While there were few reports of attacks out of the country today, a string of blasts struck political targets in Baghdad, where the main talk of the day centered on the legitimacy of the upcoming election. Should Iraqis bow out of participating, it could re-ignite sectarian fighting if it has not already. At least two Iraqis were killed and 22 were wounded in the latest violence.
Several political party offices and associated homes were the targets of five separate blasts in Baghdad today. Among them was a campaign office belonging Saleh al-Mutlaq, who yesterday lost the right to run in March elections. At least 11 people were wounded in the apparently coordinated attack. Earlier in the week, a candidate belonging to Mutlaq’s list was murdered in Mosul.
The blasts were not the only blow to Mutlaq’s political career in recent days. Iraq’s main secular list, Iraqiya, has suspended campaigning for at least three days after several of its candidates, were banned for alleged ties to the Ba’ath Party. Among them were Mutlaq and Dhafir al-Ani. While many lists merely substituted candidates, the damage to the Iraqiya list is too extensive to repair so easily: Mutlaq and Ani and are popular lawmakers who happen to back one of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki‘s main rivals, Ayad Allawi. Mutlaq said, "that democracy in Iraq is committing suicide," and predicted the political process will fail if it continues along this path. The list also demanded the supreme court overturn on the ban.
Maliki has frequently accused the now-defunct Ba’ath Party of staging several large-scale bombings that took place in Baghdad over the last six months, but he may have placed the blame on the group to cover his own inability to protect the capital, particularly after the revelation that a heavily used bomb detector is phony. In any case, many analysts see the ban and other political coercion as attempts by Maliki to retain power.
Maliki’s plan to refocus mistrust on Ba’athists could succeed in the south where the Shi’ite majority suffered extensively under Saddam and the Ba’ath Party. Meanwhile, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who leads the Islamic State of Iraq militant group, has vowed to disrupt national elections and asked Sunnis to take up arms. If the Sunnis boycott the election as they did in 2005, they will only help Maliki’s cause.
Maliki has also deployed the Iraqi army to Tikrit, where they have kept provincial offices under intermittent lockdown since late January, when the council ousted Salah ad Din’s governor. The occupation is seen as a favor to the Iraqi Islamic Party, whose support Maliki needs.
Government forces also arrested an opposition candidate in Diyala province, after the candidate publicly criticized the forces in Tikrit. Separately, Iraqi parliament Ayad Al-Samarrai, a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, seemed to support the claim; he said that many people were banned only for making statements and condemned the blacklist as counterproductive. Indeed, even Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi was recently accused of Ba’athist inclination simply for complaining about the blacklist.
The United States, which is dependent on the elections being seen as legitimate so that a troop drawdown can continue as scheduled, has been forced to stay out of the fray even after a visit from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Also in Baghdad, a bomb was planted on a car belonging to the Interior Ministry; when the device blew up on Haifa Street, it injured a policeman driving the car. A civilian was wounded in a Karrada bomb attack.
An unidentified body was found in Tal Afar.
In Mosul, one person was killed and four others were wounded during a shootout at a checkpoint. A bomb blast left a 13-year-old without a leg. Police arrested a suspect and found a cache of weapons.
Eighteen suspects were arrested and weapons were seized across Basra province.
Two suspects were detained in Suwayra.
A spokesperson for the U.S. army expressed regret over yesterday’s ill-fated raid in Missan, which left a number of civilian casualties.
Eight Iraqis suspected of involvement in the deaths of six British soldiers in 2003 will likely stand trial. The case is in the investigative stage, but the Iraqi judge overseeing the case has indicated it will move forward.