Although the day was marked by unusually light violence, newly released casualty figures for July hinted at a surge in attacks over the last month. Some blamed the increase on the delay in forming a new government. That impasse could soon be overcome as the party that received the third largest number of parliamentary seats today issued a statement completely rejecting P.M. Maliki’s return to the premiership. Should Maliki step aside, it could move the process forward. Only five Iraqis were wounded in today’s reports.
The Iraqi government released their official casualty numbers on Saturday, noting that July was the deadliest since May 2008. Their figures show that 535 Iraqis lost their lives in violent attacks, not including 100 suspected insurgents who also were killed. The U.S. military rejected the Iraqi figures, insisting that only 222 Iraqis died. The numbers are also higher by about 100 deaths than what has been reported in major media outlets and subsequently in this column. Most of the casualties were civilian.
The Iraqi National Alliance suspended talks with the State of Law party until State of Law selects another candidate for prime minister. Rejecting that demand, State of Law continues to pursue a second term for current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Shi’ite politician Ahmad Chalabi read the statement but emphasized the merger of the two parties will remain intact. Interestingly, it was Chalabi who was at the center of the March election’s first controversy – the De-Ba’athification blacklist. The blacklist prevented hundreds of Iraqis, many of them Sunnis, from running in the election; however, the ban was not enough to give State of Law a win in the election. The party lost, by two parliamentary seats, to Iraqiya.
Constitutionally, Iraqiya earned first crack at forming the new government, but the Maliki government has spent the last five months undermining Iraqiya’s position. The main argument has been that by forming an alliance with the INA, the super-bloc now has the most parliamentary seats. The merger, however, was still not enough to give them a clear majority, and many Iraqis simply viewed this as a cynical attempt to reject the will of the people.
Oddly, a politician formerly with Iraqiya and now with the State of Law party, Izzat al-Shabandar, nonsensically remarked that the rejection of Maliki by the INA is an "invitation" for Iraqiya to form the next government and therefore the INA is rejecting the will of the Iraqi people – even though it was the people who gave Iraqiya the most seats in parliament. The Iraqi people also voted Shabandar out of his parliamentary seat, but Shabandar remains a spokesman for Maliki. Earlier this week, he claimed that in order to prevent a return of sectarian divisions, Iraqiya, because of its Sunni backing, cannot be allowed to take the premiership. The seat must remain Shi’ite. Iraqiya’s lead candidate, Ayad Allawi, happens to be Shi’ite, but Sunnis also supported Iraqiya in the hopes that a non-sectarian party could better their situation.
Officials from the United States National Security Advisory, meanwhile, met with Ayad Allawi and other Iraqiya politicians at their offices. P.M. Maliki also talked with the U.S. delegation and insisted that the resolution of the impasse will happen without external influences.
In Nasariya, a truck driver was wounded in a roadside blast on a highway outside the city. Twenty suspected Suyuf al-Haq (Swords of Righteousness) members were arrested in a northern neighborhood. The group is a secretive, fundamentalist organization comprised of young men and accused of deadly hit squads.
In Mosul, a roadside bomb wounded four soldiers.
A female university student was kidnapped as she was traveling to a bakery in Kut.
Gunmen robbed the home of Muwafaqiya’s chief.
Several southern provinces held a joint security meeting. Advisors from Najaf, Babel, Diwaniya, Muthanna, and Karbala attend the conference.
A suspected PKK landmine killed four civilians in Turkey.