The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 70/No. 2           January 16, 2006  
Wealthy Sunnis lead protests, jockey for
posts in new U.S.-backed Iraqi regime
(front page)
WASHINGTON—Hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arabs have demonstrated across Iraq to protest the outcome of the December 15 parliamentary elections. Leaders of electoral blocs with support among Sunnis and Shiites traveled to Iraq’s northern autonomous region known as Iraqi Kurdistan to begin negotiations with the main Kurdish political parties. The latter have strengthened their fight for autonomy by ensuring that most Iraqi army units in the north are made up with members of the Kurdish pesh merga militia. The Sunni-led protests open a period of jockeying for seats in the parliament and posts in the new government that will likely take months to form.

In five speeches in December U.S. president George Bush pointed to the large turnout among Sunnis in the Iraqi elections as progress for Washington in its aim to establish a regime favorable to the interests of finance capital in the region.

The U.S. government got another boost for its course in Iraq when the Polish government announced it would extend the deployment of its troops there to the end of 2006, reversing an earlier decision to withdraw them soon.

Hundreds of thousands demonstrated December 23 in southern Baghdad, said the Associated Press. Some carried pictures of Iyad Allawi, a former prime minister in the U.S.-backed Interim Government of Iraq. Allawi, a wealthy Shiite and former leader of the Baath party that ruled until the 2003 U.S. invasion, led the Iraqi National List, which included Shiite and Sunni candidates.

The protests drew between 1,000 and a few thousand in Mosul, Tikrit, and Samarra—centers of Baathist armed attacks on U.S. and Iraqi government troops and police.

On December 28 the head of the United Nations observers in Iraq gave the election a clean bill of health. But the following day UN officials said an international commission would review 1,500 complaints about the vote.

Welcoming the review, U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said, “It is important that the Iraqi people have confidence in the election results.” Winning over wealthy Sunnis, who were the backbone of support for Hussein’s Baath party-police regime, is a key part of Washington’s strategy to isolate and defeat armed Baathist groups and their al-Qaeda allies. In a December 23 press conference in Baghdad to announce that two U.S. brigades scheduled to deploy to Iraq would not be needed, U.S. general George Casey noted that suicide bombings have declined with each of the three elections held over the past year-from over 60 in June to 16 in December.

Meanwhile, according to initial Iraqi government reports, the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance won 58 percent of the vote in Iraq’s largest province, Baghdad. The Iraqi Accord Front, the largest Sunni-led bloc, came in second there with nearly 19 percent and won in four provinces where Sunni Arabs are the majority. In Anbar province, a current center of U.S. military operations that borders Syria, the Front reportedly got 73 percent of the vote.

The Kurdistan Alliance led in four northern provinces, including Tamim, which encompasses the oil-rich regions around Kirkuk. It is expected to win some 55 of the 275 National Assembly seats.

Kurds have taken advantage of the overthrow of the Baathist regime by the U.S.-led forces and subsequent imperialist occupation to strengthen their fight for autonomy in the northern provinces. Members of the Kurdish pesh merga militia, which fought against Hussein, are a disproportionately high number of the Iraqi military and police. Interviews by the Knight Ridder news service suggest their number in Iraqi Kurdistan exceeds 10,000. “All of them belong to the central government, but inside they are Kurds,” Hamid Afandi, a minister for the pesh merga, told Knight Ridder. “All pesh merga are under the orders of our leadership.”

Kurds in Iraq are part of an oppressed nationality, estimated at 25 million, who also live in parts of neighboring Syria, Iran, Turkey, and Armenia.  
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