Iraq bomb before election has some fearing new civil war
Just two weeks before crucial Iraq parliamentary elections and amid a dispute over the disqualifications of some candidates with ties to Saddam Hussein's banned Baath party, a suicide bomber killed 11 in Anbar Province. Some in Iraq are worried that the controversial disqualifications are heightening tensions.
Ramadi; and Baghdad
A suicide car bomber killed at least 11 people Thursday in an apparent election-related attack near provincial government buildings, while Iraqi politicians stepped back from a raging dispute over banned candidates that has raised warnings of a new civil war.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Iraqi officials said a suicide bomber detonated near a checkpoint outside the Al Anbar governorate buildings in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad. At least 22 others were wounded in the attack – the third against the government center in the provincial capital since October.
Al Qaeda in Iraq, which still retains cells in its former stronghold of Anbar Province, has taken credit for a series of suicide attacks since August and has publicly threatened to derail the March 7 elections.
This election, the first since 2003 in a fully sovereign Iraq, is seen as crucial to Iraqi stability. Anbar, with its majority Sunni population, largely boycotted the 2005 elections in protest against a Shiite-dominated, US-backed process.
Twenty-eight candidates have since been cleared to run, but one of the most prominent Sunni candidates to remain on the banned list, Saleh al-Mutlaq, has called for a boycott of the vote if the rulings stand. Mutlaq, who quit the Baath Party in the 1970s but has said he will not denounce the banned organization, has been a member of parliament for the last four years.
Al-Iraqiya, the coalition that includes Mutlaq’s party, suspended campaigning for three days and called for an emergency session of parliament.
But after agreeing on Wednesday to a code of conduct for the election, which includes not using security forces for political purposes and renouncing sectarian themes, the major political parties appear to have grudgingly agreed to move on with the campaign.
Fixing the election?
Although a significant number of Shiites as well as Sunnis have been barred from running because of alleged Baathist ties, the move has been seen as furthering a Shiite agenda because the heads of the commission are prominent Shiite members of parliament. Adding fuel to the controversy over the ban, the top US general in Iraq, Ray Odierno, and other US officials, have accused the two men, Ahmed Chalibi, and Ali Faisel al-Lami of ties to Iran.
“This is an attack on one of the basics of democracy in Iraq,” says Faleh Hassan Shenshel, who is head of the accountability and justice committee in parliament and a member of the Sadr bloc. “I think the American administration is making a big mistake in interfering in this issue."