Friday, January 14, 2005

Sunni Muslim militants claimed responsibility Friday for the assassination of a community leader promoting the election on behalf of Iraq's top Shiite cleric, and three U.S. troops were killed. A U.S. commander acknowledged that an insurgent campaign of violence and intimidation may keep some people from voting in parts of Baghdad. (AP via The Guardian [UK])

Gunmen killed an Iraqi election official as he left his polling station in western Baghdad. He was at least the seventh election worker killed in the run-up to national elections on January 30. Attackers in a passing car shot Abdul Karim Jassem Al-Ubeidi as he headed home last night, police Captain Imad Thamir said. (

Gunmen killed three officials of a leading Kurdish political party in an ambush in the volatile northern city of Mosul, another official of the party said Friday. (AP)

In Baghdad cafe debate, elections win. For some, the vote itself is what counts. In Shahbandar, a storied Baghdad cafe whose name evokes a time (the past) and a milieu (the highbrow), three men sat over cigarettes and hourglass cups of sweet tea Thursday and debated what the coming elections meant for a country scarred by three decades of tyranny, war and bitter disillusionment. [...] (Washington Post via MSNBC)

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday that conditions for elections in Iraq were "far from ideal" and Iraqi officials should intensify efforts to make the vote inclusive. "It is clear that the vast majority of Iraqis are eager to exercise their democratic right to vote," Annan told journalists in Mauritius. "But it is equally obvious that the conditions in which the election is being held are far from ideal." (AP)

Ralph Peters: IS Iraq ready to hold perfect, orderly, all-inclusive elections? Of course not. But by the unfair standards critics are raising, the United States might not qualify for nation-wide balloting, either. Iraq's elections are going to be deadly, disorderly and deeply flawed. And they will still be the most open and authentic elections ever held in the Arab world. Anyone who needs proof of the importance of these polls need only look at the ferocity and duplicity of those intent on delaying or preventing them. (New York Post)

Nicholas Rothwell: Amid the daily turbulence and chaos plaguing Iraq as the country's date with electoral democracy looms, a set of disturbing trends is becoming clear. Not only do the Iraqi interim Government and senior US officials concede that elections will be imperfect, and that security cannot be guaranteed on polling day across a quarter of the nation, but the vote itself appears to be dragging Iraq closer to civil war. (The Australian)

James Klurfeld: Sometimes it's worthwhile to pause for a moment and listen to the guy who says the glass is one-quarter full. Such is the view of Special Envoy Robert Blackwill, who had been the administration's man in Iraq for much of the last six months. Blackwill, writing in The Wall Street Journal last week, argued that the "boom factor" - an epidemic of bombings in the Sunni triangle - is not the right way to measure what is happening there now and, more important, what will happen in the future. (Newsday)

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