Iraq elections (for now at least) are still scheduled for March 7th. Despite that, the US Ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill, spent the bulk of the week in the US. As The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung told Diane Rehm Friday, "The Americans at least think that the crisis has passed" (second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show). And they did.
Hill spoke at the State Department on Wednesday and at the Foreign Press Center on Friday. He couldn't stop raving about how there was no boycott, would be no boycott. Wednesday, for example, he gushed, "You'll recall in 2005, we had a Sunni boycott. There are no signs whatsoever of a boycott by any of the communities at this time." But now there is a boycott. Saturday, Waleed Ibrahim and Jack Kimball (Reuters) reported that the National Dialogue Front is boycotting the election and asking that other parties do the same. Fang Yang (Xinhua) added: they had released a statement which noted: "After the press releases by Ray Odierno (top command of U.S. troops in Iraq) and U.S. ambassador Christopher Hill that the Accountability and Justice Commission is influenced by the Iranian Quds Corps, we can't continue in a political process running by foreign agenda."
What's the statement referring to? Among other things, Gen Ray Odierno's press briefing Tuesday at the DC's Institute For the Study of War when he was asked by The Nation's Robert Dreyfuss about Iran.
Kimberly Kagan: Elections questions. Elections. Bob.
Robert Dreyfuss: Yeah. Two very quick ones.
Gen Ray Odierno: Yeah. al-Lami is a Sadrist by trade. He was arrested after an operation in Sadr City where both Iraqi security forces, U.S. civilians, and U.S. soldiers were leaving a meeting that they had witht he local government in Sadr City, and their vehicles were attacked with IEDs as they left the meeting. There were some accusations. We had some intelligence that said that al-Lami was the one who directed these attacks on these individuals. He was released in August of '09 as part of the drawdown of our detention facilities because we did not have the actual prosecutorial evidence in order to bring him in front of a court of law in Iraq. All we had was intelligence that linked him to this attack. So, as we had some others, we had to release him. He has been involved in very nefarious activities in Iraq for some time. It is disappointing that somebody like him was in fact put in charge or has been able to run this commission inside of Iraq, in my opinion. He is, him and Chalabi clearly are influence by Iran. We have direct intelligence that tells us that. They've had several meetings in Iran, meeting with a man named Mohandas, which is an ex-council representative member -- still is a council representative member -- who was on the terrorist watch list for a bombing in Kuwait in the 1980s. They are tied to him. He sits at the right-hand side of Quds Force commandant, Qassem Soleimani. And we believe they're absolutely involved in influencing the outcome of the election. And it's concering that they've been able to do that over time. Chalabi, who you know, has been involved in Iraqi politics in many different ways over the last seven years, mostly bad.
While the National Dialogue Front boycotts, another political party has called out the assault on a free and fair election. Like the NDF, the Ahrar Party has been targeted with violence. Last week, they released a statement noting, "Over the past five days, Ahrar has had campaign workers shot at, captured and even killed, for the 'crime' of putting up our election posters. In Maysan on Wednesday, an Ahrar candidate was the victim of a carefully-planned ambush, narrowly escaping capture. One of his team was murdered at gun-point." The party's leader, Ayad Jamal Aldin declared, "These politicians are all talk. It it their weakness that has allowed outsiders and corrupters who are intent on dividing and destroying Iraq to take control of our country. Ahrar stands for a united and peaceful Iraq. For jobs, security and electricity for the Iraqi people." In a statement issued on Saturday, Ayad Jamal Aldin declared, "Security is the number one, number two and number three issue for almost all of us. The government has lost control, but today Ahrar puts forward a real plan to bring an end to the violence and intimidation that blighs the lives of all Iraqis. With Ahrar, it is the people who hold the power. That is what scares the corrupt and foreign-controlled. Nobody should be above the law. The police and army will be the servants of the Iraqi people -- and NEVER the other way around. No more bribes. No more interference from outside. These are the principles of the Ahrar Plan."
Another running for the Parliament is Moussa Faraj and Abdulla Mizead interviewed him for the latest weekly broadcast of Swarthmore College's War News Radio. (You can find a partial transcript in Friday's "Iraq snapshot.") Last year, provincial elections took place and the 14 provinces held their elections in January 2008 while the KRG provinces held their own in July of 2008. There's no delay in national elections -- they'll be held (unless they're postponed) March 7th across Iraq. Delovan Barwari (Kurdish Herald) has reported: on the competition amongst what is seen as the three biggest political parties in the Kurdistan region: the Kurdistan Democratic Party, PUK and Gorran.
What's really amazing is how little the US corporate press has reported on the candidates. Elections are less than two weeks away. One of the few exceptions is Amer Araim's guest columns for The Contra Costa Times (click here for the latest) which offer real analysis of the election, the candidates and the political parties.
At other outlets, what gives?
So much that happens in Iraq is under the radar.
Like the daily violence.
Sunday 8 people were reported dead and 10 were reported wounded; Monday 2 were reported dead and 4 were reported wounded; Tuesday 8 were reported dead and 16 reported wounded; Wednesday 3 were reported dead and 6 wounded; Thursday 13 were reported dead and 52 wounded; Friday 2 were reported dead and 1 wounded; and Saturday 6 were reported dead and 2 wounded. That adds up to 42 killed and 91 wounded -- reported killed and wounded, actual numbers are no doubt higher.
The 42 reported dead includes 5 Iraqi Christians killed in Mosul. AFP reported that Adnan al-Dahan's corpse was discovered Saturday and he became the fifth as he followed 20-year-old Wissam George (Wednesday), 21-year-old Zia Toma (killed Tuesday, Rasin Shmael was also wounded), 40-year-old Fatukhi Munir (Monday) and 43-year-old Rayan Salem Elias (Sunday). In the summer of 2008, Mosul became a dangerous place for Christians who began fleeing in increasingly larger numbers each week until the fall when even the press had to take note of the targeting of Iraqi Christians. Spero News quoted an unnamed Chaldean priest stating, "It is an ethnic cleansing that goes on day after day, in silence and indifference. We are in deep distress as the authorities and the police do nothing to stop this massacre." Meanwhile Mosul's Syrian Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa told Vatican Radio that he and other bishops spoke with the province's governor and the chief of police on Friday about the targeting of Iraqi Christians by unknown assailants.
With Iraqi Christians again under assault, we'll close with this press release from EWTN:
Irondale, AL (February 17, 2010) -- (EWTN) At the invitation of the bishops of Iraq, EWTN Rome Bureau Chief Joan Lewis has begun reporting live from this war-torn country on the plight of Christians in Iraq and the Middle East.
You can hear Lewis' reports exclusively on the EWTN Radio Network until Feb. 28, and read about her findings on her blog, "Joan's Rome," at http://bit.ly/bFl5ze.
Live radio reports begin at 6:05 a.m. ET, Monday through Friday, on "The Son Rise Morning Show" with Brian Patrick, which airs from 6 a.m. ET to 8 a.m. ET, Monday through Friday. She can also be heard live at 9:15 a.m. ET, Wednesdays, on "Catholic Connection" with Teresa Tomeo.
In addition, Lewis will break in at various times on "Open Line," which airs live from 3 p.m. ET to 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, and encores from 10 p.m. until midnight.
To find an EWTN Radio affiliate in your area, click http://bit.ly/5zLbJk. To find out how to get EWTN on satellite radio, click here http://bit.ly/8YhGKK.
EWTN Global Catholic Network, in its 28th year, is available in over 150 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories. With its direct broadcast satellite television and radio services, AM & FM radio networks, worldwide short-wave radio station, Internet website www.ewtn.com and publishing arm, EWTN, is the largest religious media network in the world.
Contact: EWTN Global Catholic Network
http://www.ewtn.com AL, 35210 US
Michelle Johnson - Director of Communications, 205-795-5769
Keywords: EWTN, Iraq, Middle East, Joan Lewis
Category: Catholic Organizations