Also today is Sam Dagher's "Gunmen Kill Iraqi Cleric Campaigning for Council" in the New York Times covering the assassination Friday of Haitham Kadhim al-Husani who was running in the provincial elections for the Dawa Party and was shot dead yesterday. Dagher notes: "Mr. Husaini was district commissioner in Jabala and was a prominent candidate for a seat on the council in Babil which is predominatley shiite, as part of Mr. Maliki's election coalition." He notes the December 31st assassination (see yesterday's snapshot) but appears unconcerned or unaware of other assassinations and assassination attempts this month (including this week). Too bad. It is a pattern and has been ongoing long before provincial elections were scheduled. CNN reports this morning that a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of "the car's driver and a bystander". The bomb was apparently intended for "the head of al-Masour district council" who was not at the scene.
For those who missed Ban Ki-moon's warnings (repeated) or the United Nations' (repeated) warnings, they did not say, "As provincial elections approach, look for candidates to be killed!" It's not an Agatha Christie, Ten Little Indians type warning, despite what Dagher may think. The warnings issued stated that violence would most likely increase. Those who missed it in real time, can refer to the UN Secretary-General's report to the Security Council back in November:[PDF format warning] "Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 1830 (2008)."
Also covering the assassination is Saad Sarhan's "Province Candidate Killed In Iraq" (Washington Post):
The gunmen ambushed Husseini's car in the afternoon, as it passed through Jbala, a mixed Sunni and Shiite town about 40 miles south of Baghdad in Babil province, said Capt. Muthanna Ahmed, a spokesman for the provincial police. The car was riddled with bullets, Ahmed said. His guards fired back, but the assailants escaped, he said.
Husseini, 48, head of the town council in nearby Mahawil, was a leading candidate on Maliki's list. The attack was the fourth attempt on his life, officials said. Two years ago, gunmen stormed his house, killing his father, two brothers and a niece.
Meanwhile, al-Maliki is attempting to pull a Bully Boy 2002 campaign trick. Amit R. Paley's "In Iraq's Provincial Elections, Main Issue Is Maliki Himself" (Washington Post) provides the details on how al-Maliki wants to make an election he's not running in a referendum on al-Maliki:
He is not on any ballot in the provincial elections scheduled for Jan. 31. But in agreeing to be the public image of the Coalition of the State of Law, a group of candidates running primarily on his record, Maliki has effectively turned the contest into a referendum on his rule.
The elections will be the most crucial test so far of Maliki's attempt to bolster the central government's authority -- and his own. If he succeeds in establishing a nationwide base of local politicians ready to support him and the idea of centralized government, Maliki will have cemented his three-year transformation from little-known lawmaker to the most powerful Iraqi statesman since Saddam Hussein.
Despite the history of his Dawa party as a Shiite political movement opposed to secular governments, Maliki and his State of Law coalition have avoided overt religious messages in favor of populist promises to improve security and basic services such as water and electricity.