has been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department, but the U.S. military has protected the group's base in Iraq, known as Camp Ashraf, since the 2003 invasion. U.S. officials credit the MEK with providing information about Iran's nuclear program.
I have no comment. Short of an attack on MEK, I promised friends on Barack's transition team I wouldn't say a word until February. The outgoing administration refused to address the above and it's a complex issue. It's been dumped in the incoming administration's lap. Those are the breaks. They need to get to work on the issue quickly. (In terms of lowering the rhetoric, it would only take a conversation with the puppet Nouri al-Maliki where it was strongly explained to him that, however the issue is resolved, he will not be using the MEK to score political points by turning them into scapegoats. The push to raise the rhetoric is coming from al-Maliki and the outgoing administration knew it as does the ingoing. He's on a real tear to establish himself as a 'strong man.') (And, no, that didn't break my promise. When I go off on this subject, it will be obvious.)
Uncredited Dept of Defense photo above. Today's must read on Iraq is Aseel Kami's "Women may win seats, not rights, in Iraqi poll" (Reuters) which explores 'meaning' for women in the upcoming provincial elections (scheduled for January 31st in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces):
More than a quarter of the 14,431 candidates registered for Iraq's provincial council elections are women, but college student Fatma Imad sees few women's faces on the posters plastered across her neighbourhood.
"Even if I want to choose a woman, where are these women? I don't see any posters for a woman candidate," she asks.
In a Jan. 31 provincial poll that will set the political tone for a national election due later this year, election law ensures women will be represented: each party that wins seats must give every third spot to a woman.
But in a country that was once one of the most progressive for women's rights in the Middle East, and where black candidates plan to run for election for the first time, female candidates say the quota gives them little real clout.
Staying with this topic, Alsumaria offers, "In this context, some liberals have accused dominant religious parties of giving quota seats to carefully selected women who would not call for better women's rights. However, many Iraqi men, like Abu Omar, welcome the presence of women in the political establishment." In a separate report, Alsumaria explains that Faraj Al Haydari, head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Committee, has declared a "curfew will be imposed and airports will close off on the day of elections." NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (Morning Edition -- link has text and audio) offers an overview:
Sheik Aifan al-Issawi is a founding member of one of these groups, the Sahwa, or Awakening, movement. In 2006, he and other tribal leaders turned against al-Qaida in Iraq and joined the Americans.
Now, Anbar is one of the more stable Iraqi provinces — and these fighters want to become a political force in Iraq.
Issawi, head of Fallujah's tribal security force, says he and other tribal fighters have sacrificed more than anyone else. He cites his own personal losses: nine members of his family killed, including his mother and sisters.
The Sunni boycott of the polls in 2005 left them with little representation. This time, the sheik says they are going to flex their electoral muscle.
There has been a push in Basra to become its own region (similar to the KRG) and
Basil Adas (Gulf News) reports that the push has failed after supporters "fell short of the 10 per cent of votes" needed but "further division and quarrelling" is expected to continue. Basra resident Khamis Al Alwan is quoted stating, "The Basra failure is a blow to those who are in favour of the division of Iraq. Iraqis want Iraq to remain one country, and this can be seen through the cooperation of Sunnis and Shiites to prevent its division."
Meanwhile the US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following Monday:
The American Embassy today welcomed a delegation of U.S. university officials visiting Iraq to participate in the Baghdad Forum for Iraqi and International Universities being held January 19-20. The 24-member U.S. delegation is here to confer with Iraqi higher education officials and to meet with prospective students about educational opportunities in the United States. The two-day event is sponsored by the Government of Iraq.
"We congratulate the Government of Iraq on this outstanding and far-sighted initiative. Strengthening ties between Iraq and American institutions of higher education benefits both our countries. Furthermore, this educational forum is an example of the benefits that come from Strategic Framework Agreement, which provides increased opportunities for cooperation," said U.S. Embassy Counselor for Public Affairs Ambassador Adam Ereli, who delivered remarks at the opening ceremony.
Representatives of 24 American universities representing a broad range of government-funded and private universities participated.
For any wondering, US citizens in Iraq observed MLK day on Sunday, not Monday.
And Susan notes this from US Labor Against the War:
HELP IRAQI UNIONS CONVENE AN INTERNATIONAL LABOR CONFERENCE IN IRAQ
$150,000 needed to underwrite costs.
Solidarity contributions needed.
Plans are underway to hold an International Labor Conference in Iraq in February 2009. This is an important step toward strengthening and unifying the labor movement in Iraq. Only through increased solidarity in Iraq, and with workers in the region and around the world can Iraqi's labor movement hope to impact the fate not only of workers but of all Iraqis. (Learn more at http://www.workerstoday.com/english/.)
Iraqi unions have called upon all unions and other labor organizations, and individual union members and others around the world to support this conference morally and financially.
Our expressions of solidarity with workers in Iraq in the past have provided a lifeline of hope. Our support for this conference will buoy and strengthen the Iraqi labor movement. This is a very concrete action each of us can take to express our solidarity with the people and labor movement of Iraq. It will cost $150,000 to put on this conference. Please make a generous donation.
Ask your union, regional labor bodies and labor councils to contribute generously to enable our sisters and brothers in Iraq to take this important step.
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