Curious numbers in Ninevah

BAGHDAD — Ninevah province, home to the mixed city of Mosul and the besieged city of Tal ‘Afar, is seeing some very strange numbers. I’ve done back of the Excel envelope calculations and have found this: In the January election, which was boycotted by Sunnis, there were 165,934 votes cast, according to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq.

BAGHDAD — Ninevah province, home to the mixed city of Mosul and the besieged city of Tal ‘Afar, is seeing some _very_ strange numbers. I’ve done back of the Excel envelope calculations and have found this:
* In the January election, which was boycotted by Sunnis, there were 165,934 votes cast, according to the “Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq”:http://ieciraq.org/English/Home.htm.
* In October, according to “AP’s preliminary results”:http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051017/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_vote_results, there were 419,804 votes cast in Ninevah, an increase of 253,870 votes, or +152.99 percent.
* The number of people voting *for* the constitution in Ninevah, according to the AP, was 326,774 (78 percent), with 90,065 voting *against* it (21 percent). Less than 1 percent, or 2,965 votes, was disqualified.
By way of comparison, Tamim province, home to the disputed city of Kirkuk, saw 542,000 votes cast — an increase of 35.2 percent over January — with 341,611 voting “yes” (63 percent) and 195,725 voting “no” (36 percent). You mean we’re supposed to believe that in Tamim, which is also a mixed province but which has had a steady stream of Kurds moving in for the last two-and-a-half years, had *more than twice as many no votes as Ninevah?* And with the Kurds already pretty much owning Kirkuk? Color me skeptical.
What’s truly eyebrow-raising is that the number of constitutional “yes” votes — 326,774 — is more than the total increase in votes over January’s turnout. That suggests that not only did all of the Sunnis in Ninevah province, who largely boycotted the January elections turn out, but that they _all voted for the constitution._ That’s a very strange idea to me, as I’ve not met a single Sunni who voted for it here in Baghdad.
Ninevah is home to Mosul, a mixed city of about 2 million Arabs, Turkomans and Kurds, as well as Tal’Afar, the mostly Turkoman city of 500,000 that U.S. and Iraqi forces stormed last month. Anecdotal reports are that a) Sunni Arabs have come out in droves, mainly to vote down the constitution, and b) the constitution was very unpopular in Tal’Afar because of military actions there.
Now, several possibilities spring to mind: Sunni Arabs in the north really _love_ the idea of the new national charter, but I find this unlikely, to say the least. In fact, I only suggest it for the giggle factor. Another possibility is that the vote was blatantly fixed. A third possibility is that the Kurds moved thousands of people into Mosul to skew the vote. Oddly enough, I heard Sunnis making just this charge in the run-up to the Saturday’s referendum. A third possibility is a combination of the last two. The vote was rigged _and_ the Kurds moved people in.
Now, contrasting points that prove I don’t know what I’m talking about, suggested by colleagues:
# Mosul is an Iraqi Islamic Party stronghold. The IIP called on its supporters to vote “yes” after a deal last week to open up the constitution to early amendments. This split the Sunni opposition to the charter.
# The Sunnis simply don’t make up 20 percent of Iraq. There hasn’t been a reliable census in years and not only do the Sunnis not make up 42 percent of Iraq as Saleh Mutlaq, a member of the National Dialogue Council, claims, but they’re much fewer than the 20 percent most people assume.
# Ninevah and Mosul aren’t Sunni strongholds. It’s conventional wisdom, but maybe that’s wrong.
# Mosul was a lot more violent in January, keeping the vote there down. Perhaps now, with less violence, more Kurds — perhaps half of the total increase — were able to come out and vote.
# The Turkomans aren’t a factor. Money quote from cynical colleague: “There are more Turkoman parties than there are Turkomans.”
# The AP numbers are so preliminary, they’re flat-out wrong.
The possibility exists that all of these possibilities have played into the dynamic in Ninevah, leading to wild numbers, and I’ve not been able to reach a stringer in Mosul yet to get more information. But if these numbers hold, there’s something very, very rotten in the north.
(Hat tip to various commenters who alerted me to the numbers here.)

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Shellings and kidnappings

Today was a bad one. Another friend was kidnapped last night, and this morning a mortar shell hit our compound. Thankfully, my friend was released after a day — but he was very lucky.

Today was a bad one. Another friend was kidnapped last night, and this morning a mortar shell hit our compound. Thankfully, my friend was released after a day — but he was very lucky. (More details to come tomorrow after he leaves the country.) The mortar caused no real damage, hamdillah, but hit a house near one of the hotels in the compound. The explosion, in size and intensity, sounded exactly like the car bomb that hit the Karma hotel back in May.

Staying here is becoming increasingly untenable. There’s talk of TIME moving me up north for a couple of months, which would be a welcome change, to be honest. I’ve not been able to get out of the compound, and after the kidnapping, I’m disinclined to even make the attempt. The bottom line is I can’t work like this and I’m getting more and more frustrated, as I’ve mentioned. Hopefully, by moving to the north for a little while, my work will improve and so will my state of mind.

More as the situation develops, but things are changing here in Baghdad — for the worse.

UPDATE 2321 +0300 And now a large car bomb with many casualties — in first reports — has just gone off down the street from our compound.

Suicide Attacks in Arbil kill dozens

Two suicide bomb attacks in Arbil kill at least 140, wound more than 200. Among the dead are Sami Abdulrahman, a man I considered a friend. Why is this still happening?

PUK_hq.jpg
An exterior view shows a destroyed wall in the office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the town of Arbil, some 400 km north of Iraqi capital Baghdad on Sunday. REUTERS/Namir Noor-Eldin

Two suicide bombers attacked the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Arbil, the seat of the Iraqi Kurdistan parliament, today, killing dozens and wounding more than 200.
Reports vary as to the number of dead, with some reports putting the number at 56, others 70 and still others at 100 or more. This is the worst bombing since the August “attack on the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000451.php#000451, which killed more than 100 people, including Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, a key Shi’a cleric and then-head of SCIRI.
Among the dead are:

  • Sami Abdulrahman, Deputy Prime Minister KRG, politbureau Secretary, KDP
  • Shawkat Shekh Yezdin, Coordination Minister, KRG, Central Committee Member, KDP
  • Sa’d Abdulla, politbureau Member, Head of Branch 2, KDP
  • Mehmmod Halo, Deputy Finance Minister, KDP
  • Akram Mentik, Governor of Arbil, KDP
  • Mehdi Khoshnaw, Deputy Governor of Arbil, KDP
  • Ahmad Rojbeyani, Head of Administration of the City of Arbil, KDP
  • Neriman Abdul-Hamid, Head of Police in Arbil
  • Shakhewan Abbas, Leadership Member, PUK
  • Khasro Shera, Leadership Member, PUK

At a news conference in Sofia, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd, blamed the attacks on the al Qaeda network or its allies.
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Sami Abdulrahman, KDP deputy prime minister, in his offices in Arbil in July 2002. Christopher Allbritton ® 2002
“It was an attack by terrorists, al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam,” he said. Several senior Kurdish officials have been targeted in assassination attempts in recent years, with the Kurds accusing Ansar as the culprit. Today’s attack has the hallmarks of Ansar, who killed Australian cameraman Paul Moran on March 22, 2003 at a roadside checkpoint near Suleimaniya. PUK Deputy Prime Minister Barhim Salih has also been narrowly escaped assassination.
Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador and expert on the Kurds, said the attacks would strengthen the hand of separatist Kurdish groups who want to break away from Iraq. He — and I — consider this a very bad idea. “It is too early to predict the fallout, but the bombings will strengthen those in the Kurdish movement who want to insulate Kurdistan physically and politically from the rest of Iraq,” Galbraith said.
The attacks came on Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, which is one of the holiest and most joyful holidays in the Islamic calendar. The suicide bombers apparently were able to get past security into the party headquarters because of lax security on the holiday.
On a personal note, I knew Sami Abdulraham. I met him in July 2002, and was intensely impressed with him. He was a hero to many in the KDP for his unwavering loyalty to the Barzani clan — first to the founder of the KDP, Mustafa Barzani, and then to his son, Massoud Barzani. He treated me with grace and hospitality, letting me have “drafts of the proposed constitutions for a Federal Republic of Iraq.”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000046.php#000046 He had written most of the drafts himself, hopeful even then for the future of his country and his people. I still have my last interview with him on tape. I considered him a friend.
Several members of Abdulrahman’s family were also killed, including a young member named Saleh, who was considered a rising star. A few family members have already been buried in Duhok in keeping with tradtion.
To all the Kurds and other Iraqis who have felt this loss, my sympathies to you all.
On a more critical note, what can be done to secure Iraq from this violence? Yesterday, 17 people, including three American GIs, died in three separate attacks. A car bomb in Mosul, mortars in Baghdad and an roadside bomb in Kirkuk. The insurgency or terrorists or whatever you want to call these killers are not confined to the “Sunni Triangle” as the Bush administration keeps insisting. The number of dead GIs for the month of January alone is 41, making it the second deadliest month of the occupation since President Bush declared Iraq a “Mission Accomplished” with the end of major combat operations on May 1. Wasn’t the “capture of Saddam Hussein”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000495.php#000495 supposed to end — or at least blunt — the attacks?
Some may consider that a cheap shot in light of today’s death toll, but a hard question remains: Why are soldiers and civilians dying in numbers greater than ever while the White House continues to insist “we’re making progress” against these killers? Iraqi Kurdistan is considered the safest part of Iraq, patrolled by _peshmergas_ and building on the burgeoning civil society the Kurds built in the last decade. What country can be considered secure when the safest part is attacked like this?

Uh-oh…

The 4th Infantry Division raided the PUK and KDP offices in Kirkuk on Saturday, seizing a cache of weapons from the KDP offices and detaining a senior level official from that party.

U.S. troops raided the KDP offices in Kirkuk Saturday night, seizing AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. The Americans also arrested a senior KDP leader. A PUK office also was raided.
The raids are connected to the “recent ethnic violence”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000637.php between Turkmen, Arabs and Kurds in Kirkuk that has left almost 20 people dead since “August”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000445.php#000445. Six have been killed since last week.
“We are disappointed by this,” said Mohammad Sabir, chief PUK representative in Washington when I contacted him this afternoon. “We are very close to the U.S. but I don’t know [the reason for] the raid. Maybe some Turkmen or Arabs gave them information that the PUK had many weapons. I don’t know, really.”
He added that the PUK was working to clear up any misunderstanding.
The KDP representative in D.C., Farhad Barzani, said he knew nothing about the raid and couldn’t comment.
The “Kurdistan Democratic Party”:http://www.kdp.pp.se/ and the “Patriotic Union of Kurdistan”:http://www.puk.org are the two main Kurdish parties in Iraq and have been pushing for a federal system guaranteeing Kurds “significant autonomy”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000046.php#000046 since last year. Arabs, Turkmen and surrounding countries have all expressed alarm and displeasure over the idea of significant Kurdish autonomy.

Turkomen to be trained by Egypt

TurkishPress.com_ reports that members of the Iraqi Turkmen Front will be trained by Egypt as part of the new Iraqi Army instead of Turkey.

_TurkishPress.com_ reports that members of the Iraqi Turkmen Front will be trained by Egypt as part of the new Iraqi Army instead of Turkey.

Turkmen and Arabs have grown closer in the wake of the Kurds’ recent attempts to establish an ethnic-based federation in Iraq. The two ethnic groups have assumed a common stance, with both arguing that Kirkuk is an Iraqi city after the Kurdish groups revealed their ambition to include the oil-rich city within their territories.
The Turkmen are waiting for the support of the Arab world. Last week Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) head Faruk Abdullah held a series of meetings with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmet Mahir. Sources say that Musa and Mahir’s stances were a relief to the ITF, and can be summarized as follows:
“Iraq’s territorial integrity will be protected. We can’t allow one group to dominate another. Kirkuk is an Iraqi city. It can’t be left to the domination of one ethnic group. Egypt will do its utmost to protect both Iraq’s territorial integrity and the rights of every ethnic group in the country.”

While the Turks might seem an obvious choice to train the Turkmen, thanks to their historic ties to the Turkmen, ITF spokesman Ahmed Muratli says that “Turkey is now out of the picture. The U.S. signed training agreements with Jordan and Egypt, not Turkey.” Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani have also expressed opposition to the Turks providing training, despite (or perhaps because of) its proximity and its NATO ties.
A Turkmen-Arab alliance should be expected as the third largest ethnic group in Iraq finds common cause with the largest (Arabs) in the wake of Kurdish attempts to add Kirkuk to their possessions in the post-Saddam Iraq. Both Arabs and Turkmen have argued that Kirkuk is an Iraqi city and not Kurdish. Violence in that city last week left at least two people dead and more injured when _peshmergas_ fired into a demonstration of “Arabs and Turkmen protesting the Kurds’ proposed plans for Iraqi federalism.”:http://b2i2.thestonecutters.net/archives/000637.php