- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 29, 2005

BAGHDAD — A Sunni Arab coalition submitted its list of candidates for the Dec. 15 election as the deadline passed yesterday, signaling the intention of many Sunnis to join the political process following their failure to block ratification of the new constitution.

In the latest violence, the U.S. command said yesterday that five American service members — three soldiers and two Marines — were killed Thursday in separate attacks. Their deaths raised the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the war to 2,010, according to an Associated Press count.

An alliance of major Shi’ite parties, which won the largest number of parliamentary seats in the Jan. 30 election, also met yesterday’s deadline and submitted a candidate list to the Independent Election Commission.

Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shi’ite, submitted his own list, including candidates from all major communities. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, a Shi’ite and former Pentagon insider, was expected to run under his own standard after he was unable to reach an agreement with the Shi’ite alliance that he joined before the January vote.

Sunni Arab participation in politics is considered a vital step toward calming the Sunni-led insurgency and enabling the United States and its coalition partners to begin drawing down troop levels next year.

Many Sunnis boycotted the January election, enabling majority Shi’ites and Kurds to dominate both the government and preparation of the new constitution. Many Sunnis opposed the constitution, fearing it will divide the country.

On Tuesday, however, the election commission announced that the charter was approved by nearly 80 percent of the voters in the Oct. 15 referendum. Voters in two Sunni-dominated provinces overwhelmingly rejected the constitution.

The new candidate lists submitted by the Sunnis’ Iraqi Accord Front and the Shi’ites’ United Iraqi Alliance indicated that the Dec. 15 balloting will be contested along ethnic and sectarian lines. Kurds were also expected to submit a list.

The Shi’ite alliance includes Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Dawa Party, Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim’s Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, followers of radical Shi’ite cleric Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Fadhila party.

The alliance, which includes religious parties with strong Iranian ties, controls 146 of the 275 seats in the National Assembly. But the coalition is not expected to fare as well in December as it did in January.

Most of its success then was credited to the support of Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani. But associates of the Iranian-born ayatollah have said that the 76-year-old cleric does not intend to publicly support the United Iraqi Alliance, as he did in January, because of his disappointment with the performance of the al-Jaafari government.

Mr. Allawi’s ticket includes several prominent Sunni Arabs, including Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer, parliament Speaker Hajim al-Hassani and elder statesman Adnan Pachachi.

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