Updated at 5:50 p.m. EST, Nov. 18, 2008
At least 23 Iraqis were killed and 35 more were wounded in the latest reports of violence. In political news, elections have been set for Jan. 31 in most of Iraq’s 18 provinces. The top Iraqi cleric gave tacit support to a U.S.-Iraqi security agreement now being debated in parliament. Meanwhile, Corruption watchdog group, Transparency International, has called Iraq the third most corrupt country in the world, and demonstrators are moving their vigil for an Iranian dissident group living in Iraq from New York to Washington.
Provincial elections will take place on Jan. 31 in most of Iraq except the Kurdish Autonomous Region and At Tamim province. It was At Tamim province, also known as Kirkuk, which stalled the elections earlier this year. At issue is a power sharing plane for the multi-ethnic province. Iraqi Kurdistan would like to incorporate the province within its borders as well, so more discussions will have to take place before an election can be scheduled. Kurdistan operates separately from the rest of Iraq and does not have to schedule elections at the same time.
Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has left it up to Parliament to decide whether the U.S-Iraqi security agreement they are currently debating will be successful for Iraq. As top cleric in the country, his opinion could sway many followers into supporting the pact. He however reiterated that the pact needs significant backing from political groups as well as restoring Iraqi sovereignty. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki publicly defended the pact despite admitting he also has reservations about it.
Transparency International called Iraq the third most corrupt country in the world. The non-governmental agency, which is based in Germany, said that Iraq has charged over 300 officials with corruption and 86 of them were found guilty. Rahim al-Ugaili, the head of the Iraqi Integrity Commission, added that many of the convicted were low-level officials caught selling fake passports. At the same time, PM Maliki has secretly fired a number of fraud inspectors, leading critics to wonder if the firings were politically motivated.
Ugaili also said that an amnesty law prevented his office from prosecuting 1,721 Sunni Arabs suspected of graft; however, the amnesty law itself was passed to prevent corrupt officials from abusing their powers and keeping innocent people in jail. Many Iraqis have been arrested and kept in jail without being charged with crimes. Some wait months and years to see trial, even in U.S. custody. Sunni Arabs fear that the Shi’ite majority government will target them for this type of abuse.
Iranian demonstrators ended a 65-day vigil at the United Nations building in New York City and have plans to move it to a park across the street from the White House in Washington. The protestors are concerned about the fate of apporximately 3,000 Iranians who live at Camp Ashraf in Iraq. This dissident group was allowed to move to Iraq during the Saddam era, and the new Iraqi government would like them to leave the country now. Iran wants them back, but the group could suffer if they are forcibly sent home, making them a politcial hotcake for the Iraqi government. U.S. forces handed over responsibility for the group to Iraqi authorities in September.
In Baghdad, 15 bodies were discovered in a mass grave in Ur. Two people were wounded in a bombing in the Nahda district. In Qadisiyah, a roadside bomb wounded the wife and son of a ministry official. A bomb in Kasra wounded another person. A pair of successive bombs in Doura injured two policemen. Also, four Iraqi security personnel were wounded during operation in which one gunman was killed.
One person was killed and 16 were wounded during a blast in Sinjar.
A gun battle between suspected al-Qaeda and an Awakening Council (Sahwa) near Samarra left five suspects dead and three more wounded.
Three women were wounded during a roadside bombing in Katoun.
A bomb in Mosul left no casualties.
Near Karbala, 21 cluster bombs were seized.
Ten suspects were captured in Tarmiyah.
Also, Iran reportedly killed a number of Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) members in Iran. The men were of Turkish origin. The PJAK is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) which is a separatist group that wants to create an autonomous Kurdistan in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Armenia. The PJAK specifically targets Iran and uses northern Iraq from which to launch attacks against Iran.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis