Sunni-Shiite Warfare breaks out in Southeast Baghdad
Sadr Joins United Shiite Coalition
Al-Hayat: Exhibit A in the case for seeing what is going on in Iraq as a low-intensity civil war: On Thursday, Sunni Arab guerrillas from the Nahrawan district of southeast Baghdad kidnapped a member of the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr . When the rest of the Mahdi Army militiamen in the man's neighborhood heard about this, they traced the kidnappers to a house in Nahrawan and mounted an assault on it, freeing their colleague. They took the two kidnappers captive. But then as they were leaving Nahrawan they fell into an ambush and 25 of them were killed by Sunni Arab guerrillas. Then the Ministry of Interior gendarmes showed up to help the Sadrists (typically they are drawn from the Badr Corps paramilitary of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq). They engaged the Sunni Arab guerrillas, and lost two of their men in the firefight. Ironically, SCIRI fighters and Mahdi Army militiamen had clashed with each other in Najaf not so long ago. Assuming these gendarmes were originally Badr, they in any case were able to unite with the Sadrists against Sunni guerrillas.
The last time this sort of thing had happened, the "Wrath of God" Shiite militia came up from Basra to Mahmudiyah to defend the Shiites. That was a much smaller conflict. The danger of Thursday's clashes is that they could easily spread.
Three US GIs were killed on Wednesday.
In the political arena, Iraq's political parties finalized their coalition lists for the December 15 elections, for which the deadline is today, Friday.
Secular ex-Baathist and old-time CIA asset Iyad Allawi will head a list called "The Centrist Bloc." The Sunni Arab religious parties will run as the Front for Iraqi Concord. The Kurdistan Alliance retained its unity.
Hazem Shaalan, former minister of defense under Allawi, who stands accused of massive fraud and embezzlement, failed to find a perch in any party list.
The huge United Iraqi Alliance list, which groups the major Shiite religious factions as well as some other parties, managed to stay together. Their strategy is to avoid splitting the Shiite vote.
The followers of Muqtada al-Sadr joined the UIA, and were given 30 places in the United Iraqi Alliance list. They insisted as a prerequesite for joining on two things. The first was that they must have parity with the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The second is that there must be not normalization of relations with Israel ("the Zionist entity"). They said that this principle was a red line that could not be crossed under any circumstances.
The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq also received 30 places.
The Dawa Party of Ibrahim Jaafari received 15 places.
The Dawa Party - Iraq Organization led by Hashim al-Musawi also received 15 places.
The Fadilah ("Virtue") party of Nadim Isa al-Jabiri was given 15 places.
The Islamic Action Organization was given 5 places.
The Iraqi National Congress of Ahmad Chalabi was given 3 places, but Chalabi continues to attempt to negotiate a slightly higher number. Chalabi had earlier threatened to bolt the list.
It appears that minister of petroleum Ibrahim Bahrululum may leave the list to run as an independent.
As noted yesterday, Grand Ayatollah Sistani has so far declined publicly to back the United Iraqi Alliance this time, as he had before.