Bombs, mortars explode all over Iraq as voters head to the polls

Steven Meyer of the New York Times is blaming "insurgents" for the rash of bombs that have gone off in Baghdad and elsewhere on election day. That catchall designation doesn't describe who might be behind the election violence.

Likely culprits include Shia militias heavily backed by Iran, as well as some bitter ender Baathists who were prevented from running for office.

Whoever they are, they're causing some anxious moments:

The attacks appeared to unite Iraq leaders. "These are the messengers of Iraq's enemies, the enemies of democracy," said Ammar al-Hakim, a leader of a Shiite coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance, that hopes to deny Mr. Maliki a second term. "It is a desperate and weak message."The violence was not limited to Baghdad. In Anbar province, west of the capital, at least 10 explosions rang through the city of Falluja at 8 a.m. The police there said they were mortars fired from the outskirts of the city.

A series of attacks also struck across Diyala, a volatile province northeast of Baghdad. Two of them were improvised bombs that struck an American and an Iraqi convoy. According to security officials at least four people were injured, two of them Iraqi soldiers.

Sunday's voting came after a short, intense campaign that could solidify Iraq's nascent democracy or leave the country fractured along ethnic and sectarian lines. Still, the campaign unfolded as the most open, most competitive election in the nation's long history of colonial rule, dictatorship and war.

The security for the election is an all-Iraqi affair and despite the bombs, seem to have the situation well in hand. The police and soldiers are mostly professionals now thanks to American training and some bitter lessons learned over the past 7 years.

Marty Peretz apologizes for US success in Iraq - which these elections amply demonstrate - while seeing hope for the process:

There are three especially compelling personal testimonies arguing that Iraq is on its way to making its own inter-ethnic and inter-sectarian history, and it will be a relatively democratic history.

The last of these judgments came today, and it came from Gordon Brown, the British prime minister who is under Tory siege in the May elections. Iraq was always an unpopular war into which Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair, also a Laborite inhabiting 10 Downing Street, led the Brits under the command of America. Brown's last statement in this regard, including some politic dissents from George Bush's early Iraq policy, appears in Friday's New York Times.

The second of these pronunciamientos comes from Tom Ricks, authoritative or especially believable because of his authorship of two critical books on the American venture in Iraq, Fiasco and The Gamble. In "Extending Our Stay in Iraq," an op-ed in last Wednesday's Times, Ricks focuses on President Obama's coming predicament. Having pledged to start removing American troops early on, Obama may find that his withdrawal will come just at a time when U.S. personnel are needed most. The president put himself long ago--during the campaign, when he played to the crowds--in this Iraqi conundrum. In his West Point address, he repeated the promise of withdrawal from Afghanistan when our presence there could be most important.

It could still go south in Iraq very quickly. Shia attachment to Iran, blocking participation of the Sunnis in the political process, schisms within the Shia community - any one or all of these possibilities could send Iraq spiraling into another civil war. And no one is saying that the road ahead will be easy. But this election shows the Iraqis have a head start on democracy and for them, there is no turning back.



Steven Meyer of the New York Times is blaming "insurgents" for the rash of bombs that have gone off in Baghdad and elsewhere on election day. That catchall designation doesn't describe who might be behind the election violence.

Likely culprits include Shia militias heavily backed by Iran, as well as some bitter ender Baathists who were prevented from running for office.

Whoever they are, they're causing some anxious moments:

The attacks appeared to unite Iraq leaders. "These are the messengers of Iraq's enemies, the enemies of democracy," said Ammar al-Hakim, a leader of a Shiite coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance, that hopes to deny Mr. Maliki a second term. "It is a desperate and weak message."

The violence was not limited to Baghdad. In Anbar province, west of the capital, at least 10 explosions rang through the city of Falluja at 8 a.m. The police there said they were mortars fired from the outskirts of the city.

A series of attacks also struck across Diyala, a volatile province northeast of Baghdad. Two of them were improvised bombs that struck an American and an Iraqi convoy. According to security officials at least four people were injured, two of them Iraqi soldiers.

Sunday's voting came after a short, intense campaign that could solidify Iraq's nascent democracy or leave the country fractured along ethnic and sectarian lines. Still, the campaign unfolded as the most open, most competitive election in the nation's long history of colonial rule, dictatorship and war.

The security for the election is an all-Iraqi affair and despite the bombs, seem to have the situation well in hand. The police and soldiers are mostly professionals now thanks to American training and some bitter lessons learned over the past 7 years.

Marty Peretz apologizes for US success in Iraq - which these elections amply demonstrate - while seeing hope for the process:

There are three especially compelling personal testimonies arguing that Iraq is on its way to making its own inter-ethnic and inter-sectarian history, and it will be a relatively democratic history.

The last of these judgments came today, and it came from Gordon Brown, the British prime minister who is under Tory siege in the May elections. Iraq was always an unpopular war into which Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair, also a Laborite inhabiting 10 Downing Street, led the Brits under the command of America. Brown's last statement in this regard, including some politic dissents from George Bush's early Iraq policy, appears in Friday's New York Times.

The second of these pronunciamientos comes from Tom Ricks, authoritative or especially believable because of his authorship of two critical books on the American venture in Iraq, Fiasco and The Gamble. In "Extending Our Stay in Iraq," an op-ed in last Wednesday's Times, Ricks focuses on President Obama's coming predicament. Having pledged to start removing American troops early on, Obama may find that his withdrawal will come just at a time when U.S. personnel are needed most. The president put himself long ago--during the campaign, when he played to the crowds--in this Iraqi conundrum. In his West Point address, he repeated the promise of withdrawal from Afghanistan when our presence there could be most important.

It could still go south in Iraq very quickly. Shia attachment to Iran, blocking participation of the Sunnis in the political process, schisms within the Shia community - any one or all of these possibilities could send Iraq spiraling into another civil war. And no one is saying that the road ahead will be easy. But this election shows the Iraqis have a head start on democracy and for them, there is no turning back.



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