The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Iraq's pre-electoral violence

Anthony Shadid — whom I hope will improve the NYT's Middle East coverage — reports on those terrible Baghdad bombings:

The attack came at a precarious time. The capital’s political class is mired in a dispute over the disqualification of hundreds of candidates for promoting the Baath Party of former President Saddam Hussein. Despite calls for compromise and warnings by the United States and United Nations officials that barring the candidates threatens the credibility of the vote, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has taken a hard line.

The prime minister faces a competitive campaign against a rival Shiite Muslim alliance, which has proved eager to question his anti-Baathist credentials as well as his claims of restoring a semblance of security.

American officials have warned that violence will almost assuredly escalate before the vote, and survivors of the attack offered as many suspects as motives — including Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown terrorist group, acting with Baathists, as well as Mr. Maliki’s rivals. Mr. Maliki has blamed Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the Baathists for the previous attacks, though American military officials have consistently maintained that Al Qaeda acted alone.

“The parties have already started fighting over the seats of power,” said Heidar Abbas, 42, a pharmacist. “Who’s responsible? It’s the parties themselves.”

I rarely post on Iraq, because I think it's well-covered elsewhere and I haven't been there, but as the story on Iraq increasingly becomes about the Iraqis rather than the US presence or foreign fighters, I think that may change. Certainly the decision of the Iraqi government to ban former Baathists seems ill-advised and contrary to most experience of successful national reconciliation.