Election workers and U.S.-trained security troops have become Iraq's most hunted, facing slaughter by insurgents out to ruin this month's landmark vote. But in less volatile swaths of the country's south, the long oppressed Shiite Muslim majority is readying to seize power in what's expected to be largely peaceful balloting. In the predominantly Shiite city of Nasiriyah, Italian troops controlling the sector said Monday they were confident they'll escape election day bloodshed. Nonetheless, they've been training Iraqi security forces to repel any attacks, highlighting the role of U.S. coalition partners in preparing for the elections. (AP)
Brazen Assaults Overshadow Iraq Elections. Iraqi insurgents have kidnapped a Catholic archbishop and targeted security forces in a series of brazen assaults that killed more than 20 people. A suicide bomber attacked US Marines in Ramadi, where insurgents also beheaded two Shiite Muslims. (scotsman.com)
Thirteen years ago, a coalition of Kurdish parties held elections in northern Iraq amid the rubble of 4,000 villages destroyed by Saddam Hussein's army. Young and old queued for hours to vote for a Kurdish parliament in a poll judged free and fair by international monitors. Yet, after 14 years of self-rule, in which the Kurds have rebuilt their villages and modernised their cities, there is little enthusiasm for Iraq-wide elections only two weeks away. (Financial Times)
Editorial from Lufkin Daily News: That insurgents are stepping up the violence in an attempt to destroy or negate Iraq's national elections is no surprise. Nor is it an excuse for delaying those elections. President Bush and Iraqi leaders are right to insist they be held as planned. As Interim President Ghazi al-Yawer pointed out in an Associated Press story Monday, even if the elections were postponed for six months, there's no guarantee the violence would wane. The insurgents might lay down for two or three months, then carry out attacks again,'' he said.
John Catalinotto: IRAQ: Sham elections in deep trouble. Former CIA "asset" and current Iraqi "Premier" Iyad Allawi telephoned US President George Bush on January 3 to discuss problems about holding the January 30 national election in Iraq. The big question was whether the upsurge in both armed and popular resistance would force them to postpone the elections. The official answer was still "no", but it was obvious the elections were headed for at least as big a disaster as the US occupation in general. (Green Left Weekly)