Updated at 8:15 p.m. EST, Jan. 28, 2009
U.S. President Obama is meeting with defense officials at the White House today to discuss drawdown plans just as early polling begins in Iraq. Meanwhile, at least seven Iraqis were killed and another 10 were wounded in light violence.
Polls opened today for security officials, prisoners and others who will not be able to vote on Saturday when the general public takes part in provincial elects. Political observers are closely watching how the election may change the power structure for Sunnis in the west, Shi’ites in the south, and Kurds in the north. As hopeless as it may seem for them, even the Communists are vying to get their voice heard in Saturday’s election. Meanwhile, security officials expressed concern that al-Qaeda may try to disrupt elections or that violence may break out after results are posted. Also, seven people were arrested in connection with suspected voter fraud.
The White House is the scene of a strategy meeting today. Defense officials are expected to show the president a 16-month withdrawal plan that will allow President Obama to keep one of his campaign promises. They are also expected to make an appeal to the president to break that promise and instead make what they think are more reasonable drawdown plans. Some believe a 16-month withdrawal will threaten the hard-earned but fragile stability.
In other political news, Iraq sent Syria its first ambassador in about three decades. Japan’s ex-prime minister, Shinzo Abe, made a rare trip to Iraq to sign a partnership accord that will allow the two countries work together on energy and economic issues.
The British are hoping that Basra remains relatively peaceful during the elections. A crackdown lead by the Iraqis and supported by the U.S. last year supposedly rid the city of militia violence, but at least 133 women were reported killed in religious violence during this period of “peace.” In 2007, the body count was estimated to be 15 per month, which is only slightly higher than last year.
Two Iraqi army soldiers were killed and six more were wounded when an I.E.D. blasted them in Saidiya.
In Baghdad, a member of the Islamic Party was assassinated.
Najaf police arrested three men accused of planting bombs on a highway leading towards Karbala. Many pilgrims are expected to visit Karbala as part of the Arbaeen observance.
Four suspects were arrested and in a separate incident a bomb at an oil well was defused in separate parts of Basra province.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis