Updated at 10:09 p.m. EST, Feb. 16, 2010
In what may be a last ditch effort to influence the Iraqi elections, top American commander in Iraq tied two Iraqi politicians to Iran and implicated one in previous bombings. At least 10 Iraqis were killed and 26 were wounded in new attacks, some election-related. Meanwhile, the U.S. military reports that troop levels are now the lowest since the 2003 invasion and will remain at 98,000 until after March elections, even as Iraqi soldiers prepare to handle poll-related violence themselves. Also, the families of Iraqi detainees are paying blood money to protect their sons upon release.
Gen Ray Odierno openly charged Iraqi political figures, Ali al-Lami and Ahmed Chalabi, with being under the influence of Iran’s Shi’ite regime. The pair are behind an election blacklist that is thought to unfairly target Sunnis and secular candidates. Odierno added that Lami is thought to be behind a bombing in Baghdad and other "nefarious activities," but there was not enough evidence to convict him. Despite that lack of evidence Lami spent nearly a year in U.S. detention. Chalabi was once a favorite among U.S. officials, until it became obvious he was supplying spurious intelligence to them. The U.S. needs the election to appear fair in order to proceed with a troop drawdown. The Lami-Chalabi blacklist could throw doubt on the election if it directly leads to a threatened, Sunni boycott.
Even if the election proceeds as hoped, some analysts worry that the new parliament will be slow to form a new government. The vacuum that might create could be dangerous to the fragile country. In any case, female candidates hope the new election will bring them more influence than they have ever had.
Iraq detainees released into Anbar province are the targets of angry families and tribes who blame them for the deaths of their relatives. Although not all detainees are actually guilty of crimes, they are easy targets for Iraqis who want to take advantage of the blood money tradition to make easy money. Others who belonged to al-Qaeda or other armed groups, but were released for lack of evidence, now find it imperative to rejoin the groups for their own safety. The U.S. military noted that only five percent of detainees were re-arrested.
In Mosul, two people were killed and nine others were wounded, including civilians, in a bomb attack on a police lab. A pair of bombs targeting separate army patrols killed two soldiers and wounded five people, including three civilians. Gunmen killed a Christian student and wounded a second at a bus stop; this is the third attack against Christians in as many days. A hand grenade wounded a nine-year-old child. At least three others were killed in small arms attacks, including a woman, a civil servant and a soldier. Also, the body of a planning ministry employee was found yesterday, riddled with bullets.
In Baghdad, rockets were fired at the al-Ahrar political offices, where they killed one person and wounded three others, including a director at the agriculture ministry. A 15-year-old girl was liberated, while four of her kidnappers were arrested.
Three people were wounded when their house blew up in Khan Dari.
Ten suspects were arrested in Jalawla.
Twenty-one suspects were captured in Basra province.
Police found a cache of rockets near Diwaniya.